After working behind the scenes designing and building high-end home furnishings for major retailers such as JCPenney, Restoration Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyond three years ago, industry veteran Jonathan Allen and Kevin Lehrer decided it was time to create something of their own.
Leveraging their combined experience of over 30 years, they wanted to tackle white space in the $136 billion home furnishings market and bring to life a digital-native brand that showcased high-end pieces. range and user-friendly at a reasonable price – that’s how Sixpenny came up with.
That wouldn’t be an easy task, however, especially as a direct-to-consumer brand without a significant presence in retail stores.
Like Diana Budds of Braked put it: “The home and interiors category is slower and harder to change for several reasons: Shipping large items, like furniture, is a logistical nightmare. The price of home items is often higher than that of clothing and personal care items. And people live with their household goods much longer than most other products.”
To tackle one of these issues head-on, Sixpenny decided to differentiate itself in one key way: by offering 100% transparency on shipping costs.
All in-stock items purchased from Sixpenny ship free within two to three weeks, regardless of size, shape or weight of the item. To further reduce the barriers of uncertainty, they also offer a 30-day free return policy.
This means customers aren’t surprised by high shipping and handling charges at the end of the checkout process, and it passes the risk back to the merchant, mitigating some of the main barriers to purchasing these items at higher price (like sofas, chairs, etc.) online.
Retail expert Emily Singer highlighted in her newsletter how the issue of delivery can be a major issue for shoppers when considering buying furniture from a direct selling brand.
She expanded on her frustration with ordering home furnishings for her own home, sharing a personal experience in which the sofa she ordered from a national retailer was out of stock for three months, while the rug that she ordered from a direct selling brand took six months. to arrive.
She went on to say that while she tolerated the mass retailer’s backorder, she was frustrated with the direct-to-consumer brand. The bar was set low for the major retailer, but the delay and lack of communication from the direct-to-consumer brand was nonetheless shocking and disappointing.
So where does this disparity in expectations come from?
“The root of my frustration comes from the simple fact that because direct-to-consumer brands have a more intimate connection with consumers, and because they aren’t burdened with the operational challenges of traditional retailers, we are forcing them on higher standards,” she said. “We expect products to be shipped faster, communication to be quick and human, and the product to be good.”
In the case of Sixpenny, this is another area where they are working to fill a void in the market. They offer shoppers concierge service, custom item alterations, and notify each shopper with a personal phone call before an item is delivered to ensure they know when and where the item will be dropped off.
But they didn’t stop there. They have also worked to create very detailed product pages for their items so that buyers have as much information as possible when shopping for furniture online, including detailed information on fabrics, trims, dimensions, as well as customer reviews and a Q&A feature.
Raj Nijjer, vice president of marketing at online marketing platform Yotpo (used by Sixpenny), believes this approach is crucial for home furnishings brands selling big-ticket items online, as customers don’t want to have to return them. Instead, they want to buy with confidence.
“Furniture brands have many tools in their arsenals – not just robust product information and photos, but also user-generated content, smart filtering of reviews by topics, augmented reality to visualize product placement furniture in living spaces, and more,” he said. said.
Many other elements of Sixpenny’s strategy were influenced by the past lives of the founders working within the interior design community. As such, interior designers still play a key role in their approach to marketing and sales, and by partnering with them as influencers they have been able to expand their footprint, especially in their hometown. of Denver, Colorado.
When it comes to its growth strategy, Sixpenny relies on customer data, particularly data collected through their website’s live chat tool, Instagram and Facebook messaging, and on-site reviews.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure these conversations work in a loop with our entire team, and that goes beyond the customer experience department,” said co-founder Jonathan Allen.
“Each day, we send out an email with key conversations, requests, and customer feedback, which helps us resolve issues quickly and iterate on that feedback in real time.”
So far, this combination of tactics is working. As a self-funded company, they closely monitor profitability and to date are growing 2.5x year-over-year, recording sales of over $1 million in 2018. They are on track to hit $3 million by the end of it. of 2019, and they are expected to hit $7 million in sales by 2020.