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For Decor Site Dormify, Instagram — Not Amazon — Provides The Better Sales Showroom

"When we would leverage Instagram, like shoppable posts, at least you can see the way the products come together through the lifestyle imagery in a way that is reflective of the Dormify brand," says former Dormify COO Nicole Gardner.

Amazon is impossible to ignore as either a competitor or partner for online and offline retailers. Dormify, which bills itself as a one-stop online shop for small spaces, has found that partnering with brick-and-mortar brands like American Eagle and its women’s apparel subsidiary Aerie, along with Instagram’s “shoppable photos” provide the bigger marketing boost versus Amazon.

We caught up with Nicole Gardner, one of Dormify’s founding team member who recently left her post as COO of the e-commerce site, following a panel discussion on whether Amazon is a retailer’s “friend or foe” at FashionDigital’s FDNY17 conference earlier this month.

GeoMarketing: Dormify does not sell directly through Amazon. Why not?

Nicole Gardner: It’s always something up for debate. Obviously, there are a lot of short term benefits: revenue, exposure, etc. But for Dormify, it comes down to the fact that we’re building a brand, where it is important to control the experience that we have with customers. We want customers to connect with the brand through many touchpoints, to get our content and guidance, and to see the product in real spaces that makes that shopping experience special.

You can’t control the way Amazon displays your products. For example, you won’t necessarily be able to show how it looked in room or the way you display on Instagram or on Twitter or Facebook.

Yes. Our magic is really in bringing together the whole look and empowering the customer to get inspired to create and customize their own space. Other channels just don’t have that capability in the same way that we execute it. When we would leverage Instagram, like shoppable posts, at least you can see the way the products come together through the lifestyle imagery in a way that is reflective of the Dormify brand. On Amazon, you are limited to very basic product images and have a much more limited ability to tell that visual story.

Does Dormify do any offline retail partnerships, whether in a popup or a showcase or alliance with a major store brand?

We have done several of these partnerships over the last few years and are always open to those kinds of alliances. It really depends on how complementary they are to our audience and simultaneously what we can do to enhance what they’re doing. We’re looking for innovative partners that are connecting with a similar customer but has different reach and can round out that experience. We have done some capsule collections with Aerie Home and American Eagle in recent years, that have done really well for these reasons.

Nicole Gardner, speaking at FashionDigital FDNY17, with Guidance Solutions’ Brian Beck (left) and Paul Evans CEO Evan Fript.

You mentioned shoppable Instagram posts. Is that a meaningful sales channel for Dormify or is it just a helpful branding showcase?

We’ve been using Instagram since the start, and it’s a great growth driver. For our demographic, Instagram is where they’re engaging the most, where we see the most impact.

Through the mix of everything done on Instagram, from paid to unpaid, stories to videos, and even with influencers, it all adds up into a bigger impact. It’s become an important element to the marketing mix, alongside email and other key drivers.

Getting back to Amazon one last time: how much pressure does it put on companies like Dormify in terms of the delivery and other forms of fulfillment?

Logistics can oftentimes be the least sexy part of any retail or fashion business, but it is so important that it is looked at as a key part of the customer experience. We always put a lot of effort into setting baseline customer expectations that we’ll do whatever it takes to make a customer happy, which is really, really hard to do in actuality.

We work with a third party logistics company, and have to be very strict about our turnaround timelines, especially at certain times of the year.

You have to evaluate the timelines and the full unboxing experience of the customers in order to compete. The best growth driver is for a customer to have a stellar experience and tell their 10 friends going to college next year.