Furniture e-commerce. A world overview
E-COMMERCE EVOLUTION TIMELINE
The first CSIL report focused on e-commerce was published in November 2001, an internet era ago. There were 418 million internet users in the year 2000, this was about 5 years after Jeff Bezos delivered from his garage the very first book ever sold from the newly born Amazon platform.
The appearance of the first e-commerce stores dates back to 1994/1995, with Amazon and eBay as first comers, other milestones were at the end of the century the start of online payment systems like Paypal and the launch of Alibaba in 1999 in 2012 finally overtook U.S. e-commerce giants turnover and set the Asian leadership in the e-commerce field, with China rising as the world’s largest e-commerce market in the world.
The following milestones were off course the smartphone revolution together with the social media one, Facebook birth is dated 2004, the first mobile transaction was made in 2008, in 2011 Google launched the wallet payment app, in 2011 the first social sponsored stories for advertisement were launched by Facebook and finally in 2017 Instagram introduces shoppable tags – concluding the social media metamorphosis in real e-commerce platform by 2020.
In about 2 decades the number of internet users grew from about 418 million to over 4 billion with online sales reaching 5,7 trillion USD from only 50 billion in the year 2000.
According to CSIL’s latest observatory (E-commerce for the furniture industry), the global value of furniture sold online is worth about USD 96 billion, representing about 11% of the worldwide furniture consumption at end-user prices, to conclude our journey through e-commerce history timeline it was estimated to only 1% back in the year 2000.
The United States is now the largest single e-commerce marketplace in value, China follows, while Europe as a whole is ranking third. However, the penetration rate of e-commerce on furniture consumption is higher in North America (15%), followed by Asia-Pacific (11%) and Europe (10%).
A GROWING TREND
While global consumption of furniture decreased on average by 3% in 2022/2019, e-commerce consumption increased by +18% as a yearly average for the same years. A booming performance of online sales has been registered in 2020 and 2021, while in 2022 the trend has been substantially flat.
Markets are currently being affected by increased volatility due to the war in Ukraine and rising inflation. As a result, consumer confidence has declined and expenditure on major purchases such as furniture is being postponed. Different performances have been registered according to geographical areas in the period considered. European countries generally increased faster, followed by North America.
The performance of Asian Countries (particularly China, Japan, and South Korea) has been weaker than the average. The mentioned regions represent over 95% of the worldwide e-commerce sales of furniture.
FROM ‘BRICK & MORTAR’ TO ‘BRICK & CLICK’
In 2022 the furniture market still faced some challenges and disruptions in production and supply chains: lack of availability of raw materials and components, fluctuation of input prices, increasing energy costs, congested logistics, increasing transport costs, affecting trade, and causing delays in delivery.
Strong inflationary pressure, softening demand for home-related products, and low consumer confidence are posing further uncertainties to the market. It is worth noting that 2021 had been an excellent year for furniture demand; thus, those negative performance results remain positive if compared to 2020 or 2019, both in sales and e-commerce incidence.
It seems reasonable to assume that the growth trajectory of online sales is still increasing and that the pandemic has permanently accelerated the shift to online. E-tailers include global e-commerce platforms (like Amazon), large regional marketplace (like TMall), and specialist furniture web stores (like Wayfair, Home24, or Dunelm) representing more than half of the market in 2022. Specialist furniture dealers/distributors operating through both physical stores and e-commerce, also called ‘brick & click’, represent a fast-growing category.
Non-Specialist/Lifestyle/DIY chains are large multichannel dealers selling furniture, homewares, accessories, home improvement products, and lighting fixtures. When looking at single product categories, a higher incidence has been registered for the upholstered furniture segment.
A fast-growing category is an outdoor furniture, which holds a relevant share especially if considering the contained values of this kind of furniture in the global account. A fast-growing trend has been registered in office furniture (especially office chairs). Among the fast-growing product categories, there are tables, home office desks, chairs, and beds.
THE OMNICHANNEL APPROACH
The market for online furniture is a highly competitive and rapidly changing one. As a general main trend, we can underline that the majority of retailers are moving towards an omnichannel strategy. Today customers are always connected, and they are used to on-demand services that they can access when they want.
Consumers have grown accustomed to an almost unlimited choice that they can access online, from anywhere, at any time. And they expect a seamless experience that is joined up between physical stores, online, or phone, and where they can switch among channels easily. This has rewritten the rules of traditional retailing.
A retailer’s success no longer depends on its ability to provide many products. It no longer depends on offering promotions. And the number of stores is less relevant now unless you’re developing a convenience offer. It is difficult for all retailers to adapt to this new paradigm. Brick-and-mortar retailers are establishing a strong online presence. But, at the same time, we are seeing e-commerce platforms moving towards brick-and-mortar.