Posted Jul 5, 2018 by Kristen Pinkman, Ecwid Team

Selling Furniture Online: A Practical Guide From a German Concept Store

Furniture is one of the things that make you feel at home. If you own a home decor brand, you don’t simply sell things. You sell coziness, luxury, comfort. You sell the mood. This business requires diligence.

Full-time employees in the past, Lisa and Pat put all their passion into “various,” an online store of industrial furniture made of stainless steel pipes. Working together as a couple and business partners, they made their first sale in under a week and are now developing ambitious plans for expanding their product line.

This guide is based on their best practices, and it was created for anyone eager to start a home decor venture online. It explains how to open your furniture store online, from crafting an idea to growing your sales.

Lisa and Pat


Lisa and Pat, owners of www.various-shop.com

1. Think Through the Сoncept of Your Store

A staggering 60.7% of respondents of the Franklin Furniture Institute survey agreed that they express themselves with the furniture they buy. As long as you invest enough in your products’ design, you’ll find your customer.

At the same time, there are over 87,000 establishments that already sell furniture of all kinds, according to the US Census Bureau. That’s a strong competition. To get your piece of the pie, you’ll need to tailor your products to a specific niche with a well-defined target audience.

Lisa and Pat started selling furniture online with just a single model, now known as “DUO HIGH”. Steel pipes are at the core of the construction. This key feature let them add more products later while keeping their brand distinctive.

Find your typical style, your kind of language, your personal look, and try to create this kind of overall experience that fits your products. Our furniture is very simple, clean, monochrome, very “black & white”.

selling furniture online various

Who would want to express themselves with your furniture? You can find out by defining your target customers. It’s best to do it before you start an online business. Everyone needs chairs, tables, and sofas in their homes, but you can waste a ton of marketing dollars trying to sell furniture to everybody.

Lisa and Pat have defined their target audience very well. It took them some time to figure it out, but in the end, they identified three groups:

  • Primary group: People who are interested in clean design, something special, often something custom made. Just bought/are in the process of buying an own property or apartment and want to invest in something durable that not everyone else has. Most of them keep not only the big brands like IKEA to a minimum but also try to work around typical design brands and rather invest large amounts of time and funds to find beloved, handmade, and individual items.
  • Secondary group: Young students who save up because they like the “various” style and use all their money to express their individual taste.
  • Third group: Shops, boutiques, hairdressers, gyms, wedding dress shops, and so on. All of them try to create a wonderful shopping experience for their clients away from the mainstream.

If you struggle to put your concept into words, refer to the Golden Circle model proposed by leadership expert Simon Sinek.

His idea will help you get a sense of your perfect brand formula that will make people really care about your product. In a nutshell, you need to answer three questions (in this particular order):

  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you do it?
  • What do you do?

Simon explains the importance of the Why question in a 5-minute video extract below. Watch it to avoid the most common mistakes when crafting your unique selling proposition.

2. Test Your Product Idea

Is your product something the world wants? You’d better make sure it is. There are many ways to evaluate your product viability:

Lisa and Patrick were lucky to recognize the demand without additional research:

“Friends and friends of friends always ended up in our bedroom to look at our wardrobe. After building a few more models for our friends we felt that there might be potential to sell them online.”

The forecast was correct — they got their first “official” sale in less than a week. “We were so happy since it gave us huge confirmation for our business idea and the recent launch,” Lisa says. So research is helpful, but don’t ignore your intuition.

3. Build a High-Class E-Commerce Website

Just like any other industry, selling furniture online has its pitfalls.

Most of the time, furniture is priсey. For merchants, it equals additional investments in customer trust. Those who shop for furniture online want to be sure it’ll look exactly how they like it in their homes. Your website should have everything in place to deliver enough information — and still be easy to navigate.

Let’s see how you can get a functional website.

Platform

Roughly speaking, site builders can be divided into web-hosted (like WordPress.org) and self-hosted (like Wix).

With a web-hosted site builder, you can create an advanced and very customizable website. You’ll have to host it somewhere, though (at companies like Bluehost). Take this route if you see the big picture of your website from the beginning, and have some time and tech knowledge.

Alternatively, you can use a self-hosted site builder (like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc.). Most of them don’t require any technical knowledge: just select a pre-designed template, add your content, and you’re done in no time. They are less customizable, but you might not even need that with everything predesigned for you.

Adding e-commerce: no matter how you’ll build your website, you can add an e-commerce store powered by Ecwid. Sign up for free and take your product catalog with you to any site builder platform.

Here are some Ecwid features that’ll be helpful to furniture sellers:

  • Deep product customization options (see example)
  • Integrations with many shipping providers to save your shipping costs
  • Omnichannel tools: sell furniture on Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, or even mobile apps within a single control panel.

With so many options out there, deciding on how to build your e-commerce website can be stressful. To learn more about the pros and cons of different platforms, read our guide to choosing the best site builder for your e-commerce store.

Here’s how Lisa and Patrick built their e-commerce website: “The Squarespace template helped us a bit to do so, but in the end we put hours and hours of work into it to have it like it is now. When we then added Ecwid, we basically started with a random design but then styled every single item of Ecwid to adopt it to this design by using the CSS code. Was definitely worth it!”

various storefront


“various”, storefront

While the “various” store was built a while ago, now you don’t have to use CSS anymore to make Ecwid fit your style — thanks to 40+ new store design options and the next-generation storefront.

Design

As furniture products are complex, your e-commerce website should be both informative and easy to use. Think long and hard about how you’ll structure your website content.

The web design strategy of the “various” shop is:

Reduce everything to the absolute minimum.

The store team recommends you to question for every single item whether it is really necessary and adds value. If you’re new to web design, pay attention to the following details:

  • Have a lean website structure (sitemap).
  • Use only two colors (for “various”, they’re black and white).
  • Stick to one font, thin and small. Don’t use italic. Only a few words can be bold.
  • No heavy items.
  • Less text is more. Keep every sentence short but still relevant for your client and for SEO reasons. Avoid filler words.
  • Simple structure: use squares, texts, and photos separated by hairlines.

You need really good, high-class pictures, even more in a high-price range like the one we act in.

Website photography can make or break your sale, so take care of your product pictures. They should be clean, stylized, and expose your product’s benefits.

furniture product photography

“Since we offer so many options from measurements to color, our product is quite complex. That is difficult to understand for a client and also to put into a shop system. Try to design your product as simply as possible from the beginning and try to structure your website as lean as possible.”

various product page


“various”, product page

Store management

When building your e-commerce website to sell furniture online, pay attention to both storefront and backend. Unlike the rest of your website, your store admin is something you’ll be visiting every day.

Ecwid E-Commerce makes it possible to manage your store from any device. For desktop, it’s a Control Panel. If you’re off for your storage, street market, physical store, or simply on vacation, you can run your store from a mobile Control Panel app for iOS and Android.

ecwid control panel

Patrick and Lisa have tried both ways: “WE LOVE THE APP! It gives us the chance to see orders when we are not working / at home and have access to our computers. For Lisa it is some kind of security to be able to check the info about an order and / or a customer even when I’m on the go. And, well, we both are super excited about the notifications. Every time we get a push notification, one of us yells loudly ‘NEW ORDER’!”

4. Think Through Your Shipping Strategy

This might not be the first thing on your mind. However, if you are going to sell furniture online, your shipments will be big, heavy, and, possibly, fragile. What a combo!

Lisa and Patrick have been through all that. Their products are made of steel pipes, and they ship all across the EU. So the couple took some steps to reduce shipping costs.

“For example, our model DUO HIGH has a weight of 20 kg (44 lbs), and SPACE HIGH weighs even more than 30 kg (66 lbs). But the measurements of 120 x 15 x 15 cm (47 x 5 x 5 inches) allow us to use normal parcel shipping, which enabled us to reduce shipping costs to a minimum at least.”

various furniture

The сhoice of shipping provider can cut your costs, so don’t forget to compare different options. Ecwid integrates with dozens of shipping providers, and there are constantly new ones that arrive. For example, one of the latest integrations with DHL worked well for “various”:

After realizing we would run more sales soon, one of the first things we did was sign up for a DHL business contract which allows you to benefit from bulk packages.

The price for shipping wasn’t the only problem. It’s packaging that provides the first impression of your brand — and when your products are over three feet long, making a great first impression becomes a real challenge.

“We had to find packaging that can handle the weight. And since all products are different, we needed packaging that could be used for all kinds of pipe lengths and weight. Since we don’t ship our furnitures readily assembled but as assembly kits, we ended up with highly stable carton boxes of 120 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm which can be extended up to 200 cm.”

After all those manipulations, the couple even managed to offer free shipping in Germany. Learn why free shipping is a great marketing tactic, and let’s see some more.

5. Say No to Aggressive Marketing

As mentioned above, customers need to think for a while before purchasing furniture. Decision-making can take a long time. Many of Patrick and Lisa’s customers start thinking about their products even before they move house. They start researching, find them, but then move first and have other things to do until they purchase.

A client will get to you three times with different kinds of questions, will then think about his/her considerations, and often wait weeks or even months before the conversion. This is time-consuming and requires patience and kindness. You won’t simply sell within minutes or with aggressive marketing tactics.

Their #1 advice is to develop personal communication with customers to encourage them to make a purchase.

“We have very personal conversations to create a close customer proximity. That way we gain trust and provide the image of not just being any other store. We show them what we really are: a small team which is actually a couple, passionate design fans, trustable, approachable, not only random sellers but also consultants for design lovers.”

While you can get famous for your stellar customer service, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to do to promote your store. When asked about their top-performing marketing channels, Lisa and Pat named (in no particular order):

various furniture on pinterest


“various” on Pinterest

“We’re currently setting up Facebook ads — remarketing in particular — with Ecwid’s integration and we’re confident it will increase sales,” Lisa shared.

The couple has already given Facebook ads the first shot: “We ran our first trial for user acquisition and were able to boost visits of new visitors by using the carousel ad. We will do more and more on that within the next weeks. We will especially focus on remarketing in the beginning to increase the efficiency of all other approaches.”

So if you’re going to sell furniture online, you definitely want to spread the word about your business through advertising.

6. Incorporate Custom Orders

The tastes, needs, and resources of your future customers may differ. Customization is a service that will keep your customer interested, even if he or she hasn’t found the right item in your catalog.

In “various”, you can have two kinds of custom measurement services:

  • Products from the shop in custom size
  • Genuine made-to-measure items (fully custom models).

More than 80% of shop orders are in custom size. The share between all shop orders and custom is about 50:50. This is why we manufacture every item by hand and on request.

custom steel pipe furniture


An example of a fully custom order on various’ made-to measure showcase page

7. Keep New Products Coming In

Furniture sellers can’t boast a high purchase frequency. 95.1% of the Franklin Furniture Institute survey respondents agreed on the statement “I expect my furniture to last for many years.” So how do you keep your business afloat?

Lisa and Patrick’s advice is to never stop innovation.

“We regularly add content and improve the website. But what’s way more important is that we run photo shoots on a regular basis to come up with new products. We recently also had a great idea for a new kind of product built from other materials (still a secret). Doing so will continuously attract new customers and make previous customers come back.”

To Sum Up

Starting an online business requires a lot of effort. Thanks to Lisa and Patrick, we’ve managed to gain valuable insights about selling furniture online. So now you have a better image of what to expect. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Bet on design when creating your product line.
  • Make your e-commerce website informative, clean, and easy to use.
  • Invest in product photography.
  • Reduce shipping costs by studying different providers and packaging.
  • Master personal communication with customers to speed up their purchase decision.
  • Offer custom services to increase sales.
  • Constantly add new products and accessories to increase the purchase frequency.

We hope that we’ve covered the most important details, but you can ask Pat and Lisa in the comments section below. We also welcome all fellow home decor sellers to share their perspective in the comments section.

About the author
Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music, and home-cooked food.