How outdoor furniture brand Outer developed its unique showroom model
Despite the same challenges brought on by the pandemic as most of the industry, furniture brand DTC Outer has not slowed its path to growth.
Earlier this year, the company announced that it had raised $ 10.5 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital China. The brand said at the time that it aimed to use the funds to become an “outdoor lifestyle brand” by expanding beyond furniture and rugs, building on its development commitments. durable and adding to its unique showroom model.
On the latter point, Outer announced last month the opening of its 1,000th neighborhood showroom, which connects existing customers with potential customers.
“We saw an opportunity to change the way outdoor furniture was designed, but also the way people buy it,” Jiake Liu, co-founder and CEO of Outer, told Retail Dive. “We thought the furniture shopping experience wasn’t great. When you buy outdoor furniture from an indoor showroom that is protected from all the elements, [that] made no sense to us – it is neither genuine nor real. “
The company invites existing customers to apply to be “hosts” and to show the Outer products they have purchased to potential customers. Liu said that given the rise of other crowdsourcing companies, like Lyft and Airbnb, asking hosts to invite interested customers to their backyard is a natural step, and even less invasive because it is a garden and consumers can use a separate entrance or gate.
While hosts are paid and receive discounts to use on Outer products, they do not receive a branded sales script or commission on sales resulting from the visit.
“Put yourself in that potential buyer’s shoes. You really want to see Outer in someone’s backyard. You show up one day – you really don’t want a high pressure sales environment. to experience a product for yourself, maybe talk to a customer, ask him what he thinks about it, ”said Liu.“ It would be really embarrassing if your neighbor tries to sell you hard on it. furniture. It is not the experience that we are trying to create. It’s about creating space and time for a client to live in real life without pressure. “
In fact, following an investigation by Outer, the brand discovered that the top three reasons for wanting to become a host were to receive discounts, support a brand they believe in, and be able to offer their garden as a source of inspiration. inspiration to potential consumers. The brand also found that hosts used the Neighborhood Showroom experience as a way to feel more connected with their community, with 89% saying they felt more connected to their neighbors after hosting.
Neighborhood showrooms, which Outer now operates in 49 states, is one example of a growing trend for brands to seek alternative designs for consumers to experience their products. While many DTCs have entered physical retailing in more traditional ways, such as through retail partnerships, pop-ups, or owned stores, others have explored less conventional methods. Furniture brand DTC Burrow had previously partnered with coffee shops to allow consumers to experience its products in a relaxed setting, though it has since ended these after finding muffin crumbs between its cushions. sofa sets did not make the best first impression for a potential client.
Like almost every aspect of the retail industry, the pandemic has disrupted Outer’s business, including its neighborhood showrooms. For the sake of security, the brand has turned to virtual showrooms, offering hosts and potential customers the option of connecting by phone, email, text or video call, Liu said. And despite consumers’ reluctance to leave their homes over the past year, the flexible options have led to an influx of applications to become a host, Liu added.
Reaching the 1,000th neighborhood showroom mark “shows people are ready to do it. During the pandemic, people are landscaping their backyards and looking for ways to connect with their neighbors, even if it is. virtually, ”he said. “I think consumers are hungry to connect with their communities, especially after a long year of isolation during the pandemic, so really this announcement we’re making is also a celebration of reopening the country and for people to come together again. safely in the comfort of their backyard. “