Interview: How Home Goods Brand Modsy Is Elevating Online Furniture Retail With Consumer Data
VP of style at Modsy discusses how the company's launch of its data-informed Minna Home collection aligns with the future of retail, merging data with design to enable tailored products and experiences
Due to the nature of its product, furniture retail will always be an industry that demands time and effort from its customers. In the digital age, a number of innovative startups have found success by leveraging the efficiency and personalization of direct-to-consumer retailing tactics. Among them is Modsy, an online interior design service that provides custom room plans based on customer-submitted photos and measurements. Shoppers are asked to fill out a ‘Style Quiz' that determines preferences from color to price, and Modsy experts use this information to provide its best recommendations.
The process gives Modsy unique access to consumer preferences for furniture—an advantage that the service has not ignored. Enter Minna Home, an online collection of sofas and chairs designed via exclusive data from Modsy. By leveraging years of data intelligence and customer feedback stored on Modsy, Minna Home can cater its furniture specifically to consumer demand. PSFK caught up with Alessandra Wood, VP of style at Modsy, to discuss the strategies behind Minna Home's data-driven design approach, and how it fits into the furniture retail market as it exists today:
PSFK: What are some of the broader trends you see impacting furniture retail today, and that you're leveraging in your work?
Alessandra Wood: The furniture market will continue to be driven by data. That's something we've observed with our launch of Minna Home. We see data is driving an understanding of what customers are looking for in not only styles, but also quality and price point.
We also think that visualization will become part of consumers' expectations for shopping. We're already seeing it with a number of our customers. They expect to be able to visualize pieces in their own home before they commit to it. In the next few years.
PSFK: Where does Minna Home/Modsy fit into the furniture retail market as it is today?
Alessandra: Minna Home is a brand that Modsy created. We developed Minna Home based on feedback from our Modsy customers, what they wanted to see, what they were purchasing and what their needs were.
We didn't just look at purchase data, but combed through thousands upon thousands of customer notes and feedback for what they were looking for. That's how we created Minna Home. Our sofas are high‑quality durable furniture that are super competitive in the market. We think about them as being lifestyle friendly, family‑friendly, pet‑friendly, etc.
Our sofas ship in about 15 days, as opposed to custom furniture that can take six to eight weeks to get there. Our sofas are pretty competitive in the market for their price point, as they're also made in the U.S. They're each custom made to order.
They start at just $1,099 and they go all the way up to $1,799 for the reversible sectional, which is comfortably designed to fit within our customers' budget. We want people to feel good about the purchase that they're making and know that this is something that they can own and have over time as their families grow.
PSFK: Minna Home has a data‑driven design approach, led by Modsy. Could you explain more about this partnership and how it works for customers on the site?
Alessandra: In order to purchase a Minna Home sofa or chair, you will actually have to be a Modsy design customer, which is easy. As a Modsy customer, you start by going through a design process to see the piece in your space, designed with other pieces, decor–basically, a redesign of your space. We believe it's important to be able to visualize anything before you buy it.
That's why we created Modsy. The Minna Home pieces fall within that sphere of letting customers visualize them and feel comfortable, knowing that it will fit within their space and match any other purchases they may make.
Once you become a Modsy customer and you get your own room design, shoppers can purchase Minna Home sofas directly from their design, as well as thousands of other products from retailers within our virtual catalog. Some retailers are well known, while others are more niche and we can help shoppers discover them.
One of the things that customers can do is order swatches at minnahomeswatches.com. For those customers who need a little bit more of an experience to feel comfortable buying Minna Home, not only can you visualize it in your space, but you can touch and feel the swatches, see them in real life before you actually order a piece.
PSFK: What were the strategies behind this approach, and how did consumer feedback play a role? How important should consumer feedback be in the retail landscape in general?
Alessandra: After years of helping our customers create spaces that they love, we were really familiar with the struggle that is not just shopping for living room furniture, but even shopping for sofas in particular. We started to understand those themes that we were hearing over and over and over.
Customers wanted something that was family and pet‑friendly. They wanted something that didn't take two months to get to them. They wanted something that stylistically looked really beautiful, but also was something that they could sink into, watch movies and T.V. on and just hang out on with their family or friends.
They wanted something that was durable and would last a long time—all of this at an affordable cost. Looking at the current market, we realized it was really challenging to find a sofa that ticks all of those boxes. That's when we started to think, “Is this something that we can create to fill that need space?” To do this we went back to the beginning, looking at our customers' favorite styles.
At Modsy, we believe customer feedback is incredibly important to building a good product and a good business. A business is only as good as its customers think it is. If you're building something that doesn't take customers' feedback into account, you're building something that doesn't fulfill the needs of your market. Our company has always used customer feedback.
In the very early days, we used to talk to every single customer who went through Modsy. We would get their feedback to tailor the design experience around them. We want to understand what works for customers, what they love, where they're stuck, and how we can use Modsy to help them.
PSFK: Where do you see Minna Home in 1-3 years? Would you ever experiment with a popup or brick‑and‑mortar location? Finally, where do you see the future of furniture retail as a whole?
Alessandra: At Minna Home, our goal is to design high quality, stylish, affordable sofas and chairs for our customers. We'll consider bringing on new pieces as we grow and learn from customer needs, and the categories where we think we can differentiate from other retailers in the space.
As for a physical store, that's definitely an option that we'll explore, but we don't have anything in the works at this moment in time. As we think about the furniture retail as a whole, the furniture market will continue to be driven by data of what customers are looking for in both style, quality and price points. We see this trend around big data beyond just Modsy and Minna Home.
It's something that's driving many businesses in 2019, and the furniture world is also going to be a part of that. The future of retail as a whole is going to be a blend of looking at data and pairing it with design to craft pieces that feel unique, speaking to what the buyers love.
It's really a lot about understanding your market, what consumers' struggles and pain points are and how to deliver an experience that makes buying furniture an easy and personalized process.