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Styling services a big opportunity for online retailers

The launch of Style Sourcebook this week gives Aussie consumers a new way to browse furniture and accessories for their home.

Featuring more than 700 brands and 30,000 products, the website lets users drag-and-drop products into a ‘mood board’ to plan an upcoming home renovation or simply indulge in some wishful thinking.

Users can search for products by brand and category and save items to their profile. The platform, which was created by Lisa Cousens after spending hours searching separate websites for her own home renovation, doesn’t support transactions.

“The objective is to bring all the products, tools and inspiration together across different retailers to help you create your perfect space,” Cousens said.

The launch of Style Sourcebook reveals a growing demand for styling advice in the furniture and homewares space, a trend that has not gone unnoticed by retailers.

“It’s certainly something we offer our customers. For example, we produce our own prints and frames, so we put together a a step-by-step video guide on how to style a print wall,” Jo Harris, co-founder of the online homewares retailer, Hunting for George, told Internet Retailing.

“We ship Australia-wide and there are a lot of people who don’t live near shops where they can go in and ask advice. We want to give that [styling] advice as a personalised service no matter where our customers are,” Harris said.

The online retailer has produced dozens of videos that offer styling advice and product care tips, as well as inspirational interviews. It also has an “expert consultant” available to customers through live chat.

“Customers will send in photos of their room and ask for advice about which rug will fit their space. We actually encourage customers to send us photos or bring photos into the showroom,” she said.

“I think a lot of people just need to be enabled to make their own decision. Not everyone has the means to hire an interior designer. We want to give them the confidence to make the purchase.”

Internet Retailing has learned that Temple & Webster and Brosa also employ in-house stylists or designers and are looking for ways to expand the service in future.

And the trend isn’t unique to the furniture and homewares category. Adore Beauty also employs professional make-up artists to respond to customer queries through live chat.

There’s an upside for online retailers that play a more active role in the customer’s decision-making. It can help reduce the rate of returns, which can be especially costly for bulky items like rugs.

In fact, Hunting for George makes sure every customer who orders a rug online consults with their in-house expert before delivery.

“It’s in our best interest that they make the right choice the first time,” she said.

Jo Harris was named to Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce, which can be downloaded here.


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