In the old days, homeowners would flip through bulky catalogues and wander, often aimlessly, through stores and showrooms to choose new furniture and decor. Fast forward to today and it’s easy to see why they’re bypassing these time-consuming methods and even skipping website searches: They’ve found the shopping process much simpler and more satisfying using social media.
Indeed, from scouring quickly through Pinterest images for recliners, browsing through Instagram or Twitter for table centrepiece ideas, or using GrokStyle (recently acquired by Facebook) to match a cocktail table featured in a photo to similar ones found in stores, consumers everywhere are increasingly using social to take shortcuts in their paths to preferred furnishings, paints, linens, wall hangings, throw pillows and other accessories.
“People use social media for inspiration to shop for these options because they want beautiful homes that showcase their personality, lifestyle and unique perspectives. Social media platforms today make that process easier,” says social
media veteran Larissa Lowthorp, founder/CEO of TimeJump Media in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Pinterest in particular has been a boon for the home decorating industry because it provides pre-packaged ideas for colours and styles.”
Daneen Kiger, vice-president of marketing for textile manufacturer The Airtex Group in Minneapolis, says social media has the power to transform virtually anyone into an interior designer.
“Never have consumers had such an easy and comprehensive assortment of inspiration available at their fingertips. Life has become so busy, and social media helps save time when it comes to finding that perfect new look for your home,” says Kiger.
Andy Prochazka, CMO of Vancouver-based Article, an online furniture brand, provides an example of how effective social is at matching homeowners with desired products and styles. A man scrolls through his Instagram feed and notices a photo of his friend’s new living room. A beautiful tan leather sofa catches his eye. He reads the caption that includes the hashtag #OurArticle and clicks on it, discovering thousands of Instagram photos of stylish rooms featuring products, including more photos of that sofa. He solicits reviews about that sofa from his networks on Facebook and Twitter, gets positive feedback from his friends and peers, buys the sofa online, posts a photo of his new living room sofa on Instagram, and the cycle repeats.
“Platforms have evolved to make it easier for brands to sell their products directly through social media on their phones without having to visit a physical store,” says Prochazka. “Social is also a great way to crowdsource information like referrals and reviews.”
Veronica Hanson, who operates a vacation rental and owner of Vacay Visionary in Lake Oswego, Oregon, uses Pinterest to plan out home renovations prior to hiring a contractor.
“I encourage the use of Pinterest to create inspiration and help my clients with buying decisions,” Hanson notes. “But trying to take an idea from a photograph and make it work in your house can sometimes be like trying to fit a square block into a round hole.”
That’s why Prochazka and others recommend doing careful research before hitting the buy button, including determining if the product’s exact measurements match your available space.
“Complement the information you gathered on social media with information from the company’s website. Browse through the company’s product pages and read online reviews,” he suggests.
“Social platforms can also be problematic in terms of group-think around the assumed right way to decorate,” says Lowthorp.
“Consumers should combine the ideas they find on social media with their own unique perspectives and needs so as not to compromise their lifestyle for a magazine-worthy look that can’t actually be lived in.”
Remember, too, that the way a product appears on your screen can vary from what it actually looks like in your home.
“Be aware of the brand’s return policy, so if something isn’t quite right you can easily return or exchange the product,” Kiger advises.