The new Amazon Style store offers instructive cues for furniture retailers.
The opening of Amazon Style, the e-commerce giant’s latest effort to reinvent retail, could have major implications for the furniture industry. The new concept reduces a point of friction in consumers’ apparel shopping journey by giving them the ability to try before they buy while at the same time leveraging many of the conveniences of online shopping.
The new store, opened last week in Glendale, Calif., allows consumers to shop via the Amazon app and have selections delivered to the fitting room or straight to the pickup counter for immediate purchase. Once inside the fitting room consumers can continue to shop via app or by using a large touch screen display, all the while rating items and receiving recommendations based on the choices they’re making.
Instead of large crowded racks on the selling floor, most of the inventory is maintained in the back of house, where it can be delivered quickly to the fitting room using the same technologies and processes that make Amazon’s fulfillment centers the eighth wonder of the retail world. Instead of multiple items in any and every size, a single sample with QR code is all consumers need before selecting what they want delivered to the fitting room. Anything scanned in-store is also stored on the app for later purchase if desired.
So why should anyone in the furniture business care?
Well, first there is the fact that Amazon has eliminated one of the primary barriers to consumer furniture purchases online: the need to touch and feel before buying. Just re-read the paragraphs above and substitute the word furniture for “apparel.” Now, certainly no one needs a fitting room to shop for furniture, but it’s not a crazy reach to imagine a small footprint store with access to a nearby warehouse that enables consumers to have a personalized shopping experience and have the pieces they wanted to touch and feel made readily available.
There are already companies experimenting with this in the furniture space now; some of them use the term “guide shops.” Sound familiar?
The potential learning for furniture stores here is in the integration of the store and online experience that enables consumers to seamlessly take information from the online shopping experience and bring to a physical location for testing. And as importantly, to effortlessly complete a sale after leaving the store without the need for paperwork, written lists or anything else besides their phone.
Certainly some retailers are already experimenting in this space, and kudos you. For those who’ve yet to pursue that path, the faster you can close that loop and delivery a seamless, frictionless shopping experience that moves effortlessly from digital to physical spaces, the better off you will be in the long run.
It’s become increasingly clear that consumers — and not just Millennials and Gen Z — transition effortlessly between the digital and the physical realms when it comes to shopping. The faster the furniture industry embraces this reality and takes its rightful place astride those realms the more successful it will be in the future.