Home run: how social proof can deliver online home goods sales


Alison Wiltshire


March 12, 2020

Consumers have become more comfortable buying bigger, bulky homewares online - but some worry about making a pricey mistake. Social proof can help.

In the early days of eCommerce, who could have imagined that shoppers would buy home goods online? Surely people would want to view and touch the real thing before buying high consideration items like furniture, mattresses, rugs and couches?

It turns out that it is projected by 2021, twenty-seven percent of total home furnishing revenue will come from online sales in the US. And worldwide, online furniture sales are expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 10 per cent between 2019 and 2023, when the market will be worth $289.3 billion.

From the comfort of their own living room, the 2020 home goods buyer has a huge choice online, from retailers like ABC Carpets and Home, Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams Sonoma and the online-only players like Overstock and Wayfair. But of course, buying a new bed or a statement mirror will never be as straightforward as clicking on the latest ‘Frozen’ lunchbox or a pack of replacement batteries. Marketing and selling home goods brings a special set of challenges, for retailers and customers. 

Many people still want to feel the fabric, sit on the couch, lie on the bed and be sure it’s going to be suitable before they place their order.  Furniture and decorative items can be big, bulky or heavy - often all three at once – and, although most of the online stores have a replacement or return policy,  items are comparatively expensive to ship, hard to handle and tricky to manoeuvre into place in the home. There’s also the practical difficulty of returns – you can hardly drop off your unwanted queen-size bed at your local convenience store for collection. And not only do retailers want to avoid the financial costs of returns but also the risk of damage and degradation to those items in transit.

Making the wrong decision carries costs for both consumers and home goods retailers - especially those selling online-only. It’s why retailers want to do all that they can to deliver a great customer journey and to make their shoppers confident that they’ve made the right choice. 

Using social proof messages throughout the journey can help overcome these concerns. Acting like an in-store sales associate, social proof messaging surfaces real-time product information and helps to engage the consumer, answer questions and reinforce why the item is right. It reassures other shoppers by indicating that other people have also viewed it, have rated the piece, and that other people have purchased the item online.

One of the trickier aspects of buying home goods online is that it can be hard to visualise what it might look like in your own home. Unlike a physical showroom, where furniture is usually staged and accessorized in room sets, items sold online are often pictured on their own. Social proof supports sales by reflecting peer behavior. It displays evidence that other buyers are pleased with their home goods purchase, that it fits into their home and lifestyle. It gives the purchaser confidence that they won’t be making an expensive mistake.

Customers in the market for, say, new bathroom hardware or kitchen cupboards can be overwhelmed by all the choices available. Social proof messages that point out best sellers or trending styles can guide them to a short list. Further messages sharing rich product information can help customers narrow down their choices and encourage them to make a final decision to purchase. Very, JD Williams, Littlewoods and Matalan are leading the UK retailers that already put social proof messaging to work in this way for their home goods ranges.

Ultimately, social proof supports home goods retailers with the reinforcement that ‘it’s OK to make big purchases online’. It assures buyers that this is a normal, legitimate, trusted way to buy large key pieces for their home. And along with that come all the other benefits of social proof messaging – greater customer engagement, more informed buyers who make better decisions, which in turn lifts conversions, sales and customer satisfaction for the retailer. 

To find out more about using Taggstar to support your home goods sales, contact us today.

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