Furniture Retailer Burrow Is Creating the Ultimate Couch Potato Experience for Shoppers in SoHo
brought to you by WBR Insights
Meet Burrow - a fresh-faced digital startup that sells American-made "luxury couches for real life" with a modern mid-century design aesthetic. Launched in April 2017 as an online-only brand, Burrow is now moving into the brick-and-mortar game, opening its first physical store, called Burrow House, in the SoHo section of New York City. Much more than just your average furniture store, however, Burrow House is Burrow's flagship concept for experiential retail, allowing customers to try out its products in creative ways.
In today's world of hyper-competitive ecommerce - complete with one-click convenience, data-driven personalization, next-day delivery, and discounts on everything - it's getting harder and harder for brick-and-mortar retailers to make a sale. Unless, that is, they provide unique experiences that give shoppers a real reason to come into their stores.
Experiential retail is a hot trend right now. Mattress company Casper, for instance, recently opened a "nap store" dubbed "The Dreamery", where customers can take a 45-minute nap on a Casper bed for $25. Beauty brand Winky Lux introduced the Winky Lux Experience this summer, featuring colorful room installations, Alice in Wonderland-styled floral gardens, "spirit guides" escorting shoppers through the store, flower walls, neon signs, and a ball pit shaped like a lemon squeezer. Last year, Vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson opened a showroom where shoppers can test out its products by dumping out jars of dirt.
(Image source: burrow.com)
Burrow's take on experiential retail comes in the form of offering customers a place where they can go and chill out on a brand-new Burrow couch for as long as they like. At the new Burrow House store, visitors are invited to hang out in front of a fireplace, enjoy a free cup of coffee, watch free Netflix all day, and even have fun making their own videos in a green screen studio.
"Nobody really wants to go to a traditional store anymore," says Burrow CEO and Co-Founder Stephen Kuhl. "The best way for people to interact with your products is to have them just experience them organically. [The Burrow store] is our expression of a home, and the entire point is to celebrate moments of relaxation."
Shop, Relax, Play, Watch
Burrow House is split into four distinct sections - Shop, Relax, Play, and Watch.
At the back of the ground floor is the Relax section, where shoppers can kick back on couches with Burrow blankets and fluffy pillows, read a book, or listen to music coming from a Sonos speaker. A greenhouse ceiling bathes them in sunlight. Plants, woven rugs, and paper lanterns decorate the walls, and a brick fireplace completes the snuggly, home-like feel.
Downstairs is the Watch section, where shoppers are welcome to take a load off on Burrow chaise lounges in a makeshift movie theatre. Burrow has licensing rights from Netflix to play movies and TV shows all day long, which are shown on a projector screen framed by cinema-style burgundy velvet curtains.
(Image source: burrow.com)
Also on the basement floor is the Play section. Here, a Burrow couch sits in front of a green screen with moving backgrounds. A camera is already set up for shoppers to take pictures and make short movies of themselves lounging around and having fun - and of course, upload them to social media. As Kuhl admits, this is Burrow House's "Instagram bait."
Finally, there is the Shop section, which customers must walk through to access the rest of the store. When people arrive, store associates greet them with fresh coffee, tea, or water. "Make yourself at home!" they say - the Burrow House catchphrase. Here is the main display area, showcasing the full range of Burrow products. Burrow couches, fully built, hang off the wall, as well as cushions and couch legs, showcasing shoppers' options for different colors, styles, and materials. There are also bookcases stocked with Burrow blankets and pillows, all available for purchase.
All in all, it's a pretty unique concept, designed not so much to make sales, but rather to allow customers to get to know the Burrow brand. As with all experiential retail, Burrow House is less about shoppers purchasing products and more about the brand purchasing shoppers. As Kuhl puts it: "By opening the doors of Burrow House to the public, we're abolishing the idea of the typical furniture store. Burrow House isn't about shopping, though people can certainly place an order in the store. Burrow House is a place to celebrate the experiences we create in our homes."
The ultimate goal of Burrow House is to create positive word-of-mouth about the Burrow brand. The company wants people to think that a Burrow couch is the ultimate chill couch and has created in-store Instagrammable experiences to help spread the word. It also has a practical purpose, of course. For couch shoppers who want to "try before they buy", "trying" in its most accurate sense would literally mean curling up on a couch for a couple of hours, reading a book, listening to music, or watching a movie. Burrow House lets them do that.
Plans for the future include using Burrow House to host free yoga classes and meditation sessions, and encouraging people to come into a free and beautiful space to work so that the store's couches will always be occupied. The Burrow ecommerce store will still be the brand's primary sales channel - but by giving customers an exciting and entertaining in-store experience, the idea is that when those same couch potatoes are next in the market for a new couch, they'll buy it from Burrow.
"The point of this store is not to sell; it's to get people to experience our brand," Kuhl says. "Hopefully, when they're in the market for a couch, they'll buy online later on."
Experiential Retail is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores Seattle 2019, taking place June 5 – 7.
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