E-commerce after the pandemic: what has changed in consumer behavior?
The pandemic has induced an abrupt discontinuity in many habits, including consumer behavior. Beyond purely numerical data, it is interesting to analyze what scenarios lie ahead for the years to come, after this forced pause. The 7th Pambianco Design Summit, held in July 2021, confirms that the furniture sector has suffered a downturn, but all in all rather limited. And, all things considered, it is fairly obvious, as we have spent much more time than usual at home. Moreover, selling furniture online is becoming more and more interesting.
Read the Pambianco Design Summit 2020
Alessio Candi, Consulting and M&A Director of Pambianco, has given a picture of the Italian and international situation. Among the most interesting aspects that have emerged from these years of pandemic, we should attentively observe the growth of e-commerce, even in the furniture sector. The amount of furniture sold online in Europe has almost doubled in two years, rising from 4.9% to 8.5%. In Germany, it went from 7% to 12.2%, in the UK from 8.1% to 14%, in France from 4.6% to 8.6%, and finally, in Italy, from 3.2% to 5.6%.
Online furniture sales giant Wayfair reported a 55% increase in sales in 2020. Ikea, on the other hand, saw online sales increase from 7% to 16%, thus more than doubling, in 2020 alone. And Westwing also reported a 62% growth. Italian companies have not been idle, and between 2020 and 2021 they have developed various online strategies.
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The latest is Design Holding, the group formed in 2018 that includes B&B Italia, Flos and Louis Poulsen, which in April 2021 acquired YDesign, a U.S.-based platform selling high-end design. YDesign, which sells several iconic made in Italy brands and more, operates via the sites YLighting.com and Lumens.com.
Interest in interior design has grown
Matteo Margini, Group E-commerce Director of Design Holding, explained that, in 2020, interior design has grown exponentially among Google trends both in purchase searches and especially in searches for inspiration. Of course, as people were forced to spend a lot of time in their homes were also able to see their negative aspects. Moreover, pandemic and home working prompted many people to reorganize their homes by creating new home office spaces.
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Another interesting fact, again from Google trends, is that people look for sources of inspiration mainly on Youtube (51%) and interior design blogs (46%); magazines and online journals are at 36% among searches for home ideas. Good news for Italian companies is that the search for “made in Italy furniture” has grown exponentially in the United States.
So it is no surprise that many other Italian companies have invested in e-commerce or new digital strategies. Molteni & C., for example, has launched e-commerce, and so has Chateau d’Ax. Galleria Nilufar has organized its first online auction with Christie’s; Mohd, the online store, managed to achieve a modest growth in 2020, with 60% of its turnover in Italy.
Therefore, there are good prospects for furniture to experience an important growth in online sales. Probably, given the nature of the products, the physical store will not lose value, but will be increasingly integrated with the digital channel. Because, if it is true that 60% of customers still need to see and touch an expensive furnishing product before buying it, on the other hand, this means that 40% are already willing to buy online, without going to a store or a physical space.