Flipkart is quickly expanding into the furniture retail category and after revamping the furniture vertical for the web and app, it’s now focussing on the offline furniture shopping experience. The ecommerce company will set up a FurniSure Experience Centre in Bengaluru, which would provide shoppers with the ‘touch and feel’ furniture shopping experience in a large 1,800 sq ft space.
Unlike many other online shopping categories, customers, especially new ones, are more likely to want to ‘try’ furniture before buying. Flipkart says it wants to increase awareness around some of its products, the tests it conducts (for which it uses videos in its app) and the installation experience.
But Flipkart is not going completely traditional. It is working with Google to bring the augmented reality (AR) app Google Lens into the FurniSure Experience Centres, which would let potential walk-ins find out all about a product by using a smartphone with the Google Lens support.
Visitors can scan a special icon for each product and item at the experience centre, which will then take them to the product’s listing on Flipkart where can they can see its features and compare it with other options. It’s as yet unclear whether one can then purchase the furniture item through the app, without having to check out through the store. But that would be the logical extension of the move.
Flipkart Furniture Goes Omnichannel
Hybrid or omnichannel sales is clearly the next big model for ecommerce companies to explore, and even as Flipkart has been distracted by the changes in the ecommerce FDI rules, it has had to expand into this space. If the Walmart-Flipkart deal did not make it clear enough, there’s a firm belief that the future is a mix of offline and online commerce, but with more seamless integration and less disparity.
The same is true for furniture and even as Flipkart has expanded its operations around this category. It needs to explore other models such as furniture renting since that is a big trend in India. The overall furniture market in India is estimated to generate between $15 Bn to $24 Bn annually. The organised segment is around 8%-10% and, out of which around 15% is online.
Even as Flipkart is betting on offline retail, Amazon is hoping for a shift in consumer buying behaviour for online furniture shopping. In early July, Amazon had announced that it would be expanding its network of specialised Delivery Stations and Fulfilment Centres (FCs) for furniture and large appliances, with new centres in Guwahati and Patna, and more storage capacity added in Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Ludhiana. With these, Amazon India would have a combined storage space of more than nine million cubic feet across all its specialised FCs – an increase of 40% from December 2018.