Snowe's Founders Opened Up Their Home to Help Customers Furnish Theirs
brought to you by WBR Insights
Online-only retailers are nothing new but, as time goes on, we're seeing more and more ecommerce natives recognizing the need for a physical presence.
This need for a brick and mortar space is felt more keenly in markets such as fashion and furniture, as these products are often difficult to imagine in a real-life setting. Customers prefer to see and touch them before making a purchase decision.
Many brands have their own way of tackling this issue, but home furnishing startup Snowe's founders have arguably gone a little above and beyond the call of duty with their own innovation.
Innovative thinking has been at the core of Snowe's ethos from the very beginning. Spotting a hole in the market for mid-range, stylish furniture that is neither cheap and disposable nor an expensive luxury, it launched with a range of products that looked great and would stand the test of time, without being prohibitively pricey.
"First, we felt like the price-value equation was kind of broken," said Snowe Co-Founder, Rachel Cohen. "It was either entry level, disposable quality, ubiquitous design, or it was very expensive luxury items. The second was that the experience was painful; it was incredibly over-merchandised. The third was that there was no brand out there that resonated with us. We didn't want to compromise our love of great design for functionality or practicality."
However, once it launched its online store, Snowe recognized that many ecommerce brands were discovering the limitations inherent in digital-only retail and were being forced to incorporate brick and mortar into their business models. Snowe quickly realized it also needed a physical space in which to show its stylish and affordable products.
The initial way Snowe addressed this need, without spending lots of capital on a store, was to visit with customers in their own homes to consult and advise them. They would also get investors and other people they knew to allow them to fill their homes with Snowe products and invite clients over to discuss options over a glass of wine in a friendly, relaxing setting.
"In our online approach, content follows the paradigm Instruct, Inform, and Inspire," said Cohen. "We definitely felt like this kind of experience lends itself very well to physical. And when we launched, it was right around the time that a lot of direct-to-consumer brands were forced to go into physical. Some of their business models didn't actually lend themselves so well to digital and worked better for physical."
However, they soon realized they needed a solution which was a little closer to home.
The answer lay in the New York City loft which founders Andres Modak and Rachel Cohen shared with one another.
(Image source: thenextbrick.com)
Now named Whitespace, the loft is packed with the entire catalog of Snowe products all set up in real, contextualized configurations, looking just like they would in a real home - because it is. Customers are treated to a walkthrough of the offerings with the ability to add items to their baskets as they do so.
The space can quickly be reconfigured into any new layout that is needed, enabling Snowe to keep things fresh and exciting for repeat customers. And now it's incorporating data analysis into its process.
"When we got to the street level, our priorities fell into two buckets. One was the basic metrics that would help us confirm whether it was a success or failure. So, in-store traffic and circulation," said Cohen. "Essentially, we tried to use heat mapping, with numbers of people in circulation at any one time. The other was enabling interaction between associates and customers. This tool allowed customers and associates to build an order together on their phones or iPads. Customers could come in with a wishlist, interact with the products, and then make selections. Theoretically, we'd then be able to re-target them using their data, the same way we would if they went to our site."
Many previously online-only retailers have now branched out into the world of brick and mortar. Some do it with fully-stocked traditional stores, while others adopt a showroom model - keeping the actual sales firmly online, but providing a physical space in which customers can get a feel for the products.
However, it's a rare thing to see two entrepreneurs willing to transform their own home into a showroom and open their doors to their customers.
Moving from pure play ecommerce to bricks is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores Seattle 2019, taking place June 5 – 7.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.