5 Ways Burrow Applies Customer-Driven Innovation To Furniture Retailing

  • April 3, 2020 at 9:33 AM EDT
  • By Alicia Esposito
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The direct-to-consumer (DTC) home furniture market is experiencing significant growth and evolution, with digital-first brands acquiring more wallet share from traditional brick-and-mortar competitors.

Burrow is one of the brands at the forefront of the movement. The competition is fierce, with brands like Article, Campaign and Joybird touting stylish designs at affordable prices, created with minimal product development and fulfillment cycles. However, Burrow has proven capable of delivering new experiences and product offerings, in part by keeping itself tightly focused on a customer-driven approach to data and analytics.

When the Retail TouchPoints team took a tour of Burrow’s newest showroom in New York City during its grand opening week in February 2020, we spoke with key members of its leadership team including Co-Founder and CEO Stephen Kuhl. He noted that the brand’s customer-driven strategies extend to the metrics it uses for both digital and physical store sales.

“We measure success based on happy customers,” said Kuhl. “While we do use traditional metrics for stores to ensure they’re profitable, we don’t just look at the performance of the store itself, but of e-Commerce conversion rates in the surrounding geographic area. Our customer can go online, they can engage through text message, it doesn’t matter. It’s all measured equally so you don’t have associates hounding you to not buy online.”

Kuhl also provided details on how the brand’s five key strategies, including customer experience and product vision, will help Burrow continue to differentiate in an increasingly competitive market:

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1. Category pain points guide business differentiators: The Burrow business was founded with the goal of streamlining all stages of the furniture buying process, from the product design to the shopping and delivery experiences. As the company expands into new categories, it’s using new strategies to optimize the end-to-end experience.

“There’s most opportunity to improve and simplify the sofa shopping experience specifically, and we can deliver one directly to someone’s doorstep within a week,” Kuhl explained. The couches are designed to be modular in nature, so consumers can purchase a couch and add new components over time, even as they upgrade to a larger space.

In fact, there are currently 3,000 ways to customize Burrow’s couches. If customers want to capitalize on fabric, leg and arm shape customizations, they have up to 23,000 options to choose from — and now customers can even switch out options to maximize the lifetime value of their purchase. “With all the pieces we’re adding, you can go back and swap out the arms of your sofa or even get new chrome legs,” said Evan Clabots, VP of Product and Merchandising at Burrow. “It’s not just about servicing new customers, but how can we give value back to our existing customers as they grow and change?”

2. Customer feedback drives product category expansion: Although Burrow initially focused just on couches, conversations at its first NYC showroom drove the brand to expand into rugs, coffee tables, pillows and more. “We found in the old space that people wanted to buy everything, so we actually sold our rugs and coffee tables in the store,” said Cody Lurie-Perret, Head of Retail. “It gave us a proof point, justification to put them in our product roadmap. People came in with the mindset of furnishing their homes, so they wanted to do it all.

3. Partnerships help curate the buying experience: Based on data and feedback from its last NYC showroom, Burrow discovered that more consumers found shopping for their apartments and homes to be extremely overwhelming. They wanted seamless access to everything they could need so they could re-create the aspirational home looks featured in the showroom.

A partnership with two other disruptive DTC brands, Clare Paint and The Sill plants, allows Burrow to do just that — even online. The brand recently announced a new virtual version of its NYC showroom called Burrow House at Home. Digital shoppers can make 15- or 30-minute appointments with design specialists by phone or text. These employees can answer questions, make recommendations and place orders for all Burrow, Clare and the Sill products, so customers can essentially remodel their homes right from their homes.

4. An agile, digital-first business allows for quick adaption: Store closures necessitated by COVID-19 have thrown many retail businesses for a loop. However, because 90% of Burrow’s business is still online-only, the company has been able to adapt swiftly, fast-tracking the unveiling of its Burrow House at Home experience.

“When we closed our SoHo store a few weeks ago, we expedited the process and launched phase one of Burrow House at Home within 48 hours, transitioning our three full-time retail employees into our remote design specialists,” Kuhl said in a follow-up interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Since our launch on March 20th, we’ve had over 130 design consultations — some lasting over an hour — and the team is generating the same revenue virtually that they previously did in person.

5. Content and events build an engaged brand community: Furniture is a highly considered purchase, with the entire process taking anywhere from a few months to a year. That’s why Burrow prioritizes creating compelling digital content and executing events that allow the brand to stay in the forefront of consumers’ consciousness and act as trusted advisors.

“It’s all about bringing our community and customers together,” Lurie-Perret said. “We always ask, how do we provide more value? How do we make this a more seamless experience?” This means thinking beyond the scope of interior design to include DIY, hosting and lifestyle elements — for example, holding mixology courses and teaching customers how to make the perfect guacamole. For online shoppers, Burrow has its Sunday Strategy, which is a weekly email to customers that offers tactical advice and design best practices, so shoppers can create a great home space — with or without Burrow products.

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