Digitisation and the Internet are also making increasing inroads into the furniture and home accessories sector. As a result, the demands of customers when buying furniture have also changed enormously. Product images and information alone are no longer enough for consumers. Instead, they are demanding a real shopping experience – even from the comfort of their own homes.
For retailers and manufacturers, this means thinking across channels and adapting to current trends and consumer expectations. Only those who can satisfy those basic requirements and also convince through exciting features will in future exist in the burgeoning sector of “Home and Living”.
We all know how we stand in a furniture store and wonder what that piece of furniture would look like within our own four walls – and does it even fit in that corner at all? And how does the colour match to the rest of the interior? These questions can now be answered very easily.
To make the customer’s choice of furniture easier, some suppliers are already relying on virtual or augmented reality. Besides the Swedish furniture chain IKEA, Pair is also offering an app with which consumers can easily project pieces of furniture into their own homes. The customer points their smartphone or tablet around their home environment and then inserts virtual objects, such as chairs, tables or shelves.
Technologies like virtual and augmented reality are becoming increasingly more attractive. By offering virtual applications, consumers now have the opportunity to design their own living space in no time at all. Online retailers should be jumping on this bandwagon and securing their success in eCommerce by using new and innovative marketing opportunities.
3D printing is not a novelty. Quite the contrary, in fact. Being one of the most interesting technological developments, 3D printing is offered by many service providers on the Internet, but printers for home use have also long been available.
According to a study by the auditing firm PwC, consumers have a positive forward attitude towards 3D printing. Although only 18 percent have already produced a 3D impression themselves, 8 out of 10 people see an advantage of 3D printing primarily in the individuality of the objects created. Some 92 percent even assume that 3D printing will prevail in the industry through 2022.
Industry leader IKEA recently announced that it would be manufacturing an adjustable chair with components created by a 3D printer. Other furniture manufacturers are already using this technology to create lamps, vases and other decorative items.
The lengthy and time-consuming process of 3D printing has so far held the boom of this technology in check. But now a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in collaboration with the office equipment manufacturer Steelcase, has developed a new printing process capable of producing 3D-printed products up to ten times faster. Instead of taking hours, the so-called “Rapid Liquid Printing” only takes minutes to create its structures.
It will only become clear in the future whether the production of furniture and decorative items from 3D printers will prove to be more than just a trend. Retailers and manufacturers in the industry should not be afraid of 3D printing technology, but instead see it as an opportunity and now benefit from its current boom.
The demands of customers are becoming ever more individual. Not only satisfying them, but also to inspire, is becoming ever more the supreme discipline, which presents many retailers and manufacturers with a major challenge.
KPMG shows that individual design of the personal living space is becoming increasingly important, since 4 out of 10 consumers now want to buy products that nobody else has. Consumers pay particular attention to the first-class design and quality of products. This is why furniture that can be individually fashioned or modularly assembled is becoming increasingly popular.
Each piece becomes unique with its own individual touch. For furniture manufacturers, this sounds like an elaborate and expensive undertaking that many of them simply cannot afford. But this individualisation does not have to be costly at all. Technologies such as 3D printing allow furniture and home accessories to be produced individually at a lower cost.
With an increasing environmental awareness of consumers, more emphasis is being placed on sustainable and fair products. This trend towards sustainability permeates many levels of everyday life and is also reflected in furniture purchases. The majority of consumers (73 percent) attach an importance to sustainability when buying furniture.
In terms of sustainability, as well as energy-efficient living, consumers pay particular attention to ecologically and socially acceptable production methods for furniture, and also to the use of natural and environmentally friendly materials.
Many “green-minded” consumers are even relying on alternative production methods such as upcycling or recycling. The firm Bauholz Design, for example, uses timber from old scaffolding to produce individual pieces of furniture – with a portfolio ranging from shelves and tables to benches and sofas, all made of wood.