As evidence mounts that more consumers are doing more commerce from the comfort of their homes, there are also big changes when it comes the retail involved in that comfort — that is, home furnishings.
Take a company called Oliver Space as one example. The company’s proposition centers around providing furniture, along with design help, to consumers who are moving. After all, not everyone loves the idea of moving old furniture, or going to IKEA to basically start from scratch.
In a recent PYMNTS interview, Chan Park, the 32-year-old co-founder of Oliver Space — and an Uber corporate veteran — talked about having moved some two dozen times so far in the relatively short span of his life.
“Four years of college in New Hampshire was the longest I lived in one place ever,” he said, recounting time also spent in Singapore and San Francisco, his current location.
Need for Validation
Here’s the basics of how this furniture retail model works. Oliver Space serves as a direct-to-consumer operator, dealing with furniture manufacturers along with some retailers. In exchange for monthly fees from consumers, Oliver Space provides them furniture. Most customers, Park said, are young urban professionals. The company also operates a live chat service for some 14 hours a day, plus has such retail-friendly tools as video conferences, tips and advice about crafting a good look for one’s dwelling.
“They really need someone there to help and validate,” Park said, adding the company keeps all its displayed products stocked to cut down on delivery and assembly times.
That’s not all that’s going on in the world of furniture retail in 2020. Even more related services and offerings are entering into the mix. And IKEA — celebrated in some consumer quarters, dreaded in others — is part of that conversation, which also involves the gig economy.
Back in September 2017, the global furniture retailer bought a company called TaskRabbit. In another PYMMTS interview, Sarah Rose, president and chief product officer at TaskRabbit, explained the acquisition stemmed from IKEA’s decision to improve its digital and services offerings, and give more value to IKEA’s customers.
TaskRabbit’s place in the gig economy is to match people called “Taskers” with furniture consumers and others desiring handiwork for a variety of household chores and repairs. One of the many services on the TaskRabbit list of, well, tasks includes assembling furniture bought from IKEA — an often challenging activity for even the least clumsy among us.
Lager Retail Ecosystem
Indeed, the overall goal is to build a larger commerce ecosystem for furniture retail and related activities, Rose told PYMNTS during that interview. Such an effort reflects much larger trends in commerce and payments, in fact. As Karen Webster has pointed out, PYMNTS research has documented the significant and ongoing increases in the time all types of consumers, including younger ones who are relatively well educated and relatively well off, spend at home.
Consumers don’t have to go out to shop; they can do it online from home while watching a live sporting event or movie and eating takeout from a restaurant. A big part of the fuel for this significant trend involves the increasing ownership of more and more connected devices. Such shopping is often completed via voice-enabled retail-assistance devices, such as Alexa from Amazon.
“We want to be an entry point in a much larger ecosystem,” Rose said.
As she told it, TaskRabbit Taskers can serve to increase product demand via retailers that work with the platform. That would make the platform more or a less a large-demand aggregator.
“There are some great synergies we can find between those vertical players and TaskRabbit as a whole,” she said.
Furniture retail is not just furniture retail anymore, it seems, at least when one considers the coming few years. Services and design help are increasingly becoming part of the mix.