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From high street to online: The evolution of homeware showrooms

Connor Martyn

Homeware retailers have increased their online share of consumers over the past 18 months, and to build on this success, they need to maximise the opportunities for consumers that online shopping offers. But how can homeware retailers offer a digital experience that keeps attracting customers now that bricks-and-mortar stores are open and thriving?

By now, it’s old news that lockdown saw a massive surge in online shopping. But what does matter is how online retailers can maintain this momentum or boost it further.

One particular sector that has seen a surge in online sales is homeware. At its peak, in June 2021, homeware attracted a 63% share of online UK shoppers.

The challenge is for online homeware retailers to capitalise on these gains at a time when consumers can visit physical stores once more.

Here, the online homeware showroom plays a pivotal role, marking an evolution in how people shop and how retailers sell to them.

Look but don’t touch

Ecommerce has several major advantages over the high street, such as convenience and consumer choice, but there are obstacles online retailers must overcome.

In a traditional, physical homeware showroom, you can see and touch the products. Many shoppers are familiar with the Ikea showroom, for example. This physical space recreates whole scenarios such as bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms.

Seeing products in a real-life setting does much of the hard work of getting the consumer to imagine themselves using various items.

Obviously, online stores don’t have this capability, so they must work harder to attract customers and make them want to buy the homeware on offer. To do this, you need to focus on the unique features and benefits that the online store offers consumers.

The immersive online experience

The consumer can’t walk into an online homeware showroom, but they can still have an immersive experience.

  • The ecommerce store can offer this by keeping its branding consistent throughout the site and by making sure it keeps website visitors fully engaged. Branding begins with website design and ensuring your platform gives you the capability to go beyond set templates and create something that is uniquely you. If you want visitors to buy from you, you need to differentiate your store. You won’t do this with a set template.
  • Your website’s architecture must also make the shopping experience easy and pleasurable. Just as you want to find what you’re looking for in a physical store, so the same applies online. Here speed is essential. Homeware brands will typically stock a huge range of products. Visitors don’t want to have to navigate their way through endless pages to reach the right category. Your product search and filtering processes must therefore be seamless.

Help and advice for shoppers

Consumers may require reassurance before opting to buy homeware online. How you display and describe items is important, but you may still need to answer customer queries.

Online stores can offer personalised customer advice through live chat applications or direct links to helplines. These act as bridges between the customer's digital shopping experience and the real world.

Providing advice when the customer needs it can mean the difference between a confirmed sale and an abandoned shopping cart.

Digital marketing and selling techniques

Online stores can encourage consumers to buy in ways that are more effective than high street showroom methods.

  • In marketing, you have considerable outreach via social media, email and other channels. These channels can help you engage with your target audience and build your brand reputation.
  • Online, you can harness the power of social proof to sell your products. Online reviews influence 93% of consumers in their purchasing decisions.
  • You can also generate urgency in how you promote your products, offering time-limited offers and using countdowns to drive buying decisions. Tie your promotions into media events such as Black Friday and use your online platform's capability to update prices at set times.

It’s a personal thing

The online shopping experience is absorbing for the individual. You can use personalisation to enhance this.

This comes from gathering and using visitor data strategically. By understanding how individuals shop on your website, you can create offers specifically for them.

Everyone walking into a physical homeware showroom sees the same range of displays. With an online store, you can attract your customers to certain items that match their browsing or buying history, helping to increase your conversions.

Success for online homeware retailers

Aero is a dynamic and adaptable ecommerce platform that gives homeware retailers the freedom to develop unique online experiences for their customers.

With a focus on lean functionality, Aero can transform your ecommerce website into the perfect showroom, increasing speeds and conversion rates.

Some of the retailers who’ve chosen to build their new sites on Aero include specialists in areas such as home flooring and bathroom and plumbing supplies.

For more ecommerce insights and information, follow Aero on LinkedIn.

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