Furnishing your living spaces can be an exciting yet daunting endeavor. Should you go for bold statement pieces or subtle accents? Stick to a budget or splurge on quality? And where do you even begin looking with so many options today – online, in-store, used, custom pieces? This furniture shopping guide aims to make the process more manageable.
The Online vs. In-Store Dilemma
The rise of e-commerce opened new possibilities for furniture shopping that were unimaginable decades ago. Today, sites like Wayfair and IKEA offer endless furniture selections with just a few clicks. However many shoppers still prefer the in-store experience.
Thomas Croly, founder of The Furniture Insider blog, described his quest to find the perfect leather sofa. After two years of searching furniture stores with no luck, he finally found his dream couch online. This exemplifies how online shopping can expand options tremendously.
However, buying furniture you haven’t seen and felt in person comes with risks. Colors, textures, and scales can appear different once delivered. Returns are cumbersome. Yet in-store shopping requires expending time and gas to visit multiple retailers. Ultimately, consumers must weigh conveniences against trade-offs.
The pandemic also influenced dynamics. A March 2022 ChaseDesign survey revealed that 85% of shoppers planned on visiting physical stores more frequently, compared to just 78% in 2021. Seeing and touching items firsthand again is a priority. Omnichannel integration is key.
Consumer Report’s Furniture Retailers Survey Insights
A Consumer Reports survey further explored furniture shopping preferences and experiences. Key findings included:
- High overall satisfaction with both online and in-store retailers like furniture stores in Texas.
- Top-rated online retailers were Room & Board and Costco.com, while Ashley Furniture HomeStore lagged.
- For in-store experiences, Stickley and Room & Board led with high marks. Walmart and Ashley Furniture HomeStore again trailed behind.
While consumers value both online selection and in-store experiences, these insights reveal significant disparities between retailers on each platform.
What Furniture Shoppers Prioritize
The Consumer Reports survey found common ground – both online and in-store shoppers rate quality, style, and pricing as top priorities. However, insights from Furniture Today’s Strategic Insights study reveal intriguing trends:
- In-store purchases still edge out online for home accents (55% vs. 45%) and furniture (52% vs. 48%).
- Younger Gen Z consumers showed the least interest in in-store furniture shopping at just 45%.
- Over 50% of Millennials and Gen X reported enjoying the in-person furniture buying process.
- Women make more accessory purchases online (70%) but strongly prefer in-store buying too (65%).
While online conveniences appeal to younger generations, many still seek tangible shopping experiences. Omnichannel integration remains key.
The Art of Bargaining
The art of negotiating prices has long been integral to big-ticket furniture purchases, especially at brick-and-mortar showrooms. However, e-commerce has disrupted traditional bargaining habits. Understanding current dynamics provides insights into maximizing savings.
In-store shoppers still commonly haggle, with nearly 50% attempting to negotiate prices according to furniture industry surveys. The direct customer interaction makes bargaining feel natural. Buyers leverage tactics like pointing out flaws, asking for deeper discounts on floor models, or simply making reasonable counteroffers on large purchases. Face-to-face engagement with a salesperson enables deal-seeking buyers to sway pricing through persuasion and politeness.
Online bargaining occurs less frequently since clicking “Add to Cart” feels irreversible. But web-savvy shoppers who do negotiate report slightly higher success rates than in-store hagglers. Retailers seem more receptive to price matching online, likely to prevent returns and facilitate frictionless transactions.
However, research by Coveo reveals that 93% of consumers expect online experiences to match, if not exceed, in-store service. As omnichannel shopping blurs lines between physical and digital, the art of bargaining continues evolving. Retailers should expect to entertain reasonable price negotiations across both realms to meet customer expectations.
Ultimately, both online and in-store shoppers have opportunities to creatively negotiate deals. While haggling requires more effort than simply accepting listed prices, the potential savings on big-ticket furniture make it worthwhile. A bit of bargaining tact can unlock major discounts to fit any budget.
Delivery Expectations and Experiences
Delivery is a moment of truth for both online and in-store furniture purchases. What consumers expect and prefer:
- White-Glove Delivery: Typical for in-store purchases, with furniture unpacked, assembled, and placed in desired rooms. Requires an added fee.
- Standard Shipping: Default for online orders. Less expensive but leaves customers responsible for moving heavy items and assembly. Can diminish satisfaction.
With online furniture shopping gaining momentum, upgrades like in-home assembly and room placement provide key value-added services to delight customers.
Addressing Customer Concerns
No furniture purchase is immune from occasional issues – whether purchased online or in-store. Common complaints include:
- Damaged or defective merchandise
- Missing hardware or improper parts
- Inferior quality versus expectations
Brands like Room & Board excel in their response to concerns through seamless exchanges, prompt refunds, and even sending technicians for repairs. Taking ownership and providing solutions helps deepen customer loyalty despite problems.
Getting the Best Deals on Furniture
Furnishing a home can strain budgets quickly. However, savvy shoppers can uncover amazing deals with the right strategies:
- Time purchases wisely around sales events and clearances, especially holiday weekends and summer closeouts. Sign up for store emails alerting you of promotions.
- Scan classified ads, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace for used pieces in good condition at massive discounts. Refurbishing can add character.
- Take advantage of price-match guarantees by providing competitors with lower prices for identical items. Retailers like IKEA offer generous match policies.
- Check for open box specials on display models or customer returns. Discounts typically range from 15-50% for barely noticeable flaws.
- Negotiate respectfully, especially on floor models or large purchases, to sway managers’ discretion on pricing. Politely make reasonable counteroffers.
- Use coupons, cash-back apps, and loyalty programs to maximize savings on regular-priced items. Rewards add up over time.
With the right combination of patience, hunting skills, and negotiation tact, you can furnish elegantly while sticking to your budget.
Spotting Quality When Purchasing Furniture
While prices attract, quality endures. When assessing furniture, look for:
- Solid wood over particle board, which scratches and chips easily. Check for laminate peeling at the edges.
- Smooth drawers and doors that glide evenly without wobbling, sticking, or slamming shut.
- Durable upholstery fabrics that don’t pill or snag when rubbed. Leather and microfiber last longer.
- Sturdy reinforced corner blocking rather than just glued joins, which loosen over time.
- Thick, dense foam and padding that regains shape, rather than hollow, squishy cushions.
- Quality craftsmanship with clean uniform joints, edges, and finishes. Check details closely.
- Consistent coloring throughout the grain, rather than obvious prominent knots or variations.
Taking time to inspect furniture carefully goes a long way in determining true quality and longevity. This prevents costly purchases that quickly show wear and tear.
The Future of Furniture Shopping
While shifting dynamics influence where and how consumers shop for home furnishings, the fundamentals remain consistent. Customers seek quality, style, and value. They expect service excellence regardless of channel. Retailers who understand and cater to these needs will be poised for lasting success.
Omnichannel integration, transparent policies, robust fulfillment, and steadfast customer service provide the ingredients for crafting positive and meaningful shopping experiences – both online and in the aisles. The future of furniture retail promises further convergence of physical and digital worlds to empower purposeful purchases and inspired homes.
FAQs About Furniture Shopping
Should I buy furniture online or in a store?
Consider your priorities – online offers endless options while in-store allows seeing pieces in person. Combining both may yield the best experience.
What are the delivery differences for online versus in-store purchases?
In-store typically includes white-glove delivery with in-home assembly. Online often defaults to standard shipping unless upgrades are selected.
Which retailers have the best service for resolving issues?
Brands like Room & Board are reputable for seamless exchanges, swift refunds, repairs, and overall responsive customer service when problems arise.
The Key Takeaway
Whether building your dream home or just sprucing up your space, furniture shopping should be an exciting adventure, not an overwhelming chore. With the right guidelines, you can navigate stores and sites confidently, curate pieces tailored to your lifestyle, and create living environments that provide joy, comfort, and lasting memories.