My precious double-seater sofa in my bedroom has collapsed. Errr, let me correct myself: The left side of the sofa has collapsed (given that I’ve sat on that side for years); whereas the right side looks nice and puffy. ‘In-short’ (don't laugh at my Hinglish), my sofa looks like it’s an asteroid from Star Wars. And I am in the market to replace it. 

Now, when I say “I’m in the market”, I mean the online market. The last thing I want to do is physically run around all over Mumbai in search of the ‘great un-collapsible sofa’. 

image source

So let me narrate my experience what I have learnt so far. Note that I am a digital entrepreneur myself, so my findings will be highly opinionated :(.

 

I typed ‘Sofa’ on Google just to see what came up. 

There was a khichdi of sofa images, junglee.com screaming to be clicked as the first link (Junglee is owned by Amazon), links of local sofawalas and other noise. It was not a page that invited a link. 

Then I typed “I wanna buy a Sofa” and viola! Lots of interesting links popped up (Junglee was still on top). These were lots of blogs & articles on how to buy a sofa and things to be aware of, etc.! The advice inside was awesome: 

Shock #1: There was NO Indian blog talking about Sofas. Now, that's a pity because I am sure there are many like me who would like to be educated and then go to sites than ‘sofa experts’. 

Lesson: Why aren’t Indian e-tailers creating ‘content’ and ‘context’ (articles and blogs) that tell consumers HOW and WHAT to do with what they sell?  It would definitely improve conversions as IKEA and Macy’s have successfully achieved in their markets!

 

As I stumbled and fell, I visited Pepperfry.com, Urbanladder.com and Fabfurnish.com in my quest for buying a sofa. I also opened up IKEA USA just to get a sense of what they were offering! 

Shock #2 The first thing that pounded my head like a triple shot migraine when I visited the Indian sites was the MASSIVE effort to ‘sign up’, ‘register’, ‘get on the newsletter’. I felt like a boy who just said ‘hi’ to a girl who immediately produced a marriage contract to be signed before she said ‘hi’ back!! 

IKEA has no such ‘e-terror’ tactic. It was a warm, welcoming experience with no pressure to pass through ‘strict immigration control’!

Lesson: Indian Furniture e-com sites must learn to greet visitors and not intimidate them! On the web, greeting is equal to not being disturbed.

The three sites I visited were as different as idli, medu vada and masala dosa. 

Shock #3: One of the most hyped sites in the past years had the most confusing categories on the home page. For instance, it listed ‘Furniture’, ‘Décor’ and ‘Furnishings’ as the first three tabs on the home page! I mean what is Décor? Can’t it be explained in a simpler manner? 

IKEA on the other hand, started with ‘Living Room’, ‘Bedroom’ and ‘Kids Room’! 

Yeah! I’m looking for some stuff for my Bedroom and that just sounded perfect! 

Lesson: Indian e-tailers should use COMMON SENSE when describing what they are selling and not the advice of some 23.5 year old kid who thinks “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) tricks are what should be used to describe website navigation!

 

Shock #4: Save for one, it seemed that the other two Indian sites were selling discounts, not furniture! Wherever I looked, there were these huge ‘x % off’ signs screaming at me – as if the business was going belly-up! 

There were NO sales/discounts/take-it-all-away signs on IKEA. Instead, the space was used for articles such as “ideas on how to place furniture” which added so much more value! 

Lesson: Indian e-tailers should sell goods, not discounts. That cheapens them almost instantly.

Surprise #1: Amidst the gloom, what really caught my attention on one Indian site was that they offer an option to “try our furniture”! Now that buzzed me and I double-checked to make sure it meant what it said. 

Lo and behold, the site promises to send single-seaters of the furniture you choose to your house (for free) to check it out! I signed up for one instantly!

Lesson: Indian e-tailers like this one can redefine and re-shape e-commerce if they stick to being themselves, being sensible and pretending to ‘play consumer’ rather than play ‘dotcom copycat’ to succeed!

*******

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Hey Alok,

Couldn't agree more. I bought my living room sofa online and had similar kind of experience. I ended up with same e-tailer which you are going to try (I think), also on their website I saw no discounts anywhere but still has that "sign up for newsletter" screaming all over the place.

Please share your experience on "trying their furniture". It would be great to know how they convert/not convert this trial into sale.

Natwar

Found UrbanLadder quite a neat site. No ads, no diff lingo used.            

Any one who bought stuff at an IKEA store knows what ends up happening when you're out of the store :)

This is what happened to me every single time I went there. You walk in to buy one item, and come out buying 5-6 items - without feeling you splurged on unnecessary items. The reason IMO - IKEA doesn't sell furniture, they very smartly sell a lifestyle. As you walk through their aisles "rooms" (bedrooms, kitchens etc.) they subconsciously implant ideas into your brain and you go thinking "I could change my bedroom to look like this with this $10 item" etc. It's AFFORDABLE LIFESTYLE. The focus immediately shifts from one item you had in mind to an entire room/house. I never bought stuff on IKEA website, but realized they tried to do the same thing on their website. An experience consistent with in-store purchases.

Where as, looks like exactly the opposite is happening on most Indian sites. They are TRYING to sell a "lifestyle" with fancy names like "Home Décor" and narrow focus on items; look at the images on IKEA vs Pepperfry you'll know what I'm saying. Not sure if it's working. Yes, the signup for email newsletter etc. is annoying.

This was a good read about the e-tailers.

However I believe buying furniture and anything which shapes your home for years to come needs touch and feel method. Clothes, accessories, books, electronics could be bought online. Furniture is something which helps you relax day in day out, and if there is any compromise on the wood, fabric etc you end disturbing your routine, peace and much more. Out of all the things we do online I would keep furniture and interior works to the walk-in showrooms and stores:-)

I am extremely uncomfortable buying furniture online..one requires superior imagination powers to think what this would look like in a room ; also judging furniture quality is a different ballgame altogether! 

Yes Alok I totally agree with you. Even I don't understand why Indian eStore try to hard sell and keep insisting on either registration or signup for newsletter.

If would like to maintain my privacy and don't want 1000 of unwanted promotional emails delivered to my email address.

We believe is similar approach and try to educate our clients to build products which are user friendly.

Based on this strategy/thought we are trying to revamp Print a Wallpaper - Add new product for Home & Work Space decor, along with some personal use product. Also, we will be adding a blog section to educate people on how they can use our product etc

I would share the updated link once we launch it.

Hi Alok,

As promised, I would like you to review Print a Wallpaper, we have introduce new products for Home & Offices. We also plan to add a blog later next month to share ideas with our customers. 

http://www.printawallpaper.com

We have introduce following new categories:

  • Rolled Wallpapers
  • Cushion Covers
  • Canvas Prints
  • Glass Framed Posters
  • Coffee Mugs

Here are few images for what we offer to give you a better picture:

Custom Cushion Covers - http://www.printawallpaper.com/products/cushion-covers 

Coffee Mugs - http://www.printawallpaper.com/products/coffee-mugs

Glass Framed Poster - http://www.printawallpaper.com/products/glass-framed-posters

I shall wait for your feedback!

amit - it would be more appropriate if you updated your existing post in showcase! with these new products/categories. i'm sure many rodinhooders could give you some feedback.

frankly speaking, this is kinda spammy :(

Absolute cracking analysis by Alok. Thank you so much. Agree with you on all the points. 

India lags behind in content marketing. We believe in content advertising where as content marketing can get you bigger audience. Our company www.contentcrossroads.com has been helping lot of European and US clients where content marketing has been evolved in a much larger fashion. We do have a tool which helps the marketers to create and curate content on social media, blog etc. Do check out www.voraka.com

I really hope we do understand the importance of content marketing and ecommerce is one sector which can actually leverage the potential of content marketing. 

The case study of simplify 360 is a perfect example for this. 

http://www.socialsamosa.com/2014/01/how-simplify360-used-content-ma...

http://www.slideshare.net/bexdeep/simplify360s-slideshare-success-s...

Hope this helps and also I would like to more about the topic if you are using content marketing and the benefits. 

Hello Alok sir.

Couldn't agree more. That is exactly what happens when we go through an e-commerce website, they only sell discounts and not the products. Once while surfing through one website, I found a DISCOUNT of 90% (True story..!!) and I wondered why not sell it for free. E-commerce websites rarely focus on quality and the product description with images.(I once read Dimension 10" for a "Tea spoon").

With all these things in mind, we started an online Indian Designer hand crafted product store by the name www.zupiterg.com , the product designing and development alone took 1 year and we launched recently. Our prime focus was to cater to home decor needs with exclusive designer Indian handicraft products, and for this we had to set up our own manufacturing unit and work with artisans directly, with prime focus on Quality and Price.

Hope you have a good shopping experience and feel some change from regular websites when you visit our store sometime..:) 

avi - feel free to showcase! zupiterG on trhs!!

Asha, not trying to spam, but still will take your suggestions and either upload a new post and update it.

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