Reinventing High-End Retail With Article
Our daily routine consists of sipping our morning coffee while we scour through our social media channels and go-to news sources. Each day, we learn about how a new company is “disrupting” something. Online furniture is an industry that is rapidly evolving, and Article, the online furniture company, is at the forefront, spearheading efficient and affordable production best practices while keeping customer care as their number one priority.
By working directly with manufacturers and adjusting the design of traditional home furnishings based on modern living habits of real people, Article manages to deliver high-end furniture that has become an interior staple. Here, Article shares their two cents on production practices, experiments with new retail experiences, and most importantly, putting the customer first.
Photography courtesy of Article
Article, previously known as Bryght, is known for producing high-end furnishings with prices less than 70% average retail cost. How does the Article production process make this possible?
Article was founded by a group of four adventurous software engineers who saw incredible inefficiency in the way furniture was made and sold. They resolved to come up with a new way to make shopping for beautiful designer furniture simpler, easier, and more affordable.
The resulting solution is Article.
By working directly with the manufacturers who create our furniture, we’re able to cut out the traditional middlemen. This affords us significant savings that we are then able to pass on to customers in the form of radically lower pricing for beautiful, high-quality product.
How is Article different than the thousands of other online furniture retailers out there?
One of our core guiding principles is being direct.
That starts at the production process and filters all the way down to how we interact with our customers—through our website and through our online digital presence. By being direct we are able to make high-quality designer furniture not only more accessible, but we can also deliver a better overall experience for customers.
What are some of the challenges Article faces with your unique production process?
Candidly, we have had trouble keeping things in stock in the past.
While our collection is carefully selected by our product team, what ultimately becomes a success is up to our customers. Given that our approach to new products has been to soft-launch a limited starting inventory on the website and see how they perform in the weeks that follow, if an item finds immediate success, it’s up to us to quickly determine how much inventory we should follow up with.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes cause delays in inventory arriving, but I am pleased to say this is something that we are getting much better at.
In regards to your team, we read that you have no sales people, and a large support team. In your opinion, how essential is customer service to furniture retail and the interior design industry as a whole?
It is pretty hard to overstate the importance of our customer care team. There’s a high degree of trust that our customers have to place in us when they’re planning to purchase a sofa they’ve never sat on or even seen. Being able to pick up the phone and directly contact a real person (all right here at Article HQ) to walk you through the process, answer product-related questions, or troubleshoot your order is critical.
We empower our team to solve any issues on the spot. You will often find them walking amongst our samples taking specific measurements, confirming construction details, or even creating short videos to share with customers to demonstrate a specific feature of a piece.
What we love about Article is your mission to listen to your consumers and use that feedback to produce something better. That’s what Ivy is all about as well. What are some key pain points Article has addressed with furniture production, purchasing, shipping and returns?
There are three key pain points we address:
1. A well thought out selection: You will immediately notice that we don’t have thousands of items to choose from. We carefully select and continually refine our product offering, ensuring that each and every piece meets a real need for our customers. Every piece is designed to last.
2. Service, not sales: We don’t have any salespeople on our team. Instead, we invest in a customer service team that is here to help you through the process and find the pieces that are perfect for you – not incentivized to sell you more based on commission.
3. Unrivaled value: Historically, customers generally had to make trade-offs when it came to design, comfort and affordability. It was easy to find something that ticked one of those boxes, or maybe two, but good luck with all three. All of our pieces are beautiful, functional, and feature materials that are chosen for their reliability and quality. All of this at radically lower prices than our traditional retail competitors.
Which 3 words would you use to describe Article furniture?
Beautiful, functional, affordable.
What are some of your best-sellers?
Our number one seller is consistently the Sven sofa in our Charme Tan leather. However, the recently launched Charme Chocolat leather and our velvet options are quickly growing in popularity. Coming up behind it would be our marble Mara coffee tables, our Conan dining tables, and our Ceni collection—whose classic mid-century look has been a favorite with our customers since the inception of the company.
Based on your knowledge of the industry, what are some modern day issues impacting the furniture retail business?
Traditional retailers are struggling with high retail rents that have a huge impact when you need the kind of space that a showroom requires. The traditional approach also necessitates huge investments in inventory, and consequently an inability to be flexible and fast-moving.
Our business model very deliberately addresses all of these issues, and allows us to offer radically better value.
Why would an interior designer want to use Article to furnish a residential or commercial project?
The same reasons that customers in general choose Article: great style, lasting quality, and outstanding customer service. Something else that designers often appreciate is that we are able to provide super fast delivery on items that are in stock.
We also offer a trade discount program for professional interior designers, and we are working on expanding this program to include other perks and special offers for our interior design partners.
How can Article ease the sourcing, buying and shipping process for interior designers?
We realize that your reputation is on the line when you are working with a client, and you are entrusting us to deliver on our promises. This is something we take very seriously, and are actively investing in—making life easier (and better) for our interior design partners.
We are currently hiring for a Trade Partner Program Manager specifically to work on this.
What are 3 tips of “best practices” to offer interior designers for making the most out of Article?
1. Sign up for our program: Drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask to join our trade program. This gives designers access to exclusive offers. We just need a business license and/or a link to your website to get your application underway.
2. Request swatches: While you are at it, let the team know a selection of swatches you would like us to send. We are happy to send you out a lovely little care package.
3. Stay up-to-date: Keep an eye out for our emails that we send out every two weeks. We are always adding to our collection, and when you are signed up to our trade program you will be among the first to know when new products (and new lookbooks for inspiration) launch! For your daily dose of inspiration follow us on Instagram.
Tell us about the Breather Showroom experiences you have created for your customers…
That is really the first of our experiments in a new retail experience. We have collaborated with Breather, a company that offers beautiful, relaxing spaces for people to meet, work or focus. Our first trio of spaces are in Santa Monica, and we have been booking time for our customers to go and check out our pieces. They are free to just hang out and do whatever they please – read a book, watch TV, or invite some friends to all go along together. Most importantly, there is no salesperson hovering over your shoulder—the space is all yours.
This collaboration is only in its beginning stages, but the feedback has been really promising. It is definitely something we will be continuing to experiment with—undoubtedly in other cities where our customer base is strongest.
What’s next for Article?
We have some incredibly exciting projects that are set to go live in the near future.
First up, we have heard customers’ feedback and will be expanding our collection into new areas, including bedroom and outdoor furniture, as well as a broader selection of accessories. Of course you can expect all of these to be as beautiful, functional, and affordable as our collections to date.
We are also just about to open a new warehouse in L.A., adding to our existing warehouses in New Jersey and Seattle. This will mean faster delivery times for our customers in California and the surrounding areas.
Finally, we are starting to experiment with new ways for people to experience our brand in the real world. It is in its early days, but we are looking at how we can reinvent the traditional retail showroom experience to provide a more intimate, delightful experience—we call them living rooms rather than showrooms. We don’t want to give away too much, but we can say that we envision places where you don’t have to evaluate your new sofa while in the presence of hundreds of other shoppers, or a with pushy salesperson following you around.