By Esquire Advertising, Exclusive to Furniture Today
As furniture retailers analyze consumer behavior, it’s important to understand how consumers are shopping and where they are going.
A recent furniture retail data study conducted by Esquire Advertising shows that consumer behavior is changing substantially. Across the top furniture retail markets, it is common to see foot traffic change daily. Many market influences and outside factors contribute to the ebbs and flows of foot traffic.
Compared with the previous two years, new consumer behavior data shows that Americans are increasing the number of furniture retail stores they visit during a buying cycle. Shoppers are back to stopping at multiple brick-and-mortar stores to scout out the best deals when shopping for furniture. This change comes after nearly two years of continuous decline in cross-shopping behavior at furniture retail locations.
The weekly rolling traffic report (see Figure 1) reveals that foot traffic shows volatility but is trending upwards overall across the top 12 regions. With a normalized traffic score of 100, retailers are seeing more than a 100% increase in foot traffic. The report also shows a greater week-to-week volatility now than in 2020.
This cross-shopping behavior is a welcomed sign for store owners.
For furniture retailers, an increase in cross-shopping levels the playing field in their market areas, giving them a fair chance at increasing their market share. As cross-shopping behavior continues to resurge, store owners should keep a close eye on measuring their store traffic and implement tactics to introduce shoppers to competitive offers to influence their buying decisions.
Cross-shopping is coming back
While conducting its analysis, Esquire Advertising observed repeat foot traffic across the 12 largest markets in the United States. Both market-wide and regional data illustrate the average number of visits made by a cross-shopper who has visited at least two stores in a six-month window.
The data indicated a steady cross-shopping rate of 3.75, revealing shoppers visited between three to four stores per trip until July 2021. Starting in August 2021, repeat foot traffic rebounded to a cross-shopping rate of 5.5, becoming a critical source of revenue for retailers.
This consistent rise in cross-shopping and repeat foot traffic indicates that American consumers are returning to normal, pre-pandemic shopping routines.
Across these markets (see Figure 4), New York-metro and the Washington-Baltimore region maintained the highest average number of visits throughout 2020, while Pittsburgh and Cleveland saw the lowest. Recently, Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans and Tampa/St. Petersburg have seen averages of six visits or more.
After two years of reduced cross-shopping behavior in a fiercely competitive market, the recent uptick implies that markets across the U.S. can expect to see more in-store activity. With consumers increasingly visiting multiple stores in their buying cycle, furniture retailers can begin to rebuild their new targeted consumer base.
Esquire’s study shows a market-wide increase in the percentage of shoppers in a given week who were seen at least once at another store within the same region in the last six months.
While the cross-shopping traffic trend varies by region, overall, the market hit the bottom in July 2021 and has been increasing steadily since. As of April 2022, more than 31% of shoppers made visits to multiple stores. By comparison, only 27% of consumers cross-shopped in July 2021.
Across different markets (see Figure 6), Houston maintained the highest percentage of cross-shoppers in a given week along with Tampa/St. Petersburg, followed by the New York metro area. The Cleveland and Nashville markets received the lowest percentage of cross shoppers.
The observed decline in cross shopping throughout 2020 revealed that consumers were much more selective in their shopping habits. This decline was likely due to fears of increased exposure to COVID-19 and a clamp down on regional mask mandates. As a result of safety-conscious consumers, retailers experienced drops in foot traffic and a reduction in market share.
However, the tides are beginning to turn as cross-shopping is projected to continue increasing. As the market opens up, retailers can expect to see a normalization in foot traffic rates. It should be noted, however, that this trend can potentially be reversed by outside factors, such as a retraction in the economy and increasing prices nationwide, which could constrain consumer spending.
While consumer behavior is currently trending in a positive direction, store owners should know that this returning audience will be up for grabs. Retailers looking to capitalize on this growing consumer base should have a marketing plan in place to reach shoppers with appropriate, targeted messaging.
Taking back market share
Because of the changing economic factors, retailers can expect to see an ever-evolving consumer shopping behavior. This, in turn, should inform the way retailers interact with their audiences online.
Now is the time to recession proof marketing by finding the right consumers in the market that are most likely to make a purchase. This is why watching local market foot traffic is more important than ever. With so many outside forces affecting how people shop, the ideal consumer of today could look different than the ideal consumer of tomorrow. Thus, it’s critical to know, before anyone else, how the market is changing to effectively advertise towards the ideal consumer.
Staying top-of-mind by maintaining a strong digital presence is a key strategy that retailers can implement to drive consumers back into their stores. Identifying what the ideal consumer looks like allows retailers to craft a more targeted messaging strategy, giving their potential customers a reason to shop in-store.
For the past two years, the industry was full of speculation over whether brick-and-mortar retail would be able to withstand the economic uncertainty. As online shopping exploded during the pandemic, many physical stores struggled to compete with the convenience of online shopping.
However, the latest data trends show that it’s not all doom and gloom. Now that pandemic regulations are loosening, people are eager to get out and shop in-person again.
At the end of the day, there are some things that e-commerce won’t be able to replace. Shoppers enjoy being able to touch and feel a product before buying it, an experience that only in-person shopping can offer.