Shoppers Are More Comfortable Buying Big-Ticket Items Online

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Online shopping has revolutionized the market over the last several decades, and the marketplace continues to change.

While goods like books, electronics, and clothing have long been popular online purchases, customers are now becoming more comfortable making their big-ticket purchases, such as appliances and hardwood flooring, online.

”You would never have thought appliances would be as strong as it is as an online category,” said Ted Decker, Home Depot’s executive vice president of merchandising, on a conference call with analysts. “The customer is quite happy to (also) order complete flooring jobs and direct delivery to the home. The online experience can both be educational and inspirational, but also be used for commerce on big-ticket items.”

Home Depot experienced a 40% jump in its third-quarter online sales, following growth of over 50% last year. In fact, sales of home goods like appliances and home improvement products have outpaced overall industry growth in each quarter of this year. These same items are expected to rise 15.2% this year, and will continue to rise in the double-digit pace in each of the next four years, according to eMarketer.

Because of high online demand, Home Depot will move hard surface flooring inventory directly to its online fulfillment centers. While there are other online retailers selling hardwoods, Home Depot is making the most of its physical stores in order to differentiate itself. Some 40% of its online orders are picked up in stores, and the company is installing dedicated storage space in 550 stores this year for online orders.

What’s the difference between buying these items online and in store? Well, obviously the big difference is getting to see and touch the product in person. But many retailers offer discounted online prices, as well as a shipping savings if you pick up the item in store, rather than having it shipped to your home.

Purchasing from online retailers offers the convenience of online shopping, along with the confidence of dealing with a brand you’re familiar with. But it should have no effect on the decision-making process.

Given the success of their online sales, retailers are attempting to capitalize on the success. Home Depot has invested in online product look, search, chat and navigation and is promoting free delivery, hook up, and haul away of old appliances.

Retailers also are adding an expanded assortment of goods online. For this holiday, Home Depot’s online-only assortment, for example, includes a $1,999 Martha Stewart Living artificial Christmas tree.

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