Furniture. We use it every single day. It’s got form and functionality, while at the same time expressing our style and personality.
That’s why learning how to sell furniture online is a great business idea. Tons of people are shopping for their furniture online—it’s estimated that furniture and home furnishings sales make up a whopping 12.3% of all US ecommerce sales.
Plus, there are plenty of ways to start selling furniture online. You can design or build your own ideas or resell furniture you’ve purchased at a lower price, like thrift store finds or items you’ve refinished and “flipped.”
In this article, we’ll look at all the ways you can plan, build, and grow a successful business selling furniture online. You’ll also learn all the steps you need to take to get started.
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How to start an online furniture business in 7 steps
1. Decide if you want to build or resell
There are multiple ways to break into the furniture market. The path you choose will depend on various factors, such as your skill level, capital, and access to certain tools. Below, we’ll highlight the popular business models:
- Furniture maker. This involves designing and creating furniture in a workshop or store of your own. You may choose to build and sell a popular style by keeping inventory on hand or offer custom services that allow your customers to order specific varieties and features. As a furniture maker, you’re expected to have a dedicated workshop, specialized tools, and technical skills.
- Furniture designer. In this model, you don’t actually make the items yourself but create the designs for another manufacturer to follow. You may require specialized drafting skills and tools to design furniture plans.
- Curator and reseller. With this model, you sell a number of items from different makers or brands. Some curators specialize in specific types of furniture, like pieces from a certain design period or by a particular brand. Curators need to be experts in sourcing high-quality products they can sell for a profit. You’ll often need to take photos of the items, keep them secure until they sell, and ship them to customers.
- Vintage reseller. Here, you specifically focus on vintage items in the furniture space. However, you’ll need in-depth knowledge of vintage furniture to compete in this industry, plus a significant amount of inventory space.
- Furniture dropshipper. With a dropshipping method, you don’t need to store or ship the items you curate. You can work with brands and makers willing to ship directly to your customers, eliminating the hassle of handling your own inventory. You can find dropshipping partners on dropshipping platforms (e.g., dropshipping with Oberlo).
2. Choose your niche
Remember that the furniture market is saturated with big-name companies, meaning you’ll need to carve out a niche and position yourself as the go-to brand for a specific audience.
Some furniture retailers prefer to create and sell unique, handmade items specially made according to their customers’ requests. Others may make furniture entirely out of reclaimed wood and eco-friendly materials. Your choice of a niche will depend on factors like:
- Use: Interior furniture, office furniture, outdoor furniture, home accents
- Products: Dining tables, chairs, lounge chairs, sofa beds, bed frames
- Style: Minimalistic, rustic, modern, eco-friendly, shabby chic
- Make: Modular pieces, smart furniture, furniture made from recycled materials
- Customer: Students on a budget, families, cottage owners, apartment owners
- Cause: Sustainability, ethical sourcing, handmade local design
The more specific your niche, the less competition you’ll have to worry about. However, try not to make your niche so specific that you only get a handful of customers.
3. Source your pieces
How you source furniture depends on your niche and business model.
For instance, a vintage furniture reseller may source furniture from estate sales, whereas someone selling modern varieties may work directly with a manufacturer.
You can also check out the following places as you look to buy inventory:
- Auctions. Vintage and collectible furniture is often sold through local auctions. Join local social media groups to learn about auctions in your area. You can also look into auction websites like eBay that let you browse and bid on your own time.
- Flea/outdoor markets. Flea markets sometimes have hidden diamonds for furniture resellers. The earlier you arrive at the sale, the more likely you’ll grab a bargain.
- Collectors. Private collectors may be open to selling their pieces. However, you may need to spend a little more. As you start building your reputation as a furniture seller, you should encounter collectors naturally.
- Wholesale marketplaces. Sites like Handshake might turn up some treasures. Here, you’ll find US vendors offering unique, on-trend furniture at wholesale prices. The best part is they don’t require you to spend a high minimum dollar amount to buy their products.
There are also furniture dropshippers actively looking for retail partners. You can visit websites like AliExpress to connect with a number of furniture dealers. It may also be possible to set up dropshipping terms with select furniture brands. Artisan Furniture, for instance, has a dedicated page featuring details of its dropshipping program.
4. Consider your storage needs
If you want more control over your inventory, consider storing the furniture in your own warehouse. In the early stages, your bedroom or garage might serve as your storage space. But as you grow and expand your range, renting an external warehouse would be your best bet.
Your furniture storage and warehousing options:
- Renting a climate-controlled storage area (best for materials like wood and natural fabrics that are susceptible to fluctuations in humidity)
- Sharing warehouse space with a business large bulky items like furniture
- Buying your own dedicated warehouse/storage space
5. Create your online store
Now that you’ve got all the pieces, it’s time to put this puzzle together. Your website is where the proverbial magic happens.
Shopify is a great tool to build your online furniture store. It has hundreds of customizable, pre-built themes to choose from. Just pick the “look” you like most, then you can customize your store with your own branding, colors, fonts, and images.
Shopify’s ecommerce functionality makes it a breeze to take payments from virtually anywhere in the world. Shopify also has tools to help you manage your finances and taxes, depending on where you live and sell.
Here are some tips for building a killer online furniture store:
- Design an eye-catching brand. Create a custom logo and brand identity, then make sure your brand is always consistent.
- Take high-quality photos. Good product photos are critical. Since customers can’t see and feel the furniture in person, your photos need to be crisp, clear, and detailed so they know what they’re getting.
- Write irresistible product descriptions. Often, your product descriptions can make or break a sale. Be specific about your pieces: what they’re made of, why they’re special, and what sets them apart from your competitors.
- Build a marketing and sales funnel. Shopify has tons of tools and apps to help you get traffic and convert visitors to customers. Consider strategies like email marketing, SEO, pop-ups, and loyalty programs.
6. Take high-resolution images
High-quality images can help customers envision your pieces in their homes. Clear photos also help customers understand an item’s scale, alongside the dimensions you list in your product descriptions. Here are some tips to help you with furniture photography:
- Get the lighting right. Natural lighting is crucial to good photography. Ensure there’s plenty of natural light in the space, or consider using a lighting kit to improve the quality of the image.
- Tell a story. Visuals should align with your product description to tell a story. Try to highlight who the product is for in your image, how it can be used or placed, and what kind of additional products might complement it. Staging the piece in a space where it’s naturally most likely to be found (like a dining table in a dining room) makes sense. Including images of people actually using the product can also provide valuable context.
- Try 3D images. Website builders like Shopify allow store owners to upload 3D models and videos showcasing products. This means your customer can view your furniture from different angles, making it easier to determine whether or not it’s suitable for their space.
Other things to remember:
- Close-ups are valuable. A close-up will help your customer get a sense of the quality of the product and its details. Capture the texture in the fabric of a sofa or the details in the metalwork of a bed frame.
- Scale is crucial. Your customer will want to get an idea of the size and shape of the item. Take a picture of it in its natural placement (a bed in a bedroom, for instance), alongside other decor items (like cabinets and drawers).
7. Promote your furniture business
With your products, online store, and photos ready to go, you can focus on marketing your furniture business.
Start by considering where you’re most likely to engage your target audience. If you want to present yourself as a trendy, modern furniture brand catering to younger audiences, then you’re likely to find success on Instagram and similar social media platforms. An online shop selling designer furniture might consider running Facebook ads targeting high spenders.
That said, furniture companies often achieve fantastic results by interacting with customers on a range of channels, including:
- Email marketing. Emails can nurture leads into sales and create repeat customers.
- Content marketing. Writing, producing videos, and sharing podcasts about furniture will help position you as a thought leader while improving your visibility in search engines.
- Offline advertising. Sending leaflets and special offers to customers in the mail can be useful for some advertisers, particularly those selling specialist products, like vintage collectibles.
Go forth and keep learning how to sell furniture online
While it might seem intimidating to build a brand from scratch, you’ll see that it’s attainable and even fun once you break down each of the moving parts.
The important thing is to keep learning as you go. You won’t be perfect right when you start out, but when you have an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you’re already set up for success.
All that’s left is to get your hands dirty starting your new business!