Friday 7 August 2015

E-commerce biggies heat up online furniture retailing space

At a time when Swedish furniture major IKEA is all set to roll out its maiden store in India, online retailers are also becoming increasingly active in this category.

With specialist startups like FabFurnish, Pepperfry, and Urban Ladder leading the push, big multi-category marketplaces are also betting big on this segment's promise. 

While Snapdeal and Amazon have already launched a furniture category, e-commerce major Flipkart has recently joined the league. The company has announced that it has started selling furniture on its marketplace. Customers can now buy over 10,000 small and large furniture products, including beds, sofas, recliners and tables on Flipkart, the company said in a statement.

The company has tied up with HomeTown, Durian, @Home and HomeStop and regional sellers across the country to sell furniture. Large furniture will be available for customers in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore currently . Other cities will be added shortly, Flipkart said. Products range between Rs 2000 - Rs 1.5 lakh.

"We foresee furniture becoming one of the largest drivers for our home category. Over the next one year, we aim to introduce more selection and brands and scale up furniture for customers to shop from," said Ankit Nagori, Chief Business Officer, Flipkart.

"Delivery and installation will be free," he added.

The Rs 1,40,000-crore Indian furniture market is largely fragmented and unorganised. Within it, the online market accounts for a mere Rs 750 crore. But it is growing rapidly and expected to be worth Rs 15,000 crore by 2017, according to a report in The Hindu.

Speciality online furniture players have already upped the notch with the help of 'augmented reality technology', which let buyers 'try' furniture before buying. The “Augmented Reality” feature gives users the freedom to virtually place the products in their home and share them with their family and friends. They can visualise the huge variety of options of furniture and d├ęcor items, available at the e-retailer's catalogue, right in their living room. 

Last month, online furniture marketplace unveiled a mobile app that made this feature a reality to provide seamless shopping experiences to customers. “Our app boasts industry-first features like augmented reality and an open design platform. It is aimed towards simplifying the furniture and home shopping experiences through innovative product discovery and easy payment options. Additionally, with mobile phones increasingly becoming the preferred medium to shop online, the launch of Pepperfry app will further complement user experiences providing for seamless shopping experiences,” explained Sanjay Netrabile, CTO Pepperfry during the launch of the app. 

Joining the league is the Bangalore-based online furniture retailer, Urban Ladder, which has recently launched 'Living Spaces', a mobile application that helps consumers visualise furniture of their choice in their living rooms with the help of a few taps. 

Just like Pepperfry's app, the Living Spaces app let users virtually place multiple life-size models of Urban Ladder sofas to visualize their entire living room and select multiple colour and seating options without having to involve any physical furniture. The app aims at making the interactions natural and the sofa design takes into account imperfections of the real world like wrinkled cushions and fabric folding at the edges making the user experience realistic. 

"We believe that furniture buyers have multiple items on their checklist ranging from fabric to colour to how separate pieces of a furniture set blend into various rooms in the house. Of course, nobody has the time to go to physical stores anymore. The app allows you to choose different variants of the same furniture and compare easily," Rajiv Srivatsa, COO & co-founder, Urban Ladder, was quoted as saying.

The app has been created in-house by UL Labs, Urban Ladder's R&D organisation, in collaboration with Whodat and Blue Beans, two Bangalore based startups focusing on augmented reality. Currently, the app is available for download on iOS and Android, and users can browse Urban Ladder's sofa catalogue.

With competition heating up in the segment between vertical and horizontal players, the home improvement category is expected to become the third largest online vertical after apparel and consumer electronics in India.

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