While Amazon.com Inc. and big chains in the upper echelons of e-commerce duke it out at the top, everyone else in online retail is working to keep up with the rising consumer expectations that were, in many cases, raised by Amazon. One—home furnishings retailer Nebraska Furniture Mart—has beefed up its delivery and in-store services with much success.
The chain grew its online sales 33.0% last year, bumping it up to No. 275 on the list of top online merchants in North America as ranked in the newly released Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000. Just one year prior, Nebraska Furniture Mart occupied the No. 336 spot. The retailer has sustained rapid growth in e-commerce over the years, swelling to $102.6 million in 2016 from an estimated $32.7 million in web sales in 2012.
To keep up with Amazon (No. 1 in the Top 1000), many rivals are focusing on delivering products to consumers faster, offering a unique product selection and rolling out convenient mobile shopping tools. Nebraska Furniture Mart chose to focus on responding to growing demand for speedier order delivery in an Amazon Prime environment, among other initiatives.
The retailer in 2016 worked with its delivery carrier, UPS Inc., to begin offering next-day delivery on online orders placed by 5 p.m. “We really needed to improve that last-minute mentality and provide that instant gratification,” says e-commerce general manager Jeff Douglas. “This was a huge success—especially since most UPS items ship free over $49, with no membership required.”
For years, the furniture store also has allowed curbside pickup of online orders at its three physical locations in Omaha, Dallas and Kansas City, Kan. This has been a key differentiator for the retailer, and consumers love it, Douglas says. About half of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s online orders are picked up curbside.
Nebraska Furniture Mart credits much of its gains in online sales to staying ahead of the rapid pace of change in e-commerce.
In 2015, it began using digital price tags in its stores to beat competitors’ prices online. It’s also using beacons, which are small wireless transmitters that send signals to mobile phones, to help mobile app users locate products in its stores. The technology tracks shoppers’ physical locations and gives them step-by-step walking directions to the aisle they need.
Nebraska Furniture Mart isn’t the only home-goods retailer to have a lucrative year online in 2016. In fact, the 102 Top 1000 e-retailers that primarily sell goods for the home—including furniture, home decor and housewares—collectively grew their web sales 27.5% last year. That was by far the biggest growth rate of all product categories and likely reflects the strong U.S. home-buying market in 2016. These merchants accounted for more than $14.686 billion in online revenue last year, up from $11.522 billion in 2015.
The 2017 edition of the Top 1000 is available as a PDF report or in an online database format. The report provides a comprehensive look at the trends and key players shaping the U.S. e-commerce industry, as well as a deep dive into who the leaders are and what they’re doing to stay ahead of the competition—or, in many cases, to survive.
The online database membership, depending on the subscription level, offers the list of companies and a host of exclusive data, including financial and operational data, key e-commerce executive names and a list of technology vendors each merchant uses to run its online retail business.