Flying back from a C-level client roundtable, I was struck by how far we’ve come. We’ve worked with this top retailer for eight years. The camaraderie, energy and enthusiasm around the table yesterday were as palpable as when we first dreamed of enabling e-commerce for their brand. What’s different is the mutual feeling that we’re jointly taking it to the next level.
One of the luxuries afforded by a transaction like ours last summer is capacity. Not just the resources to grow, but the time and space to think about how we do so, and the ability to execute what we think up.
When you’re bootstrapping, tactical decisions rule the day. In startup mode, most every decision is about an immediate next step. Strategy is an occasional luxury, at best*. But with resources, there’s time and a reason for strategy – you can implement it.
Since our deal we’ve reexamined every aspect of our strategy, and made some meaningful changes to how and why we do business. We’re ready for the next level, and our clients are excited about the possibilities as the internet is finally beginning to transform their industry as it has every other.
The Opportunity Hasn’t Changed
Furniture online is still in its infancy, one of the last categories to go online in a meaningful way. It’s an $80B category that’s only 4% penetrated online as consumers await a “wow” experience that makes furniture shopping meaningfully easier and better.
Unlike other categories, furniture retailers are uniquely able to deliver that wow experience, if they have the right technology. It’s one of the few categories where incumbent brick and mortar players can and do win.
Blueport’s role—to help furniture retailers win—hasn’t changed. But, how we do so has been re-envisioned through the strategic lens of a decade of experience, newly honed and focused.
The Blueport Roadmap – Beyond the Buzzword
Blueport powers the websites of leading furniture retailers. This isn’t new, but we have the increased clarity and capacity to make our clients’ websites the cohesive web-store journey that can transform a retailer’s shopping experience.
Omnichannel has all the trappings of a retail buzzword, but to us, it means more. In furniture, showrooms and salespeople are a hugely valuable part of the shopping experience. Our technology platform is built to amplify that value, not bypass it and we see its potential across all categories where showrooms still matter.
As an example, on a Blueport omnichannel website like the new vcf.com, shoppers can visit a store and work with a salesperson to put aside merchandise in a portable shopping cart. After they’ve shopped around or checked with their spouse, they can complete their order on their phone, tablet or desktop, without having to go back to the store. Conversely, a shopper can start an order online, send it to the store, then stop by the store to touch and feel only the merchandise they are interested in and quickly complete their sale.
It’s a revolutionary strategy and a patent pending system that’s unheard of in any category, much less in furniture. Moreover, it reaffirms that in furniture, showrooms and salespeople play a real role in the sales process while maintaining the same level of engagement and compensation. Not only do we amplify the value of the showroom, we make the store experience better, rather than trying to replace it. And, it’s already driving stunning results for our clients.
Killing it in the Category with Furniture.com
The Zappos moment in Furniture has yet to happen, but we now have the components to spark this moment through our long-dormant, category killer URL Furniture.com.
We’ve spent a great deal of time with online furniture shoppers recently, through market research and even more valuably, visiting them in their homes. We’ve developed a deep understanding on how they view furniture, the personal, aspirational nature of this purchase, and how stores and online play a role.
What’s striking is how ill-suited a typical e-commerce model is in meeting their needs. Said simply, furniture shoppers are looking for the exact opposite of the typical “endless aisle”, third-party delivery experience that typifies most e-commerce.
We’ve assembled the best retailers in the business, marshaling their ability to source and deliver product. We’re reinventing every aspect of the Furniture.com shopping experience. Together, we’ll finally deliver the end to end “wow” that will create a meaningful online brand in this category. It won’t look like typical e-commerce, but will finally unlock what furniture e-commerce should be.
It’s a lot of work to do, for sure, but we and our clients are as excited about this aspect of our business as we are our groundbreaking omnichannel platform strategy. It's a powerful combination for seizing the enormous opportunity in furniture online.
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A year after our deal, we’ve gotten a ton done – it’s been as frenetic a 12 months as I can remember. We and our clients have close to 300% sales growth to show for it.
More importantly, we’ve had the space, capacity, reason and ability to think meaningfully about what’s next. Yesterday was a good reminder of how fortunate we are, and how powerful a combination likeminded, talented partners, a massive opportunity and time to think can be.
* One of my favorite startup CEO’s, in a none-too-subtle dig at my McKinsey background, said “Strategy, to me, is what I think about when I’m on the crapper.” Crass, yes, but she had a point.
About Blueport Commerce
Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity. We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores. For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.