How to assemble an online furniture store from the ground up
It wasn’t that long ago when the thought of buying furniture online was ludicrous. I mean, who in their right mind would buy a couch without ever having sat in it before?
Well, fast forward to today, and buying furniture online is almost as common as buying shoes online.
For entrepreneurs young and old, selling furniture is also an attractive eCommerce business idea. Without the need to design a showroom or manage multiple store locations, running a furniture business has grown into a more realistic option for many, thanks to eCommerce.
So, if you're looking to take your brick-and-mortar store online or jump into selling furniture for the first time, this article will guide you through the process.
This guide covers:
How to source your furniture
There are four primary ways to source furniture. Depending on your storage capacity, budget, and even your skill level as a craftsman or craftswoman, you may have more than one viable business model from which to base your business.
Manufacture - If you're a skilled crafter with a passion for making furniture, you may already have a variety of furniture pieces in mind to make on demand or keep in stock to sell. It goes without saying that as a crafter, you need a dedicated workspace and the ability to store your completed pieces.
Design - Under this model, you can focus on designing pieces while another crafter or third-party factory brings it to life. As a designer, building a solid relationship with a manufacturer is critical. Find a manufacturer that accepts your input and works with you throughout the process.
Resell - As a reseller, you may choose to curate new and/or vintage furniture pieces from multiple manufacturers or brands (via wholesale, estate sales, rummage sales, auctions, local marketplaces, bargain shopping, etc.). This model gives you the flexibility to curate furniture and decor collections that fit your brand, plus create cohesive styles and themes.
Dropship - Under a dropshipping model, you’re released from the burden of storing, packaging, and shipping products yourself. Your manufacturer will ship finished pieces directly to your consumers. This setup is often appealing if you have limited storage space and/or startup capital. But keep in mind that by outsourcing your order fulfillment, you relinquish some control over the customer experience.
How to build a furniture catalog
How you shape your product catalog is paramount to the development of your brand. For example, if you want to be the next affordable furniture stop, your catalog might contain several Ikea-like items that buyers can build at home.
On the other hand, if you’re an artisan seller like Wix user Beck & Cap, your catalog may consist entirely of unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.
So, before building your catalog, take the time to clearly define your niche by taking these below steps.
01. Define your “why”
What inspired you to start your business? Do you want to build a brand that’s environmentally conscious using only sustainable or recycled materials? Does a portion of your proceeds support a charity or global movement? Perhaps you're fulfilling a lifelong dream or a family tradition. Be clear on what’s driving you to do what you do and make it a part of your brand story. This is instrumental in getting your customers to connect emotionally with your business.
02. Identify your target market
Describe your ideal client using thorough research. A well-defined target market helps you maintain focus as your business grows, so be specific.
For example, the following target market description is too broad and lacks direction:
People who like modern-styled furniture.
Here is a better version:
First-time homeowners ages 22 to 38, living in the United States, with a yearly household income of $100K or more. They favor eco-friendly, modern-styled quality furniture that's economically priced and aesthetically supports their minimalistic lifestyle.
Be it residential or commercial customers, your description should help you understand precisely who you're looking to engage and what types of products you want to offer them.
Pro tip: Avoid using the words "people" or "anyone" when describing your target market. This will force you to get more specific about the individual user you want to target.
03. Decide on a theme for your online catalog
With your target market in mind, research trending products and determine a theme for your catalog that will appeal to your market.
For example, will you offer a specific style (e.g., modern or traditional) or type of furniture? Will you feature collections for a specific room, or only offer furnishings made of a particular material? Will you sell any other items, such as complementary decor?
If you already have a brick-and-mortar location, think about how your online catalog will compare to your offline offerings. Will you offer your full line of products online? Or, will you reserve your online store for your best-sellers or a specific furniture line?
04. Pinpoint what differentiates your business from the competition
There's a lot of competition within the furniture industry, so it's necessary to be clear about what sets you apart from other sellers. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, think about what brings customers through your door instead of a competitor's.
Differentiators could include:
Your customer service
Production and shipping speed
The customization options you offer
Your range of products
The number of variations you offer
The causes you support
Where and how you build your furniture
Consider all this as you decide the right makeup of products.
How to create your online store
Roll up your sleeves because this is the fun part: building an online store that represents your furniture brand and passion. To save time, we recommend choosing a platform like Wix eCommerce that includes all the features and tools needed to create a successful online store.
Design your online store
Choose a professionally-designed home decor or furniture-focused template that gives your customers a pleasant shopping experience and reflects your brand’s personality. Wix’s templates are fully customizable, allowing you to tailor both the desktop and mobile experiences.
Need help with this step? Hire a professional agency or freelancer through the Wix Marketplace to get your store up and running in no time.
Choose your business name
Your business name says a lot about your company and will be with you for years to come, so you want a memorable name that embodies your brand, quality, and purpose. If you haven't chosen a business name yet and need some inspiration, try the Wix business name generator.
Make a list of any business names you might consider, and then check for domain availability. Avoid special characters and unique spellings, and keep your domain name length reasonable so that it's easy for customers to remember and type it.
Create a logo
Your logo is critical to your business as it represents your brand throughout your marketing channels. The colors, fonts, and imagery you use within your logo should align with your brand personality, appeal to your target audience, and be easily recognizable. Try to avoid designs that are overly complex. Instead, keep the design simple, using one to three colors at most.
Design your logo for free in minutes using the Wix Logo Maker or get matched with a professional designer who can create one for you.
Build your categories and navigation
First, consider how your target audience would prefer to browse your products, and then create categories that align with their shopping habits. For example, is your customer likely to shop by color, style, price, function, room—or all of the above? Your product categories are an essential part of your online store navigation.
Once you've created your categories, make sure that they are easy to find directly from your homepage and via your main site navigation menu.
Load your products
With a platform like Wix eCommerce, you can choose to upload products manually or via bulk import.
Organize your products into collections, and create thoughtful category pages as well as product pages. On each product page, include detailed product descriptions that mention:
Details about durability
Suggestions for use (living room, dining room, bedroom, office, indoor/outdoor, etc.)
Where and how the piece was made
And when possible, use storytelling to help your customer visualize the piece in their space and build an emotional connection to your products.
Showcase each product using multiple high-quality photos. Videos, charts, and 360-degree photos can be especially useful for showing off furniture.
Tell your story
From your homepage messaging to your “About Us" page, express why you sell furniture and what fuels your passion. If your business supports a cause, tell your customers why you're doing it. Your story helps build a connection with your customers and gives them a sense of belonging and a reason to support your business with pride.
Write an FAQ
Provide a self-service section for customers' most common questions and add to it as you discover more. This will help you to set the right expectations with your customers, and provide an even better customer experience. Don’t forget to link to the FAQ page from your main navigation and footer for easy access.
Provide contact options
Include contact details on a contact page and/or footer. Consider how a live chat feature like Wix Chat can additionally help to provide customers with the support that they need and to anticipate any order issues.
How to manage limited storage space
You may have limited storage space and capital as a startup furniture business, and that's okay.
As a designer or manufacturer, start with a smaller collection of made-on-demand pieces to minimize out-of-pocket expenses and storage space. Your workshop, garage, or home are all great storage solutions when you’re first getting started. This will also give you a better feel for the types of warehouse conditions and partners you’ll need to work with in the future.
As a vintage furniture reseller, curate only a few items at a time—no more than you can afford to store at home or in a rented space. If you choose to resell or design new furniture pieces, try looking for manufacturers willing to handle the fulfillment for you temporarily (much like a dropshipper would) until you can handle it in-house.
As you grow and have more working capital at your disposal, you can look into additional storage solutions such as:
Leasing a storage unit
Partnering with a third-party warehouse (3PL) for storage and shipping logistics
Buying/renting warehouse or office space
If you choose to dropship, storage is less of a concern. However, starting with a limited catalog can still be beneficial as you navigate managing the new dropshipping relationship(s). Then, expand as you become more established and experienced.
How to handle pricing
Determining the right place will require thorough market research. Analyze how similar items are priced within the industry and how much your target buyer is willing to pay. Settle on a price that is fair and consistent with the market, but make sure that it covers the cost of your materials and related expenses.
Moreover, make sure you know how to diagnose your eCommerce profit margins properly, so that you can ensure a profit from every sale.
Don't be afraid to experiment with your pricing as you go by raising or lowering the price slightly and seeing what happens.
How to handle shipping and returns
Picking the right carrier
Managing the logistics of furniture shipping can be tricky, especially with the many weight and size restrictions that apply to this category of products. But fortunately, there are various options at your disposal.
For smaller, lightweight pieces, you can continue using standard ground service via carriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS. For oversized items, less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipping is a good option. The downside is that it may take longer for your items to reach your customers, since LTL shipments are combined with other sellers' shipments and make more stops.
In any case, you'll want to heed best practices for furniture shipping, such as using a platform like Shippo to lock in the lowest rates (up to 90% compared to retail rates) and track shipments.
As a startup furniture business, absorbing shipping expenses into your product pricing can be cost-prohibitive to your business. While you’ll want to offer a competitive price, you’ll need to ensure that you can cover the costs of creating and transporting bulky and/or heavy items.
Here are three options to consider offering:
Flat rate shipping - Charge a single rate for all products. For instance, you could charge $12.99 shipping for each item sold. This splits the burden of shipping fees between your business and your customer.
Free shipping - Offer "free shipping" but offset your expenses by increasing your product’s price to include some or all of the shipping cost. If you’re working with a shipping carrier or fulfillment partner, ask for upfront quotes so you can calculate shipping costs accurately.
Calculated shipping - Automatically calculate shipping charges at checkout based on shipping weight, dimensions, and destination, then charge the customer accordingly. Many customers may shy away from hefty shipping fees so this method may hinder sales.
In the furniture business, returns are tricky, so minimizing them is your best option. Publish high-quality photos, videos, and detailed product descriptions to pre-empt customer questions, plus provide excellent customer support.
When writing your return policy, you can also limit returns to defective products and/or charge customers (partially or in full) for return shipping. Decide what works best for your business, clearly state your terms, and make your policy easily visible on your checkout and product pages to avoid unwelcome surprises.
How to market your furniture business
With your online store up and running, it's time to start helping potential customers find it through a strong eCommerce marketing strategy. Wix offers a complete marketing and customer management suite of tools to earn traffic, manage relationships, and build customer loyalty.
With Wix, you can:
Optimize your site for search engines using built-in SEO tools
Raise brand awareness and increase engagement through social posts on Facebook and Instagram
Create videos to showcase your business and your products
Reach out to visitors via live chat
Regularly email customers with new product announcements, furniture care tips, and more to keep your business top of mind
Offer private member accounts with exclusive access or services
Create automated responses based on customer actions
Launch your furniture store with Wix eCommerce
A furniture business can serve as both a profitable venture and creative outlet. With the right resources and tools, you can learn how to start a business that succeeds in the fast-growing furniture industry.
Ready to start selling furniture? Create your online store today.
Editor, Wix eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.