Retail

Taking A Customized eApproach To Furniture

sofa

Some entrepreneurs are inspired to start companies because of their experiences: Edgar Blazona was tired of going to dinner parties and hearing how challenging it was to order furniture. Blazona, in turn, decided to think about how to create a model that was quick and easy as well as direct-to-consumer (DTC). He founded BenchMade Modern as a result, but despite the name, he points out that the company doesn’t necessarily have modern furniture. Rather, “we basically take a modern approach” to “bench-made upholstered items,” Blazona, who is the company’s president, told PYMNTS in an interview.

Through BenchMade Modern’s website, consumers can personalize custom-sized sofas, chairs and other household furnishings. To make one of the company’s sofas their own, for instance, shoppers can choose fabrics and the leg finish — and even use a slider to adjust the size of the article in 5-inch increments. They can also hit a button to receive a free swatch or opt for a printout of a sofa that consumers can roll out on the floor to make sure the piece fits in their rooms. With the tool, consumers can, say, find out if the sofa is big enough for them to nap on.

Once consumers hit the buy button, the site will ask them a few more questions about their order to move them through the process. For payments, the company accepts credit cards, debit cards and Affirm for financing (although Blazona says the majority of business is credit card-related). And the company will also update consumers on the status of their orders and otherwise “keep you up to date as to how the manufacturing is going,” Blazona said.

The Sofas

Blazona says the company uses high-quality materials — the best foams it can get, for example, along with solid wood frames. “We really try to put a lot into the product,” Blazona said. The aim is to put the best materials possible into the product and offer it to the consumer at a reasonable price. While sofas may look the same from one online retailer to another, it’s what under the hood that matters, he said.

It’s an approach that not only benefits the consumer but the company as well: With great materials, customers end up becoming brand ambassadors as opposed to dissatisfied shoppers. (The company also offers a 100-day return policy.) When it comes to the company’s target market, Blazona says BenchMade Modern had more of a millennial market when it was starting out, but its demographic is now in the 25- to 45-year-old range — and at times trending up into the 50s.

The company ships nationwide and offers curbside delivery, but for a nominal additional fee, the company will bring the sofa or sectional into the home — and remove the materials and debris. (When it comes to delivery, Blazona says standing back and watching the delivery people place it in the home and fluff the pillows is “just a better experience.”)

Sofas, in particular, are the type of products that people talk about (unlike, say, products in the dining room.) Blazona says that he feels like everyone is looking for the best sofa and that the article is kind of an intimate part of the living spaces. And, with a DTC brand, the company can capitalize on the savings. Instead of giving customers a cheaper product, it tends to put the money back into its sofas. The consumer is then getting the same price they would at, say, a higher-end retail store, but Blazona says that the materials inside are better and last longer.

Beyond BenchMade Modern, Interior Define allows consumers to choose unique sofa layouts, fabrics, legs and ottomans to customize the offering to their specific space, and, is as the case with BenchMade, shoppers can have free swatches sent to them so they can get a firsthand feel and see the materials before ordering. And, while customizable furniture wasn’t quite the brand’s founding ambition, the brand reportedly discovered the need in the market soon after its launch.

From Interior Define to BenchMade Modern, DTC disruptors are looking to change the way that consumers buy furniture with the help of online shopping and delivery.

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