From the lectures one could deduce where the strengths of traditional trade and handicraft lie
Digitalization is more than just e-commerce, was one of the key sentences at the congress of the IMM Cologne 2020 trade fair entitled „Future Trends in the online furniture market”: It achieves its greatest benefit when it brings not only sales for the retailers but also more satisfaction and a better buying experience for the customer, it was said.
The meeting of experts with representatives of the industry took place for the 7th time within the framework of the furniture fair. In the presentations, there were field reports from companies that are successful with e-marketplaces or e-platforms. They presented their strategies and provided insights into the tools they use, for example, to increase sales and with which they measure these results. The moderator was Kai Hudetz, business author and managing director of the Institute for Retail Research (IFH) Cologne.
We scoured the lectures for aspects that could be of interest to medium-sized companies in the stone industry, mostly craftsmen.
Unexpected was the statement of a speaker that e-commerce does not necessarily have to be called „cheap”. It is true that everyone today obtains information on the Internet before making a purchase. But: those who are better informed are usually also looking for valuable products, but do not necessarily buy them online. On the contrary, such interested parties show great loyalty to their source of information, i.e. possibly the craftsman’s website, and yet willingly spend more money.
Once again this underlines the importance of a well-designed homepage.
In general: some of the speakers sounded as if, as online business men and women, they would almost envy the offline companies. After all, achieving customer loyalty seems to be extremely difficult for them, compared to an established business in one place. Its strengths would be:
* the image that can precede a successful business (and especially the boss),
* the longstanding sales staff who know the customer personally and whom he trusts,
* the knowledge about the customer, that is: about his profile – to get such information online a huge effort has to be made.
Consequently: the personal approach is the strength in offline business and a shortcoming that e-commerce could not get rid of despite Siri and Alexa.
As far as communication with the customer is concerned, there was also much talk of „creating a shopping experience”. In other words: if you only sell with the argument of the cheapest price, you only get these customers. Anyone who has more to offer would have to show this through animations, videos, etc.
Admittedly, this quickly generates costs that small businesses cannot afford.
In general, some companies probably see the sales process far too soberly, as one must conclude from some of the presentations. One speaker reported on a survey in which a customer said: „Furniture is like a new roommate for me, which I let into my apartment.”
So emotion is a big issue, and this is where detailed information about the product itself comes into play, i.e. the conversation about where, by whom, from what and how, for example, a cupboard or table was made. This „storytelling”, as the term is known, is particularly important with regard to sustainability as an important trend.
As far as the effort required for the company’s appearance in the social media is concerned, one of the speakers presented a clever solution: he encourages his customers to take pictures of the furniture as soon as they have put it up at home – the salesperson then posts the pictures on the Internet. This gives him free material to use on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, and of course all of the buyer’s friends then add a Like to it and distribute it.