What to know about starting an online furniture business — Retail Technology Innovation

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Home décor and furniture are undoubtedly some of the most popular areas of e-commerce right now. 

Furniture and décor can be hard to source locally. If you buy items in person, you also tend to have to wait for long shipping times. 

Buying items online lets you read other people’s reviews and have the items shipped directly to your home. 

Of course, if you’re considering a home décor and furniture business, it’s not all as simple as it might seem at first. You have to consider the safety and quality of the furniture and décor you sell. 

As stories like Ikea’s dressers and a recent recall of Walmart barstools highlight, if you’re not selling safe furniture, not only are you putting your customers and your reputation at risk, but you may face legal issues. 

You also have to source furniture that will ship quickly and look like what people expect it to. 

Another downside? 

There’s a ton of competition. You’re competing against major furniture and décor retailers like Wayfair, as well as smaller companies. 

If you know the risks and you still feel ready to get started, the following are some of the critical things to know about starting an online furniture business. 

Will you design, resell, build or manufacture?

The biggest question you have to ask yourself is what type of furniture and business model you will use. 

If you’re a furniture maker, then that’s a simple answer. Being a furniture maker isn’t easy, and you can only expand your business to the point of what you can reasonably build. You also need technical skills. 

Another option is to design items and work with a manufacturer to bring them to life.

This allows setting yourself apart from the competition, but at the same time, it requires a considerable investment of time and money upfront, and you may not see a positive return on that investment. 

Being a curator and reseller is another model. You might look for unique one of a kind items from other sellers, and you can include them on your site. A subcategory of this model would be reselling vintage, antique, or used items. 

The simplest and least expensive option, at least initially, is dropshipping. When you go the dropshipping route, you don’t have to store items or even ship them. You can find brands you want to work with, and they directly ship to your customers. 

Of course, you have to be able to depend on your dropshipping partner for this to work. 

Building a brand

With any online retail platform, if you try to do everything, it will not work well. 

It’s important instead to try and identify a niche. 

For example, some brands have found success selling just sofas. Others focus on a particular era or décor style like mid-century modern. 

When you’re deciding on a niche, you can base it on the following categories:

·      Type of item/use: You might want to focus exclusively on outdoor items or accessories. Office furniture is another popular niche right now since so many people are still working from home. 

·      Product: Ideas for this can include dining furniture, barstools, or lighting. 

·      Style: Midcentury was mentioned above, and other styles you could build a niche on are minimalist or modern farmhouse. 

·      Targeted customer: You might be looking for high-end clients, people who live in small spaces, or perhaps young families to buy your products. 

Choosing an e-commerce platform

An e-commerce platform is a technology that will be at the core of your business, regardless of what you sell or your overall model. An e-commerce platform is software that allows you to manage your website, sales, operations, and marketing seamlessly.

When you’re choosing a platform, considerations include:

·      Your budget: It can be free to build your first e-commerce site or it can be thousands of dollars or more. It’s up to you to determine what you can spend and you’re willing to pay.

You may be able to completely design your site yourself, depending on your technical skills. Some of the other specifics to factor into your budget are how much security, maintenance, licensing and monthly hosting will cost. 

·      Products: How many products do you plan to have? If you’re going to have many product pages or you want a scalable business, you don’t want to face SKU limits. 

·      Can you grow: The goal of starting a business is almost always to grow, so you should choose a platform that will give you easy scalability. Cloud hosting solutions tend to be the most flexible and scalable. 

Some e-commerce platforms to consider include Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce. 

Shopify is great because it’s a simple-to-use, all-in-one solution. BigCommerce tends to be more suited for sellers who do a lot of volume. The most significant upside of WooCommerce is that you can add a shopping cart to your current WordPress site.

Furniture and décor photography

Once you have a site up and running, you have to consider your photography.

This is one of the limitations of doing dropshipping. You’re going to have to either order samples of all of your products or rely on the stock photos from the partners you work with. 

Home décor and furniture are very visual, and that has to be considered in your photography. 

If you have items in your possession and you’re going to take photos, remember that scale is probably one of the most important things you can convey to your audience.

You need to help them understand what a piece looks like in terms of size and scale because people either don’t look at measurements or don’t really understand them when shopping. 

Is this everything you should know to start a successful online home décor or e-commerce business? 

Absolutely not.

As with starting any online business, it’s a big undertaking. With that being said, the above steps and tips can help you get started and point you in the right direction. 

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