If there’s one thing every homeowner needs, it’s furniture. What’s more, someone grows up, moves out and settles into a new home every day and one of the first things they buy is some sort of furniture.
This makes the furniture business a promising one—if you can figure out how to sell while keeping your costs as low as possible.
Enter E-commerce. If you open your store on the internet, your costs can be minimal, even while your selection is vast.
Intrigued? Good. Here’s how to start a furniture store online.
Find Your Ideal Customer
As with any business venture, you must to whom you will sell. You need to get a clear picture of this person in your head. What is their age? Where do they work? How much money do they make? Are they a student, an industrial worker or a professional? Do they have children? Are they caring for an aging parent? Are they primarily male or female? Getting a handle on the demographics of your ideal customer will help you field a store designed to appeal to that specific type of person.
Study the Market
Once you know to whom you will be selling, you need to get a clear understanding of how the marketplace works within the context of your ideal customer. What furniture items are they most likely to purchase? To what kinds of offers are they prone to respond? When are the high seasons and low seasons? Information like this will help you determine what styles of furniture to carry and how to conduct your marketing campaigns. This will also help you determine when you’ll need to offer sales to stimulate demand and the price points at which you can best sell.
Find Your Supplier(s)
The decision to warehouse your inventory or drop ship is a critical one. The latter is a particularly attractive option for a startup furniture business because so many of the items are both heavy and bulky.
This means shipping costs can be on the high side. With dropshipping, you’ll only have to pay to move an item from the wholesaler (or manufacturer) to the customer. Drop shipping also frees you of the need to pay for storage space.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to find suppliers who stock the types of furniture you want to carry and will ship it directly to the consumer. The alternative is to stock your own inventory.
This method does give you a higher degree of control and eliminates some complexities. But it comes at a pretty high price. You’ll have to buy the furniture before you sell it and maintain a warehouse. Then there’s the need for a shipping staff and the risk of getting stuck with items that don’t sell.
Establish Your Online Presence
Here, you have a few choices:
- Build a custom website from scratch. The advantage of this approach is you’ll have a unique and distinctive site, tailored specifically to your needs. You’ll also spend quite a bit of money to get it and you’ll be tasked with maintaining it.
- Work with a company that specializes in designing and maintaining online furniture stores. In most cases, they take over management of the site completely. They’ll do software updates, upload images and product descriptions and provide technical support should you run into any issues. This, of course, comes at a price as well.
- Use an ecommerce furniture store template provided by a company like Shopify. These are generally plug and play, in that you’ll choose a look you like, load your images, product descriptions and other information and be up and running within days. While usually the most affordable method, the onus of managing the site is placed upon your shoulders.
Promote Your Store
While you’re setting up your site, you should also be putting together a marketing plan aimed at your ideal customer. You’ll need to find out where they hang out online and establish yourself in those areas. Social media is a good place to start, as you can angle to get in front of the exact people you want to reach.
Along with that, producing a blog will help you initiate a content marketing effort. You’ll have articles to post in social outlets as well as an ever-evolving website to which you can apply SEO techniques to help draw traffic to your store.
This time period should also be used to build buzz for the launch of your store on blogs dedicated to decorating and interior design. Devise an incentive for early adopters who follow your social feeds and register for your promotions.
A lot of manufacturers offer co-operative advertising deals in which they will foot a portion of the cost of promotion, as long as you tout their brands in your ads. This can be a real boon when you’re just starting out and your finances are being stretched.
So, there you have it — the basics for how to start a furniture store online. Yes, there are some nuances and complexities to each of those steps. But once you get into it, you’ll feel your way to fine tuning them. It really isn’t a terribly complicated undertaking. And, it can be remarkably lucrative.