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Rajiv Srivatsa

Rajiv Srivatsa is the Co-founder and CPTO of Urban Ladder.

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Top 10 Trends that are Impacting Home Decor Shopping in 2017/18

The latest iPhones introduced wireless charging this year. Samsung phones have had it for a while. Furniture players can include some of these features into study desks, side tables and coffee tables.

Here’s a look at the top 10 trends that defined the ecosystem in the last year, and a few that will surely carry forward the coming year.

1. Omni-channel: It’s been quite the buzzword for retail brands in 2017. This year, many digital first companies have ventured into offline operations. Other product companies, which require a sense of touch & feel, are expanding in both directions as distribution becomes key. Blurring the lines between offline and online channels, vertical brands will power-up stores through technology and create personalised in-store experiences based on browsing behaviour and customer data. Though retailers have been mining data for the past few years to better the customer experience, the practice will see a major adoption by companies big and small in the coming year. There’s equal benefit to the company and the customers as this will streamline several functions such as marketing, supply chain, and logistics.

2. Brands and the effects of GST: This year, the government introduced GST and that has helped streamline a lot of purchases/interactions with vendors. This has also removed a lot of clouds that surround transactions in the unbranded segment given there's an expectation now for all transactions to be seamlessly shown with a clear trail. With home decor player like IKEA coming in, it builds credence to our hypothesis that home decor brands are here to stay.

3. The Rise of Urban India: Brands are expanding their reach to tier 2 cities. This shows the increasing purchasing power as well as design tastes of audiences. Upward mobility including international travel and watching international TV shows like Masterchef has helped accelerate and elevate the demand and lifestyle tastes of consumers. 

4. IoT based tracking: There are examples of the hospitality industry and many other companies that utilise sensors to proactively track service quality (E.g. are water-taps/WiFi etc. in rooms working). For providing exceptional customer service, large warehouse dependent companies will use smart sensors inside these warehouses to ensure backend delivery and operations are smooth and streamlined for the end customer.  

5. Augmented Reality: With Apple's introduction of ARKit and Google's updates on ARCore, AR is clearly becoming mainstream. The recent announcement (after a long while!) of MagicLeap AR glasses also looks promising. AR helps customers with getting a sense of a piece of furniture in their house (from matching their current furniture / space available to fit the furniture) without having to get it to their home. As AR becomes more mainstream, companies will start integrating AR into their core catalog app.

6. Virtual Reality: Buzzword number two for 2017. Facebook reduced the price of the Oculus by approximately $200. This is one of the first steps to making VR ubiquitous. In the next few years, VR devices will be in everyone's hands (or eyes. Black Mirror anyone?!) in a much smaller device size. Consumers utilise VR devices to imagine furniture in their new house. They also get a realistic sense of how different pieces of furniture go with each other. Building an 'Infinite Store' experience will be key to achieving a true omnichannel experience.

7. Alexa/Google Home: Alexa launched in India a month back and there's already a ton of India-specific skills that have been built for Alexa. Very soon, you will see Indian home decor smart home companies integrate with Alexa and Alexa able to communicate with lighting, TV, home appliances etc. Voice control is already replacing a lot of typed queries as per Google, even in multilingual set-ups.

8. Wireless charging: The latest iPhones introduced wireless charging this year. Samsung phones have had it for a while. Furniture players can include some of these features into study desks, side tables and coffee tables.

9. Mobile shopping: There was a particular week during the Diwali sale, when for the first time, we crossed 50% of transactions on mobile devices. Intuitively people would be puzzled as to how customers could buy products like sofas and dining on their mobile phones. With bigger screens becoming the norm of most successful phones and user experiences maturing on the mobile device, the day is not far away where mobile shopping in the furniture category will resemble electronics and apparel counterparts who are already at 70-80%, without the need for any explicit offer to drive this behaviour.

10. Bitcoin: Indian offices are abuzz with the talk of bitcoins. There are companies abroad (limousine rentals, dating sites, even Wordpress!) that accept Bitcoin as a payment method now. Very soon, you will see Indian companies that deal in large ticket sizes have offers to accept bitcoins. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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