International Housewares Show: Customer Experience, Curation, Mobile are Key to the Modern Consumer

Ranga Bodla, Head of Industry Marketing, NetSuite

March 14, 2018

From the kitchen to the bathroom to the living room, the annual International Housewares Show that descended upon Chicago this week offered a glimpse into not only every room of the house, but also the future of retail.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, this year’s show features the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer in home furnishings and, my favorite part, the kitchen. I was part of the keynote panel with HFN (Home Furnishing News), which presented its annual research into consumer trends that are impacting the industry. The lively panel discussion that followed included executives from Wayfair (a NetSuite customer), Evine and Kitchen a la Mode (a specialty brick and mortar store).

There were a few takeaways that we discussed that I found particularly interesting:

Mobile-first is table stakes 

When it comes to online shopping, businesses need more than just having a great app, they have to be fully mobile enabled for every aspect of how consumers might interact with them. Google drove a big push towards responsive design and mobile in 2017, but many companies are still playing catch up. Whether its consumers doing research before shopping, or while shopping, the expectation is that they have a mobile friendly experience (without having to download an app). And if a consumer wants to buy a product, they want to be able to complete that transaction on their phone. Additionally, consumers want to be able to start researching on one device, transition to another device and then finally complete the transaction on another. Sites need to make sure they can carry that cart across those platforms without placing additional burden on the user.

Customer Experience Wins Over Couponing and Loyalty Programs

Ryan Gilchrist, director of housewares & more at Wayfair, discussed how the company is hyper focused on the customer experience and, when it comes to couponing, it focuses on the transactions that will gain new customers and increase its total volume. Wayfair’s focus is on coupons for major life events (new house, birth, etc.) instead of the ubiquitous 40 percent off coupon that trains consumers to wait for sales. Additionally, while loyalty programs seemed to be all the rage 18 months ago, they have lessened in their importance as consumers are more interested in a good experience than loyalty points when it comes to their houseware purchases.

Curation is key

The amount of choice available to consumers only continues to increase, particularly at a show that showcases hundreds of new products in every category. Increasingly, consumers are looking for guidance about the best products to buy and advice about products in specific categories and prices. Sites and stores that are able to help curate products and provide advice about what to buy are winning and thriving. Trying to compete with Amazon on the price for a Kitchen-Aid isn’t a viable long-term strategy.

The bottom line is, housewares is one of the fastest growing segments as consumers are increasingly spending more time at home and in their kitchens. Learn more about NetSuite software for houseware companies(opens in new tab).

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