Online furniture platforms have been on an upward curve, and have managed to shield themselves from the harmful impact of the pandemic. In CY20, the online furniture market grew to $400 million, from $275 million in CY19, according to a report by RedSeer Management Consulting. Although furniture has traditionally been an unorganised category, the entry of horizontal players such as Flipkart and Amazon four years ago, has given a boost to the industry.
Further, the online furniture market is expected to clock in 40% growth in the next five years, according to Wazir Advisors. After the lockdown last year, owing to pent-up demand, the online furniture market saw an uptick in sales of both general and work from home (WFH) furniture. This year, too, a similar trend is expected. Brands are now enhancing their online presence to create a real-time shopping experience.
Making WFH work
Lokendra Ranawat, co-founder and CEO of WoodenStreet, says his company is witnessing 80% sales of the pre-Covid period. To improve the customer experience, the company has launched virtual reality solutions to give customers a feel of the store while shopping from home. It has introduced a range of hydraulic designs, wall-mounted study tables and sofa-cum-expandable-beds. In line with its omnichannel strategy, WoodenStreet plans to also launch 20 new experience studios across the country in the next six months, Ranawat adds.
Pepperfry, a big player in the online furniture market, has seen business revive 50% of pre-Covid level. “However, currently, we are seeing a 20-25% spike in our business through video consultations and virtual walkthroughs,” says Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO of Pepperfry. The company plans to expand its physical stores to 150 locations by the end of the year.
“Consumers are preferring comfort over cost, and opting for furniture which is ergonomically aligned to provide maximum cushion for long working hours,” says Nishant Gupta, senior director, BGMH and furniture, Flipkart. “We have seen a significant rise in demand for WFH furniture such as study tables, chairs and laptop tables since last year, and the demand is visible across metros and non-metros.” Cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Gurugram, where a significant number of the working population resides, are among the top regions witnessing an increase in demand for WFH essentials.
With a focus on user experience, Godrej Interio has launched a visual search option on its platform. “Initiatives such as video calls have helped us transition 60% of our customers online,” says Subodh Mehta, senior vice president (B2C), Godrej Interio. In FY22, the company expects a 40-45% increase in revenue from online channels, compared to FY21. “Currently, we are delivering in 50 cities through our online platform. This year, we plan to double our reach through unified commerce and omnichannel strategy,” he adds.
Sofa, so good
The pandemic has given an impetus to online furniture companies. Earlier, the market was largely dominated by vertical platforms, but has now shifted in favour of horizontal platforms, observes Chachan from RedSeer. For a long time, vertical players were focussed on premium offerings such as furniture made from teak wood and sandalwood, priced at the higher end. Horizontal players, however, have been offering a wide range of products at affordable prices, including high-quality engineered wood and teak wood furniture.
Analysts say that the entry of horizontal players has led to democratisation in the category, with multiple sizes focussing on affordability, something vertical players may have found difficult to do. Currently, horizontal players like Flipkart and Amazon have 60% of the market share, vertical players Pepperfry, WoodenStreet, among others, hold 20-30% share, while direct-to-consumer brands like Ikea and Godrej Interio command 10% share of the online furniture market.
Increasing online adoption is slated to further boost this market. “However, with local furniture stores moving online, independent of Amazon or Flipkart, we will see larger but fewer showrooms of furniture, offering delivery across the country,” says Harminder Sahni, founder and MD, Wazir Advisors.
New users coming on board, a dedicated focus on supply chain management, expansion in tier II markets and consumer spending in more categories will be crucial for the growth of this industry. To that end, Amazon and Flipkart have already set up supply chains with a focus on tier II markets.