Today, when it comes to shopping for homewares, many consumers are reaching for their gadgets over the car keys. Indeed, high levels of smartphone ownership, together with confidence about the security of shopping online have led to spectacular growth in the online channel.

With Mintel’s Homewares UK 2015 report revealing that nearly three in five consumers bought something online last year, we look ahead at the trends that will affect the way people buy homewares. With retailers increasingly investing in online and multi-channel retailers for homewares, we predict five key trends that will change the retail landscape.

1. Beacon Technology

Beacon technology will become increasingly important, enabling retailers to communicate directly with customers whilst they are in-store. Retailers will make intelligent use of data that is mined from the consumer’s previous brand interaction. So expect to see a virtual style advisor coming to a phone near you.

2. Friction-less transactions

The days of fumbling around your pockets for change could be coming to an end – we expect mobile payments to speed up the transaction process and increase the percentage of ‘frictionless’ transactions. Contributing further to ease of payment, selling staff equipped with tablet computers will be able to take payments on the spot. This takes staff out from behind the counter, allowing them more time to interact with the consumer and change the dynamics of the selling space.

3. Personal touch to online selling

For those that prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, live chat will become more popular among online sellers, making the online shopping process more human. Live chat will bring a personal touch to online selling, replicating some of the advice that a shopper might find in store. So expect to see more call centre staff trained with product knowledge and equipped with the ability to advise.

4. Search options

Search options will help retailers to increase conversion rates, as people who use search boxes often have higher sales per customer and higher conversion from browser to buyers. Expect to see more search bars combined with intelligent use of people’s browsing history appearing on sites.

5. Personalised delivery services

Also expect delivery services to get a make over, with more personalised delivery options that fit with people’s lifestyles growing in importance, as will speed of delivery. We expect homewares retailers to also develop faster click & collect, introduce late-night ordering for next day delivery, bring in 24-hour pickup lockers and finally, more alternative collection and return points.

What does it all mean?

In the future we expect homewares retailing to develop greater integration of the on and off-line experience, which in turn will help to grow share for online sales. More customer journeys make use of mixed channels – particularly people using smartphones in-store to find information, compare features and make sure they have the best deals.

The fact that consumers are rapidly able to access information will make shoppers for homewares ever-more impatient. So searching, browsing, payments and delivery will need to be slick. Large retailers will be at an advantage as they will be best-placed to be able to afford to develop their online services.

Browsing online will make shoppers more clued up about quality, sizes, reliability and functionality and the way they access this information will become more varied – with the majority of retailers having to compete in the multi-channel space. In response to online activity, pureplay specialists will aim to make online visits more personal to compete with store-based retailing.

Senior Retail Analyst at Mintel, Jane Westgarth’s career in retail and consumer markets has included roles as a Senior Retail Analyst and a Marketing and Retail Consultant to a variety of large and small organisations. For the last twenty five years she has applied her expertise and knowledge of retailing, branding and marketing communications to create analysis and insight for Mintel reports. She understands what makes consumers tick and what influences their buying decisions.

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