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Posted by Sophia Cosby Friday, October, 6th. 2017

Home & Living Is Hot On The Heels of Fashion eCommerce

Although the furniture industry has been making waves in terms of visual search, it's still greatly lacking when it comes to visual recommendation tools. We explore why and how this can be remedied.

At Fashwell, we love fashion. Tremendously. But lately we’ve been giving a lot of thought to other areas of online retail. Furniture, for example. Over the last couple of years, we have witnessed the emergence of many pure-play online home & living retailers, like Wayfair or Westwing. It’s definitely a growing market: Global online furniture sales are expected to increase exponentially over the next three years, reaching up to $220 billion in revenue in 2020. But in spite of these forecasts, home & living has definitely not been getting the same attention as the fashion industry has. This is surprising, considering that both industries are equally suited for eCommerce as well as for social media inspiration – just think of all those “fashion” and “interior” boards you curate on Pinterest. Still, home & living eCommerce lacks the shopping features that are pretty standard on fashion shopping sites. Features like similar product recommendations, visual search or user generated content are either not adequate or completely missing.

Visual Recommendation

Fashion eCommerce thrives on product recommendations: Suggesting visually similar items on individual product pages facilitates easy product discovery, thereby increasing upsell and cross-sell opportunities. On online shops like Zalando, for instance, product pages have a recommendation section where visually similar products are displayed. They also offer advice on styling and “You May Also Like” sections, each featuring products that complement the original.

Not many furniture sites make use of visual recommendation. Although most have sections for recommended products, these are often not based on any kind of visual similarities. This means that shoppers usually just see a random selection of items and not many options that are relevant to the product they are viewing.

Visual Search

Visual search, a tool by which shoppers upload a picture to a brand’s app or site and then shop the products in the image, is slowly becoming a widespread shopping tool for fashion apps and eCommerce platforms. Key players like Zalando, ASOS and many large American brands and retailers already offer this tool.
For furniture, visual search is not yet a common phenomenon. Although two pure-play online home & living retailers, Wayfair and Hayneedle, have recently introduced this shopping feature on their respective apps, it’s still not as much as an expectation as it is in fashion. Which is a shame, considering that shoppers can’t always find the words to describe the style or design of a chair or table, just like with fashion products.

Hayneedle visual search app

Hayneedle’s in-app Image Search tool.

Social Commerce

In terms of social commerce, home & living is also trailing behind fashion. Not only are there very few instances of user generated content (UGC) for interior brands on social media, shoppable tags and hashtags are also sparse: At the time of writing, #fashion has 423.6 million posts on Instagram, whereas #interior only has 26.3 million. Brands themselves are also not as active on social media as their fashion counterparts. This can have a detrimental effect, seeing as that shoppers nowadays live on mobile – especially on social media, where they frequently browse for shopping inspiration.

Some shops are heading in the right direction: West Elm, a modernist American furniture retailer, just launched a visual search feature on its Pinterest page, and they occasionally feature social media images from their shoppers tagged with #MyWestElm. On Houzz, customers can not only shop for products, they can also browse and save photos or search for local home design professionals – inspiration and commerce all in one place. Lastly, Design Bestseller showcases many different images of a product and also produces a lot of its own visual editorial content.

A Foscarini Twiggy lamp set into scene by Design Bestseller.

A Foscarini Twiggy lamp set into scene by Design Bestseller.

There are definitely some retailers on the right track and paving the way with the latest visual search and recommendation tools. Despite the abundance of visual content on interior design, the connection to commerce is still greatly lacking. We hope not for long: Since home & living plays a huge part in the greater lifestyle universe, it should be treated equally to fashion eCommerce. For shoppers who want their style to extend into every aspect of their lives, we hope to see more home & living brands make use of online shopping features that are already standard in fashion eCommerce. We want visual search and recommendations! We want more social media interaction! Really, we just want a whole lot more home & living brands to feed our shopping addictions.  

If you’re a home & living retailer or brand and you’re also interested in visual search and recommendations solutions for your app or site, get in touch:


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