Few things are as exciting as furnishing one’s home. You get to experiment with color palettes, pick cozy furniture, and find just the right accent pieces. It’s a highly personal—and often expensive—activity. The very nature of home decor shopping compels shoppers to rely on touch, mood, comparison opportunities, and the overall confidence-building space of physical stores when the time comes to make a purchase.
However, as online home decor shopping continues to thrive in the wake of the pandemic, brands and retailers must replicate the same in-store experience that home decor shoppers are familiar with on their websites. By focusing on delivering sensory, intuitive, and memorable customer experiences online, you won’t just increase conversion but also turn fleeting online shoppers into loyal, eager-to-share customers.
Here are 12 engaging user experience best practices to keep in mind while optimizing your online presence for today’s eCommerce savvy home decor shoppers.
Shopping for home decor is similar to fashion in one critical way—it’s overwhelmingly visual. In addition to real-world inspiration, modern consumers usually find ideas for home furnishings and decor trends on image-sharing platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
The images that consumers see around them, on and offline, feed them with inspiration that they’ll refer to throughout their shopping journeys. This is why your digital catalogue should take advantage of visual commerce to lead customers to the right products. Here’s how:
1) Make the right first impression on your homepage
Think of your homepage as a physical boutique’s window display, providing the customer a peek into your catalogue and key collections. And much like window displays, homepages are also judged in an instant: It takes about 0.05 seconds for a passing customer to form an opinion about your website.
Capture the attention of a prospective buyer with a homepage that combines design and functionality. The photos should not only be inviting and ideally grouped per category, but your website should also be easy to browse. You should include a prominent search bar, clear categories, and links to all important pages to immediately establish your brand’s unique offering.
When shoppers start exploring, you can take these practices a step further by enticing shoppers who prefer to use the menu bar with visual-based navigation—just like Pottery Barn does.
For goal-oriented shoppers who prefer to use site search, you can create an experience similar to City Furniture’s, which implements visual navigation in a drop-down menu within the search results.
2) Encourage engagement with interactive showrooms
With the online home decor rush, more and more furniture giants are introducing virtual showrooms to immerse customers in the shopping experience. Interactive showrooms help shoppers visualize how a piece of furniture would go with the rest of their home. For example, Coleman Furniture’s View in Room feature allows shoppers to decorate a 3D space so they can imagine how the furniture will look in real life.
3) Eliminate friction with visual search
Second only to apparel, home decor is the vertical with the most shoppers who find visual commerce and search convenient. Consumers using image-sharing platforms for inspiration will often visit eCommerce sites armed with an album of photo inspiration.
With visual search, shoppers can easily upload photos that they keep in their gallery. By offering them similar products in your inventory, you save them the time of sifting through your inventory and of researching the right term for a specific home furnishing item or style. Take a look at how City Furniture implements this feature.
UX Best Practices for Simplifying Product Discovery
Shoppers often rely on visual cues to find the right product for their home. But unless they are interior decorators, chances are, most will not have the vocabulary to articulate their desires. Combine this with the virtually endless selection, and you’ll have overwhelmed shoppers.
To make the product discovery experience more user-friendly, brands can use simpler language and provide the ability to narrow down thousands of product choices. With an optimized filtering and categorization system, shoppers will not only be able to find items that they like easily, but they will also be able to select the attributes that best describe their vision. Here’s how you can help them do that:
4) Customize product listing pages and search results with descriptive labels and filters
For shoppers, going through thousands of SKUs on a retailer’s site is time-consuming and inefficient — so much so that it may lead them to drop off the website and abandon their shopping journey. To prevent this, you can implement a well-organized, detailed, and easy-to-use navigation and filtering system. By basing filters on product tags — from dimensions to shape, relevant room, and more — you can automatically provide shoppers with dozens of detailed characteristics to choose from so they can easily narrow down their search.
In the case of Coleman Furniture, shoppers can filter tables through its Table Finder in terms of shape, the number of seats, tabletop material, and other table features. In addition, the retailer also provides users with filter options that are more specific and relative to the set of items being viewed on the product listing page. This feature is popularly known as faceted search.
5) Create thematic collections
Shoppers may not know the specific terminology to describe the shape of a couch or the style of table legs, but they can often describe their sense of style or taste — for example, minimalist, contemporary, or rustic. Create an experience that enables shoppers to explore your inventory using these thematic filters or product collections to give them an easy and intuitive entry point into browsing. See how Kohl’s attracts shoppers’ attention with curated product galleries below.
UX Best Practices for Creating Individualized Customer Journeys
Personal taste is one of the most important factors in choosing home decor. After all, our homes are an expression of ourselves and our lives. With a more individualized customer journey, conversion is more likely because shoppers feel that their style is seen and understood. Here’s how you can provide that experience for your shoppers:
6) Surface the most relevant product suggestions
Since decorating a home is about putting together cohesive pieces, shoppers will often buy more than one item at a time. By providing decor lookbooks and adding the option to shop the room, brands like Coleman Furniture do the heavy lifting by recommending complementary products that a shopper drawn to the inspirational image is likely to search for.
In these situations, you can also recommend products that are visually similar to give each shopper more options, including budget-friendly alternatives and other style variants. Moreover, product recommendations are not only limited to product detail pages. On the homepage, they’re great for prompting shoppers to explore. On the checkout page, complementary product suggestions can encourage shoppers to add last-minute items to their carts.
7) Put shoppers in the driver’s seat
Recommending products is a great way to show customers you understand what they want, but sometimes, they will want to lead their own journey by clicking through on items they like. Give them the opportunity to explore similar products right from the individual product images that capture their attention. Yestersen has a “find similar items” icon on the the bottom of their product images to provide this experience. It not only eliminates the extra steps shoppers normally have to take when they find new home decor inspiration while browsing, but it also ensures that they can continually find new items based on the products they like.
eCommerce UX Best Practices for Establishing Trust
Home decor and furniture are high-ticket purchases, and shoppers are naturally more hesitant to check out without assurance that they’re getting what they’re paying for. Unlike in physical stores, where it’s easier to assess quality through touch, they have to rely on other tools when it comes to online shopping.
It takes a lot more than detailed product information and high-quality images to gain consumer trust, which is one of the biggest barriers to shopping for home furnishings online. Here’s how you can create confidence-building experiences for your shoppers:
8) Leverage UGC and detailed product reviews
High-definition images and videos may not be enough to put your shoppers at ease. However, hearing from a previous customer who can provide a better sense of the quality of your products can do the trick. Happy shoppers are often willing to engage in post-purchase surveys and share their positive experiences.
Collect and promote these powerful reviews along with authentic customer photos. Then, give prospective buyers the option to sort reviews based on what matters most to them, such as quality or dimensions, as well as the opportunity to browse through user-generated photos that showcase your products in real homes.
West Elm displays customer photos on a dedicated page where shoppers can browse by category.
9) Be available to your shoppers
Your online experience shouldn’t feel faceless or disconnected. Shoppers should feel the same ease in asking questions or requesting assistance that they do in your physical stores. To this end, chatbots are a great way to offer quick assistance and provide valuable information when shoppers need it the most.
However, many consumers will need a more human connection. Make it easy for shoppers to reach a representative through email or live chat to improve their experience. Prompt responses and efficient solutions give customers the feeling that they’re being looked after, which in turn can boost confidence and trust. For example, throughout its website, City Furniture makes sure that customers always see options for connecting in a comvenient top banner.
10) Provide a smooth exchange and return policy
Both shoppers and brands would obviously rather avoid returns — especially for oversized, heavy items that are complicated to pack and ship. But when shoppers are making a major investment, the reassurance of a painless return process can ease any last doubts, as well as minimize frustration and disappointment if things don’t work out. Showcasing your practical solution for furniture returns on your website also instills confidence because it shows that you stand by your products and understand your customers’ concerns.
eCommerce UX Best Practices for Checkout Convenience
Consumers often take the time to research styles, prices, materials, and more before they putting together a look for their space. Since they’re adding to cart after such an extensive process, think about how you can make the last bit of their journey easy and hassle-free on-site.
11) Allow customers to complete purchase without registration
Researching and shopping are already time-consuming—do not let the added steps of registration get in the way of completing the purchase or become the opportunity for last-minute doubts to emerge and comparison shopping to begin again. Instead, offer users the option to return and sign up for membership without being forced and in their own time. A pleasant and frictionless experience from selection to checkout can lead more shoppers to purchase and keep them coming back for more.
12) Make shipping fees and other costs transparent
Shoppers often have a budget in mind. Being upfront with any extra shipping and handling costs prevents unpleasant surprises. If the amount goes above their limit, they might be inclined to drop the process at the last minute and seek out other retailers who are more transparent about additional fees.
Crate and Barrel addresses every possible concern on their cart page, reassuring shoppers at a critical moment.
Effective user experience is critical in home decor shopping, an activity that’s both emotional and personal. Brands and retailers can encourage feelings of comfort, familiarity, excitement, and relief with highly visual experiences, individualized recommendations that speak to shoppers, and thoughtful customer journeys. The difference between winning a customer over in the long run and running them off your site is in the details of the user experience you create.