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Beyond the Showroom: How Home Furnishing Brands are Reaching Millennials (and All of Us)

At Noise 13, we observe the world through a creative, curious, and strategic lens. Recently, we’ve found ourselves captivated by the changing landscape of the home furnishings space. From design-savvy rental services to the bed-in-a-box craze (as of April 2019, it is estimated that there were 175 bed-in-a-box companies in operation), the furniture world is being turned on its head by a wave of upstarts that are combining brand, design, business, and technology to address a new generation of consumers. 

As we looked to uncover the “why” behind this phenomenon, we found that the typical behaviors of the millennial consumer were a common driver of this trend. Millennials are setting new expectations and standards for how retail brands should do business. And while we focus here on the furniture sector, many of these truths have implications across categories. 

A few things we know about millennials:

They move homes, frequently.

A study conducted by porch.com shows millennials move nearly twice as often as baby boomers. (Every 2.2 years versus every 3.7 years.)

Companies like Burrow ($1000+ modular, easy-to-assemble furniture) and Feather (luxury furniture rental) have built their brands on chasing the nomadic, upwardly-mobile, thirtysomethings demographic. 

Successful brands give customers the feelings of opportunity, choice, and freedom without overloading them with a complex product mix. They also strike a balance between form and function. Companies are gravitating toward a consistent, clean, modern aesthetic for both their products and visual branding. This approach addresses a wide range of consumer tastes and allows for products to mold to the consumer’s vision for the interior decor of their frequently changing dwellings.  

Brands are also getting clever in how they communicate functional benefits of their products. Burrow exhibits the simplicity and ease-of-use of their furniture through an artistic, voiceover-free, video montage. A woman in front of a seamless backdrop unboxes and assembles a club chair in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee. Welcome to the “TV ad” of the 21st century.

They prefer sustainable and eco-friendly products.

According to a Nielsen study on sustainability, 83% of millennials say it is extremely important that companies implement strategies that improve the environment.

In the world of retail, the term “eco-friendly” has been redefined. Eco-friendly no longer equates to sacrificing quality and comfort for the benefit of the planet. In 2019, eco-friendly means better for the environment and better for the consumer. Mattress companies like Avocado and Awara are building entire brands on this new definition. By doing so, they are able to connect with consumers on both emotional and physiological levels to support the premium pricing for their products. 

Implementing eco-friendly business practices is becoming a cost of entry, and brands must find ways to differentiate against competitors. Brands will find success by using communications tools and storytelling techniques to show consumers the direct and indirect benefits of their purchasing decisions, and to articulate what makes their version of eco-friendly uniquely desirable.  

They still appreciate an in-store experience.

Emarketer reports that 66% of millennials prefer an in-store experience (or a mix of digital and in-store experience) when making significant purchases, i.e., furniture.

The new wave of furniture companies relies on a digital first approach, while also recognizing the power of the physical, in-store experience. While the internet is an ideal medium for brands to reach potential consumers, drive awareness, and facilitate purchasing, the physical experience presents an opportunity to build brand loyalty, recognition, and trust. 

Brands like Floyd are reimagining the retail experience. They invite potential customers to partake in creative and social events in their Eastern Market (Detroit) showroom and throw furniture parties and pop-up events in cities where they don’t have a permanent physical presence. Customers still need to buy products online, but for a convinced shopper, the path to purchase is a few simple taps away. 

This is an especially effective tactic for upstart brands that have limited resources to reach customers. Tuft & Needle turned a small corner retail space in San Francisco into a bedroom– complete with a coffee bar–to gain credibility with potential customers and drive them closer to purchase. A Noise 13 client, Woven, throws parties and events in their gallery-esque Los Angeles showroom to create a space for buyers, industry types, and potential clientele to mingle and engage with their products.

There isn’t a magic formula for success, however consistency when it comes to brand, product, and experience in both physical and digital mediums is a recurring theme. With products that are inherently physical, consumers must feel wholly connected. That’s what millennials (and all of us) are after anyway, right?

 

 

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