There are risks when it comes to making certain purchases off the internet. You always want fashion pieces to fit perfectly, for example. That’s why people still go to women’s clothing boutiques when they absolutely must try something on.

Online retailers try to offset these problems, of course. They offer free shipping and try to make the returns process as seamless as possible. But even with an ultra-friendly return policy, getting it right the first time saves both sides a ton of hassle.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to shopping for online furniture. Here’s how you can make sure the first purchase is the final one.

Sustainability concerns

In the world of e-commerce, returns are a pain point for the consumer. Honest shoppers simply want to get a product that lives up to expectations. Even if the returns are free, with no questions asked, we still have to print a label and mail items back or drop them off at the nearest physical retailer.

Businesses understand how unpleasant this can be. And they value customer loyalty because it offsets the cost of acquisition. Someone who has to return a product is less likely to buy again. So they are often willing to go the extra mile and thereby salvage that customer’s experience.

This sounds like a great thing for online shoppers, but in practice, it’s bad for the environment. Think of the big picture and all the back-and-forth shipping involved. Those harmful emissions could be minimized if only one trip were made for the initial delivery.

And returned furniture can be sold to liquidators instead of being put on clearance or given to charity. Who knows what happens from that point? The pieces can be scrapped and sold for parts, with some eventually ending up in landfills.

Measure and visualize

Get it right the first time, and you can avoid all the hassle of returns while also practicing better sustainability. The good news is that doing so is really easy when it comes to furniture. Unlike fashion, where fit is subject to a host of often personal variables, fewer factors are involved with sofas, tables, and chairs.

furniture

But you still have to ensure that those aspects are spot on. And that begins by taking accurate measurements. Break out that tape measure, and get to know the exact dimensions of your available space, as well as what can really fit through that doorway.

Also, try to visualize how a piece will fit in your existing space. Do yourself a favor by laying down markers with painter’s tape. This will help you to understand the negative space around it. How comfortably can you sit back and stretch, or walk around?

Even better, you can fill in space in three dimensions using a prop. One or more cardboard boxes can do the trick. For matters such as sitting height or legroom, you can use an existing chair or prop up a stack of pillows, for example.

Request samples

You can’t really emulate the look and feel of a piece when it’s in your home. You can’t really trust how it looks on your screen. This is due to photo editing on the retailer’s side and monitoring calibration on your end.

A good retailer will be happy to send over sample swatches of the material upon request. Let them sit under the existing lighting conditions and appraise them over a few days. This can give you a much better idea of the right color and texture to go with your overall aesthetic.

Use reviews and consultation

You’d also be missing out if you failed to take advantage of the unique tools available to online shoppers. Product reviews are one valuable resource when it comes to furniture.

Other customers won’t just be sharing their ratings. They can give you an idea of what it’s like to deal with a given retailer. Their experience can also give you a better grasp of what it takes to assemble a product, including any specific tools or skills.

Another feature you might be overlooking is the ability to consult with an actual designer. When you buy furniture in a store, the staff are most likely salespeople with some design training. They might offer some design advice but are motivated to help by the incentive of a commission.

Good online furniture retailers, however, can put you in touch with a real design specialist. They are experts in their field and focused on solving customer needs. For them, it’s about the relationship rather than making a mercenary sale.

Maximize these tips, and your first-time furniture purchase can be the right one. That’s good for your peace of mind and great for our sustainable future.