How to Buy Furniture Online!

by Liam McGill

Person at computer - Mainland Furniture

With the power of the internet, an ever-growing global marketplace, and delivery speeds that are faster than ever, there’s now less reason than ever to leave the comfort of home to buy something. 


However, sometimes our midnight impulse purchases can lead to major buyer's remorse! Whether it’s the awkward call to have the item returned, trying to on-sell your hasty buy onto whoever wants it, or worse yet, living with the consequences of your actions as you stare at yet another reason you shouldn’t be left alone with money.


These issues become more apparent with buying furniture online. This isn’t just a gadget that you’ll throw out in a year's time, furniture is intended to be used for a long time, and buying the wrong thing can sting horribly. In this guide, we’re going to cover the do’s and don’ts when buying furniture to ensure you make the right purchase the first time!


Measure twice, buy once

Whether it’s a small bedside cabinet or a gigantic oak credenza, all furniture is going to take up space. So before you go trigger happy buying the first piece that appeals to your eyes, think about the area you’re buying for. There’s no point buying a large dining table if half of it is going to be squished up against the wall with no way to easily access those chairs. 


We’d recommend measuring the area you’d like to use up, even if it’s just the width of wall space, this at least creates a baseline for what you’re looking for. Once you’ve found a unit you like that fits the width, find the product's dimensions and measure them out. We’d also recommend using masking tape to create a visual of the space being used, there’s nothing worse than buying a bedside that’ll have you bumping your elbow each morning, or a hall table you stub your toe on when you walk in.


Sometimes websites don’t show the product dimensions, or the dimensions might not be ultimately 1:1 with how the product is in reality. That’s why we’d recommend trying to call or email someone at the company you’re buying from to see if they can clear your concerns, if you’re looking at a reputable company they’ll be happy to answer your questions ASAP!


Different Eyes to See the “True” Colours

Studio setup - Mainland Furniture

There’s nothing more disappointing than purchasing something that looks amazing online, but once it arrives at your doorstep the reality kicks in and the glamour is gone. This stings more with furniture since it has to mix in with the rest of your room, as soon as something doesn't match it sticks out like a sore thumb.


When purchasing furniture online, we’d recommend viewing it on as many screens as possible. This is due to different screens displaying colours differently, your phone may emphasize certain colours while your laptop mutes them. Obviously, the differences may be subtle, but this can definitely help when you want to make sure the item you see online is the one you get on hand.


Alongside different screens displaying in their own way, don’t forget that product photos come from a camera. Most product photos are shot in extremely controlled environments meaning that again, colours can be completely different to how they are in reality. We would recommend emailing or even video chatting with a representative of the store to show how the unit looks in the store and on a different camera.

 

On this note, we would recommend that the best way to see the “true” look of the unit is to see it in person by visiting a local showroom, but we’re also aware this defeats the purpose of online shopping.


Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Delivery - Mainland Furniture

While it might be easy to buy something online, the hardest part is getting it delivered. It always pays to check how much it will cost to deliver the product to your location, cause while you might be getting a steal on a dining suite, you may end up getting robbed once it comes to paying for shipping. As an example, our business ships products for a flat rate for urban areas, this means that if you purchase either a bedside table or an entire bedroom suite, the shipping stays the same.


It also pays to consider the cubic meterage of an item in comparison to where you’re shipping it to! Shipping companies like delivering as many products as possible with as few offshoots as possible. If you’re asking for a dining suite to be delivered to a location in the middle of nowhere, delivery costs are going to soar quickly. It’s worth asking the company you’re purchasing from if they can deliver to a local depot, as this will lower shipping costs considerably and will only cost you a bit of your time and petrol.


However, sometimes furniture can be shipped for a fraction of the price you expect. If you’re purchasing from a big-box retailer, this is most likely due to the product arriving as a flat pack. This can act as a double-edged sword, as flat packs mean you can get your product shipped for cheap and also reduces the risk of damage as the product can easily be shipped laying down flat against a surface. However, the con of flat packs is that the build quality might not be quite as good as a pre-built unit. This is due to the units having to be designed in a way that’s simple enough for the standard consumer to make the unit without any woodworking experience, but as a result, lacking quality features such as dovetail joining and tongue and groove back panelling.


Feature photos

Since you’re most likely not going to see this product in person till it arrives at your doorstep, the build quality of the unit is going to be up in the air until your receive it. However, some clever detective work and knowing what to look for can quickly dictate whether a product is going to be built to high quality or not.


The first thing you’re going to want to scope out is the material! Most reputable furniture stores will have a simple material label on the product page. The main materials you should be looking for are Oak and Pine, this is due to these woods being relatively sturdy, even pine with its lighter weight. What you should avoid however is products labelled with MDF or generalised terms such as “Wood” or “Metal”, we’ve already written about MDF and its role in the trend of “fast” furniture and we’d avoid generalised terms for a similar reason, it shows the store doesn’t know what material the product is made from!


A picture tells a thousand words, so make sure that when you’re looking at a piece of furniture you have a short novel's worth of photos to look at. If a unit has drawers, do the images show how they open? Are they on metal runners or do they open without any assistance? Take a look at the edges of the drawers, can you see dovetail joining or is the front of the drawer simply nailed on? While you might be limited on what information you receive from online shopping, you can generally tell the quality of the unit based on the number of photos the store provides, if a store only provides one photo for a chest of drawers, they must be hiding something somewhere.


Ask for Help!

If you’re really unsure about a unit you’re purchasing, feel free to ask for help! No one wants to waste their time and money waiting for something that’s not to your requirements, and stores don’t want this either! Returns immediately cause trouble and cost money to ship back to the store.


If you live out of town, see if you can send a friend into a store to view the product with their eyes. Get them to inspect the unit from head to toe, and send through as many photos and videos as possible, the internet not only made shopping easier but also proper communication. It costs nothing but a small amount of time for a friend to send through a video tour of your unit that can quickly answer whether or not a unit is worth looking into.


It also never hurts to email the store or call for more information. Ideally, if you have a question, the store should try to clear it as soon as possible. Even if it’s a simple answer, knowing a store is responsive to any concerns shows that for the most part, they are confident in their product. If a store gives an automated response or simply doesn’t respond in an appropriate amount of time, then can you really trust that the product they send is going to match the one you see online?


Conclusion

At this point, you should be confident in purchasing furniture online! Whether your mouse is hovering over that ‘Buy Now’ button, you’re actively waiting for you parcel to arrive, or you’re staring at the package on your doorstep right now, rest assured that if you followed this guide correctly you should have purchased something great! Enjoy as you’ve now unlocked another level of at-home reclusion as you now live independently away from the bustle of the city and malls.

Q&A

Is it safe to buy furniture online?

The gamble of any online purchase is are you actually going to receive your product as intended. Whether it’s damaged, the wrong item, or no item entirely, online shopping horror stories do happen and can happen to you if you’re not careful.


However, don’t let this put you off purchasing anything online. So long as you’re purchasing from a reputable seller that upon purchasing gives you some form of tracking your order, you should be safe. In terms of damage/missing parcels, these are most likely due to the carriers and not from the company themselves, so make sure to file a complaint with an explanation/photos and they should be happy to make things right. No store can survive on only angry customers.


As for wrong products, this is simply a case of a return. While it might be annoying, if you’re able to take the item alongside a physical copy of your receipt to a store that has the item you want in stock, you should be able to get a return within the hour. Otherwise, contact the company and let them know the situation and they will sort it ASAP. Again, stores don’t survive with angry customers.


How can I tell a company is reputable online?

A quick way to tell if you can trust a company or not is through reviews, either through google or on the company's own website. Reviews obviously show if a customer was happy with their experience with the company or not, however, also take note of whether the reviews follow any trends as many businesses use bots to artificially inflate their review scores. So make sure that the reviews seem genuine and actually talk about the products, a store rated 4 out of 5 stars with 2000 reviews, in general, is more trustworthy than a 5-star business with 50.


I can’t ship the product to my location!?

If you live in a location that’s not registered on a company’s shipping service, don’t give up just yet. Often times this is due to their system simply not covering every area possible, or being unable to honor the shipping cost of the product.


In this instance, feel free to message the company to send you a quote for shipping. Many times, companies are happy to work with you in order to ensure you can purchase the product you want no matter the location, sometimes they’ll even offer to cover some of the costs if the shipping is a lot. 





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