With consumer expectations rising, direct-to-consumer brands are beginning to use their data sets to optimise each step of the customer journey, from initial marketing, to delivery. In this Q&A, Duncan Blair (pictured below), director of marketing, Article, talks to DTC Daily about the business’ approach to direct-to-consumer, and the launch of the Article Delivery Team.
DTC Daily: Tell us how Article’s offering differs from more traditional, legacy brands in your sector?
Duncan Blair: What makes Article unique is our obsession with making the end-to-end furnishing experience better. Our founders started Article with the conviction furniture shopping could be remarkably better than what legacy retail brands offered.
We make creating a stunning space simple with our carefully curated selection of great designs in high-quality materials offered at unrivalled value. By forgoing an expensive retail footprint, we are also able to focus on making product discovery and planning simple, delivering product quickly, and supporting it all with best-in-class customer support.
We have a relentless focus on creating what is valuable and meaningful to our customers. Since launching in 2013, more than 300,000 families and businesses across the U.S. and Canada have worked with us to furnish their space.
How is Article making the most of customer data to keep on improving the customer experience?
Article’s founders are engineers; and that approach has been baked into our culture from day one.
Creating a remarkable customer experience is central to our mission. We believe that the best shopping experiences are both simple and delightful. This starts with a strong vision, but executing on that vision relies on data to inform our decisions. We work to collect a range of both quantitative and qualitative data from customers. This is used to look for insights, as well as validate that the changes we are making are having the anticipated effect, moving us closer to our vision.
A recent example of data informing the evolution of our customer experience is our decision to launch our own in-house delivery program. The delivery of large items is notoriously complex, and customer feedback affirmed this was a brand touchpoint that was an opportunity for significant differentiation from competitors. As a result, we launched our in-house delivery program, Article Delivery Team (ADT) in New York and Los Angeles.
How has Article’s marketing evolved since you were founded in 2011? Is it still mostly social, or have you transitioned to areas such as TV and OOH?
Our role as marketers is to help drive discovery and preference of our brand, building trust and, ultimately, turning people into customers. To do this, we consider where and how our potential customers spend their time and how we can communicate with them most effectively, then invest in channels accordingly. Channels do not operate in isolation. In general, the more channels in which we are able to show up in a meaningful way, the better. There needs to be a balance of paid, earned, and owned strategies – all working in harmony.
Today, we help drive discovery through a range of different channels including social media, PR, and advertising. We invest in social platforms to share quality, inspirational photography of our furniture. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are highly visual and make it a great channel to showcase our designs, product quality, and styling inspiration. Last year, we launched our first TV commercial with customer stories. In ‘Why do customers buy Article furniture?’ we address the anxiety about buying furniture online with genuine, relatable stories from real customers.
You’ve recently launched an in-house delivery service. Why is this an important step?
The Article Delivery Team (ADT) is the latest innovation in our company’s quest to offer a remarkably better end-to-end experience. By owning delivery, Article can rapidly iterate and improve the delivery experience based on customer feedback and, in turn, reduce issues and escalations to customer support. Supported directly by Article’s customer service teams, ADT can solve customer issues on the spot, like rescheduling delivery appointments or shipping alternate product sizes or colours. In short, we are able to make delivery both faster and better. In ADT pilot programme service areas, negative feedback has been reduced by as much as 83%. Further, ADT reduced average delivery time by two days, compared to outsourced delivery partners.
What were the challenges to launching the new service, and how did you overcome them?
Having worked with our delivery partners for several years and collected a vast amount of feedback from customers during that time, our launch went very smoothly. We are fortunate to have an incredibly talented and ambitious team, and we are not afraid to dive into new challenges with both feet.
We were able to realise the benefits of a faster, better delivery experience in ADT service areas immediately. One of the biggest challenges we have now is expanding the service area, and developing ways to scale our service innovations to our delivery partners in areas we are unable to serve with our own service today.
How will Article continue to grow with direct-to-consumer? What does the future have in store?
Article’s direct-to-consumer approach is unlikely to go away, since it is a key part of addressing the pain points in the traditional furniture experience. For us, being direct-to-consumer means looking for new ways to create an authentic, personal connection with current and prospective customers efficiently through owned channels. We will continue to look for ways to deliver more value at each touchpoint of the furniture experience efficiently and effectively, from the moment a customer is looking for furniture and they discover us on social, to omnichannel experiences and final mile delivery – and personalising the entire experience to individual tastes and preferences.