FurnitureDealer.net's Kirsten Quarandillo talks about FurnishNearMe.com's features and benefits at the HFA Retail Resource Center during the High Point Market. Image courtesy of FurnitureDealer.net.

‘Shop local’ search engine? FurnishNearMe aims to drive web traffic to nearby stores

HIGH POINT — In a world where consumers have online access to any piece of furniture they want whenever they want, how can local retailers drive traffic to their stores?

Andy Bernstein, CEO and founder of FurnitureDealer.net, thinks he’s got a solution.

At the High Point Market, Bernstein and his team promoted FurnishNearMe.com, a free site that focuses on local retailers and presents them to consumers in a manner like Google. Whether a retailer has a website or not, its store is represented on the site.

“We launched this strategy as an effort to stand up for local stores,” Bernstein told Furniture Today. “We want to make shopping for furniture through local stores easy and great, and we want to make it so it’s easy and great for consumers to shop for furniture online through local stores instead of through Amazon and Wayfair.”

FurnitureDealer.Net’s Kirsten Quarandillo talks about FurnishNearMe.com’s features and benefits at the HFA Retail Resource Center during the High Point Market. Image courtesy of FurnitureDealer.Net

Once a consumer visits the site and gives his or her local market, a listing of available products and the local retailers that carry them is shown. “It’s not an e-commerce site; it’s more like a search engine,” Bernstein said. “Think Google, but for furniture you can buy in local stores. Every product that shows up can be bought and shopped locally. Every product is associated with where you can buy it locally.”

And much like Google, Bernstein said he expects FurnishNearMe to remain free, but in time, he thinks it could also generate revenue if retailers want to pay for premium placement.

One key aspect is the amount of industry information it welcomes. While the preference is for retailers to get on FurnishNearMe and make sure things are correct, information can be provided by manufacturers, sales reps or other industry stakeholders. And while retailers who have FurnitureDealer.Net websites will have information update automatically, having one of its websites isn’t a prerequisite for inclusion.

“Signing up is really easy. We just ask for your name, the company you work for, your email address and your role at the company,” Bernstein said. “What we want everybody to do, is if you’re a retailer, log on and make sure your information is correct and we’re accurate in what products consumers can buy in your stores. If you’re a factory rep, log on and help us. Make sure we can help consumers find your product and buy it locally.”

Visual Communications Specialist Morgan Rock, who has helped develop messaging around the platform, said as industry acceptance grows, this could help bring attention to those retailers who don’t have a web presence or have underperforming sites.

“Even if a lot of these smaller stores don’t have the resources to develop their websites, they’re going to have a hard time being found online as it is,” Rock said. “As our platform develops, there’s a good chance our SEO and our traffic is going to drive more traffic to their website by just being on our platform. It’s another funnel for traffic and it’s a way to get noticed.”

While Bernstein and his team already have relationships in place with retailers, they needed somebody more familiar with the supplier side and found it in RepZio co-founder Alex Fraser. Fraser said conversations with vendors have been encouraging.

“I’ve been focused on the manufacturer side of this. The response has been supportive and outstanding. Nobody wants to come to market and be here for five buyers. Everybody wants brick-and-mortar to succeed,” Fraser said. “Every one of them, almost universally, is asking ‘What else can we do for them?’ ‘What else can we do for you to help them?’ That has been outstanding. Even those who have been critics and difficult to work with when it comes to content have been great.”

Bernstein said that sort of buy-in from stakeholders across the industry is great to see, and acceptance of tools that help consumers find local stores will make a difference as more business is done online.

“We think it’s cool that this is an industry that’s still family businesses and local businesses. We know the internet is part of how consumers do everything today,” he said. “Today’s consumer is shopping for furniture before they come to the store, they’re on the Internet while they’re in the store, and they’re on the Internet communicating after they leave the store. It’s a critical thing. If you don’t have a great consumer online experience, your offline experience becomes irrelevant.”

See also:

  • Consumer sentiment toward furniture purchases shows it’s still a waiting game
  • Survey says! These 13 home furnishings brands garner the most consumer trust

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