Furniture wizard waves its wand
Gary Evans -- Casual Living, April 19, 2012
The iFurniture app gives customers a plethora of information without a salesperson hauling out product catalogs. This example shows coordinating products that go with a sofa. The “I, A, O” display represents Inventory, what’s Available (some may be on hold) and, if the merchandise is unavailable, the quantity on Order.
The soft ware, called iFurniture, has been a long time in development but didn't come on the scene until the iPad was introduced because "the real estate wasn't there," said Marty Fischbein, Furniture Wizard's founder.
"Real estate" in this case is a data bank that can store thousands of product pictures and information. When Apple released its iPad, Fischbein said he was "enthralled" with the possibilities.
Fischbein spent 25 years in furniture retailing. His sidekick, Evan Faller, the company's business development officer, is a fifth generation retailer. So both know the business well.
"We're pretty familiar with the way things have been done historically," Fischbein said. "When it comes to dealing with technology, the furniture industry is like oil and water." The company officially introduced the app at the recent Las Vegas Market.
Using iFurniture, salespeople can stay with customers while showing them product information obtained by scanning UPC or QR codes, instead of running to catalog stations for photography, or searching for a computer terminal to check stock availability.
"In today's world, people are spoiled. They're used to instant visual answers to everything they're looking for because of the Internet. It affects their buying decisions. Unfortunately, today's customer is not patient," Fischbein said.
Faller adds that customers are much more receptive to seeing an electronic image than they are the hard-copy photo in a catalog, especially since there's no time lag while retrieving the photo.
IFurnish has more functions than a Swiss Army knife, with the capacity to show categories of products, suppliers and collections and then drill down, keeping tabs on selections and letting the customer and salesperson know if and when the product is available, all in real time.
"The sales associate can show them everything - standing right there by the customer's side," Faller said.
Besides finding and keeping track of what customer's are shopping for, iFurniture can also help salespeople increase ticket sales and the store's margins by showing coordinating merchandise. Once a customer chooses a sofa, for example, the app can show other upholstery, tables, lamps and rugs to go with it.
It also can prompt sales associates to suggest other ancillary products.
"People forget to sell protection programs, so you can put this in as a related item," Fischbein said. "It's a very Amazon-ish feeling ... ‘customers who liked this bought this.' It's up-selling in vignettes. It increases close ratios, margins and average tickets. That's what retailers have to do to survive in these economic times."
While the current application is designed to work with Furniture Wizard's other soft ware, the developers said they plan to offer a future version that will allow retailers not using Furniture Wizard to integrate with their existing POS application.
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