Lifestyle changes made during the height of the pandemic are having a profound effect on the way we work, shop and conduct business
The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on consumer behavior and manufacturing trends has heightened the importance of digitalization and automation for the furniture industry. Online-savvy consumers seeking personalized shopping experiences and competitive prices are pushing furniture manufacturers to innovate on their existing workflows. Whereas advances in digital technology and communication tools are empowering furniture executives to respond faster to the changes in consumer demand, gain cost-saving benefits, and boost their operational efficiency.
The consumers’ focus on the home and their changing relationship with brands and technology
The pandemic is strengthening consumer demand for socially active brands that share their values and for products that respect the environment. In response to COVID-19’s effect on personal health and its correlation to pollution and environmental habitat destruction, many consumers are shifting their behavior towards healthier lifestyle habits, thoughtful consumption and the betterment of society through self-improvement. For the furniture industry, the expanding market size of eco-friendly furniture, estimated to reach $59.8 billion (USD) by 2027, best exemplifies the rapid progression of these consumer trends.
Fortuitous for furniture manufacturers, the sustainability trend s coupled with a growing focus on the importance of the home. The post-COVID consumer has a strong desire to improve their living space. COVID-19 forced nearly 58% of the world’s population to stay at home, causing a sudden explosion in working-from-home, home schooling, and a litany of “-at-home” activities—church-at-home, dining-at-home, etc.—that benefit from an upgrade in comfort and style. With social distancing being the new normal, a spike in consumer spending on furniture and home furnishings are expected.
The prolonged period at home is also influencing how consumers want to buy products. The period of COVID-19 confinement saw a generational swing of Baby Boomers towards Millennial and Gen Z familiarity with ecommerce. The months of global quarantine saw a 12% increase in first-time online buyers, boosting consumer comfort for purchasing products online. Furniture manufacturers seeking to reach this digitally connected consumer will have to increase their online presence and cater to the rising expectations for price transparency, speed of delivery and product quality.
Acknowledging the importance of this shift in consumer demand, Matt Damiani CEO of Loves Furniture and Mattresses, in a statement about the company’s recent expansion, said, “Customers want high-quality products, transparent pricing and they want helpful service. And they want this experience that if you can take the ease of online shopping and connect it to the online-to-in-store experience, that’s something customers are searching for today.”
The furniture consumer is online looking for unique styles that reflects their social values and improves the comfort and functionality of their home. Companies seeking to position themselves for a successful rebound and meet the demands of the post-COVID consumer will need to strike the right balance of speed, convenience and competitive pricing of ecologically sound furniture.
The manufacturers’ adoption of digitalization to defend against the crisis and supply chain disruption
On the sales side of the equation, manufacturers are taking aggressive measures to protect themselves against the downturn. Many furniture companies are achieving cost-savings by boosting their operational efficiency. Digital technology is enabling furniture executives to boost production capacity, fulfil last minute orders, and prevent delays in delivery time without increasing labor costs.
For example, to meet consumer demand for faster delivery, furniture companies are shortening their production cycles. Enabled with cloud-based software that connects their IT system with the cutting room, manufacturers can automatically process customer orders and simultaneously generate cutting jobs with all the of the necessary information: material, marker, cutting parameters, offloading addresses and cutting line assignment.
To combat the effect of COVID-19 on staffing levels, as marked by sudden absenteeism, lower employee performance, and higher employee turnover forward-thinking manufacturers are choosing networked production systems and smart factories to make it easier to get new employees up and running faster, retain top talent, and produce more products with fewer workers.
The uptick in Industry 4.O investments—smart sensors, optics and automation capabilities—to buildout digitized and connected workflows is a trend that is likely to continue well after the pandemic subsides. To enable their operational processes to work better together many manufacturers are deepening their investments in automation technology. The market size forecast for smart manufacturing and the digitalization of industrial processes is $514.3 Billion (USD) by 2027.
The coronavirus pandemic is creating dramatic changes for the furniture industry. Consumers, more so now than ever before, are basing their purchasing decisions on society value. They want to make the world and their home a better place. In addition, they are deepening their comfort with online shopping and have come to expect faster delivery and more competitive pricing.
To keep pace with these changes, and adapt to the new demands of today’s hyper-connected consumer, furniture manufacturers are rapidly investing in digital technology and automation solutions. The goal is to strengthen their position in the marketplace by optimizing the production process to deliver innovative products faster without increasing costs or compromising on quality.