How to Buy Furniture Online
When it comes to furniture, considerable floor space is needed to display available selections in brick and mortar stores - space that results in high utility and other inventory carrying costs. These costs end up in the price you pay for the furniture. That’s why buying furniture online can result in substantial savings, especially if you buy from online furniture retailers who don’t have a brick and mortar store because they don’t need to synchronize an online price with an in-store price.
In addition to the cost savings online furniture retailers can offer to Internet shoppers, buying furniture online enjoys the same advantages offered with other online purchases, including:
- The ability to be notified of special deals by email just by registering with the online retailer.
- The elimination of sales tax on purchases that are not made from the same state in which the online retailer is based.
- A wider selection of merchandise than is typically available in a brick and mortar store.
- The elimination of high-pressure in-store sales tactics.
The number of online furniture retailers continues to grow as consumers are becoming more accustomed to shopping for furniture online. Being a savvy online furniture shopper involves both:
- Being a savvy furniture shopper, and
- Being a savvy online shopper.
Following a few extra tips that apply specifically to shopping for furniture online can result in a much more satisfying furniture buying experience and increased savings.
Being a Savvy Furniture Shopper
Even if you were shopping at a brick and mortar furniture store you’d want a good idea of the usage and wear you’d need the furniture to be stand up to, the color and style you’d be looking for, and any size requirements that would need to be met. You’d also want to know about warranties, returns and delivery. Shopping for furniture online isn’t much different in these respects.
Being a Savvy Online Shopper
Most online shoppers already know the basics, such as:
- Make sure the website is secure, at least when checking out. Icons for determining if a specific page is secure vary from browser to browser, but you’ll see the letter “s” added to the URL of the page in the browser’s address bar on a secure page. For example, https://furniturefromhome.com/checkout instead of just http://www.furniturefromhome.com.
- Look for sites that make it easy to reach customer service, ideally at least through a toll-free phone number.
- Some look for alternatives to paying by credit card, such as the ability to pay with a personal check or pay through a third-party payment service, such as PayPal.
- Look for and read the store’s privacy and returns policies.
10 Tips for Being a Savvy Online Furniture Shopper
Unlike water filters, air conditioner filters or a pair of socks, furniture is usually heavy, bulky, and expensive to ship and return. Because buying larger furniture items online brings additional factors into play, here are ten tips for buying furniture online to help you get the most from your online furniture shopping experience.
- Don't just shop at the big brand name stores. Smaller online furniture companies, especially those that only sell furniture online, can save you hundreds of dollars and get you levels of personalized service that aren’t possible from mega stores.
- Look for the ability to track your order online. See if the site offers an easy-to-use order tracking tool so you'll know the status of your delivery in seconds.
- Look for the ability to cancel an order of availability is unreasonably delayed. Be sure the store has a policy for not charging your credit card before your order actually ships. Additionally, if your shipment is unreasonably delayed – say 8 weeks or more – you should be able to back out of the purchase without being penalized.
- Examine the return policy carefully and make sure you understand it before you make a purchase. This is especially true for big-ticket items like furniture because return shipping costs can be exhorbitant. You should expect to pay a restocking or repackaging fee if you need to make a return after you’ve accepted delivery, but you should also expect a full 30 days to make sure you’re happy with your furniture purchase. It will be worth paying the fee if, during the first 30 days you own it, a piece of furniture just doesn’t work for you or your home but is still in like-new condition.
- Look for the ability to contact customer service with questions while you shop. Toll-free phone calls, email or an instant message chat with a customer service representative can be invaluable for getting answers to any questions you have about a specific furniture item.
- Read the store’s policy about what happens if your furniture arrives in a damaged condition. If your furniture was delivered free, you may need to pay to send it back. Some online furniture retailers also provide repair services right in your home, so if the damage is repairable, you’ll have the option of using the furniture and having it repaired rather than an outright return and reshipment, which could take weeks or even months and cost you a restocking or repackaging fee.
- Look for easy-to-use zoom tools to examine closely the products you want to purchase. Some zoom tools provided on online furniture retailer sites are quite good and allow you to even determine what the wood grain will look like (subject to any limitations of your computer’s monitor) on wooden furniture.
- Find out who will be delivering the furniture you’re buying online. Look for stores who use bonded delivery personnel who know how to move, protect and properly set up large furniture items, instead of UPS or FedEx, who will just leave the package outside your front door. Some big box retailers only guarantee delivery to the curb or driveway, some may offer “threshold delivery” to get your furniture through the door, and some furniture outlets offer “tailgate” delivery, meaning they’ll back the truck in, open the door and it will be up to you and whomever you can enlist for help to find a way to get the furniture in your house and up or down the stairs. While it’s a fact of life that for some items, limited delivery options are available, they should be the exception and not the rule.
- Look for free, white glove furniture delivery. Free, white-glove delivery is very rare, but it’s the best option of all and it's what Furniture from Home offers on 95% of its merchandise. White-glove delivery includes bringing the furniture into your house, placing it in the room in which it belongs, unpackaging it, setting it up, and hauling off the packing materials. It doesn’t get any better than that.
- Consider giving the online furniture store a trial run. If you’re considering buying several pieces that are not part of a set and don’t need to match, try buying just one or two pieces of furniture to see how the buying experience goes and determine the quality of merchandise that the online furniture store offers. Any reputable online furniture retailer will welcome your feedback on your delivery and customer service experiences. We would!