Why the designer furniture market is ripe for digitisation

15 years ago, were you buying clothing online? The answer for most of us is probably “no”, although many now buy their entire wardrobes online and Fashion Tech has become its entire ecosystem. Now ask yourself the same question for furniture.

While it’s still early days, technological advances are driving fundamental change in the furniture industry. By 2020, generation C — for ‘Connected’, will form the largest group of customers worldwide. To keep up with this “always clicking” generation who loves content and communities, the furniture sector is on the lookout for business model innovations.

An offline industry begging for disruption

There have already been many great initiatives in the consumer space: Houzz created a marketplace, Houseology built an e-commerce platform and Architonic is using an affiliate model. The common characteristic between all players in the market is that they target consumers, and not trade customers who represent 60 to 70% of revenues of all premium furniture brands: interior architects, interior designers and decorators. Trade customers define the needs of their clients, source pieces through a dealer network or through the brand with a discount and then rebill to the client, taking a margin in the process. In fact, professionals in the furniture industry have been waiting long for solutions that will simplify their lives in terms of time and effort. Today, they are struggling with two major issues: difficult product discovery and terrible purchasing experience.

When trying to source products for their customers, interior designers spend entire days browsing online. Between Pinterest, Architonic, brands’ websites and consumer e-commerce platforms, they end up with tens of browser tabs open simultaneously. According to Thoughtshift, 63% of people visit multiple brands sites and over half of them make a purchase after a week of research.

When it comes to purchasing experience, everything needs to be rethought. Most of the time, architects work on multisource projects, meaning they deal with multiple orders from multiple brands and multiple sellers. To do that, they have to approach each dealer and retailer and because of how fragmented and opaque the market is, they waste incredible amounts of time obtaining basic information such as product range details, availability, pricing and lead times. This also means they waste time handling logistics: regrouping the orders from multiple sources before heading to the project location. Even brands lose in this equation as they have no idea who the final customer is.

Where the leading interior designers source furniture and lighting

With these challenges in mind, Adel Zakout and Tom Mallory founded Clippings, a trade-focused marketplace that brilliantly addresses these issues. Clippings connects consumers and trade customers with brands to discover and purchase new, premium home furniture, lighting and accessories. It is the first platform to target trade customers: interior designers, property developers, building contractors and hospitality businesses. They offer unique features such as dynamic catalogues with full product information including colors and finishes, dynamic lead times, prices and adjusting discounts depending on quantity. Clippings also allows trade customers to manage their orders, regroup items from multiple brands to be shipped at one time in one location. With such a great offer, Clippings has attracted over 850 international brands including Knoll, Hay, Flos, Tom Dixon, Vitra, Gubi and many others. By gaining grounds as first mover, Clippings is creating early barriers to entry for competitors. Clippings’ marketplace model is asset-light, scalable and easy to expand internationally. By targeting trade customers who order frequently and in quantity, they maintain high average order value and healthy repeat patterns.

Beyond the excellent product and virtuous business model, we at C4 Ventures invested in Clippings because of the founders’ background. Having met in architecture school and founded companies together, they know each other really well and are experienced entrepreneurs with unique insight in the industry. We strongly believe that their offer and vision revolutionises a major segment in the furniture industry and we can’t wait to write the next chapter with them.

Do you buy furniture online? Maybe, maybe not.
Will you buy furniture online? Definitely.