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Bedshed: Multichannel Retail Without Selling Online
As Bedshed continues to roll out digital displays with web connectivity in-store, the necessity of an online sales channel is called into question.
Keeping up with the times is sometimes a tall order for retail businesses these days.
Over the past few years, Australians have witnessed many of their household-name-brands like Myer, David Jones and Harvey Norman scramble to move their in-store offering online with varied degrees of success. These experiences have left others wondering exactly how worthwhile an online sales channel is.
Such is the case for beds and bedroom furniture retailer Bedshed, which recently announced the inclusion of internet-connected digital displays in-store. For a company that has no immediate plans to begin selling product online, it is still forging towards a multichannel future regardless.
Gavin Culmsee, Chief Operating Officer of Bedshed took some time to discuss the company’s strategy and recent developments in greater detail.
Launched: First store opened in 1980
Specialty Product: Beds and related furniture
Point of difference: Ongoing focus on providing the best in-store experience while also beginning to connect with online consumers
Web development: Agency-provided
Can you provide a rough overview of Bedshed’s history?
Bedshed recently notched up its 30th anniversary in franchising, so we’re very much a veteran of the franchising industry. Our origins are in Western Australia, where we opened our first store back in 1980. We started franchising the business two years later and haven’t looked back.
In the early days we were primarily selling waterbeds – the product of the time. In the decades since, we’ve continued to seek out the best bedding and bedroom furniture products from around the world, we have refined our business model and successfully built a network of more than 30 stores.
One of the biggest changes since the early days has been our focus on innovation and investment in new technology. We were the first to introduce the Franchise Calculator (an online tool to help prospective franchisees financially compare different franchise systems) and last year we launched Australian-first technology into two of our stores.
When did the idea of multichannel retail take hold and what have you developed in this direction so far?
We connect with our customers in a number of different ways. Our website is home to a wealth of information on products ranging from mattresses and pillows to bed linen and bedroom suites. Customers can also learn about the latest deals and read blogs on topics from how to make their bed the easiest way and choosing products for children’s bedrooms.
Late last year Bedshed kick-started what is set to become an Australian retail revolution, turning online shopping on its head by bringing the internet in-store. While other retailers are struggling to catch up with the impact e-commerce is having on their business, we looked at how to bring the power of the Internet in- store to improve our customers’ experience.
We have installed touch screen kiosks, which sense and react as customers approach, in two of our stores so far. Customers use the screens to review promotional content, search the online product gallery, add items to their wish list and have a custom PDF brochure created and emailed to them directly from the screen. What it means is those who are shopping alone can have the brochure emailed to others for their input. It leads to a faster purchasing decision.
The interactive kiosks also have a Mattress Assist functionality which lets shoppers browse by brand, mattress size, which room the bed is for, and the reason for the new purchase such as partner disturbance or improvement in health and wellbeing.
Early numbers suggest that around one in 10 customers are making use of this revolutionary technology. It’s all power to the customer.
What is Bedshed’s current stance on transacting online?
At this stage there are no plans to transact online. One of the biggest online shopping challenges for the bulky goods sector is the cost of freight and restrictions on customers returning products.
Our customers enjoy the in-store experience. The ‘touch and feel’ aspect of retailing is important to them. When they’re buying a new mattress they want to come in, speak to an expert for advice and test out lots of different beds. Buying a bed is an investment – we spend about a third of our life in bed and so you need to make the right choice. There is no substitute for the highly qualified and specialist advice our in-store teams deliver.
Having said that, we haven’t ruled out the possibility of online sales at some point in the future. Our customers could come in store, do their homework and subsequently purchase online. We are already considering how that would work to ensure our franchisees aren’t disadvantaged.
What differentiates Bedshed from other bedding and furniture stores? Is anything particularly unique?
Our franchisees have an unparalleled focus on service and understanding of their customers’ needs. Their ownership of the business drives them to ensure the service we deliver is better than anywhere else.
Bedshed’s franchisees know their customers well and that’s why they also have a big say in product selection. Our Merchandise Advisory Council, made up of franchisees and senior staff, travels overseas at least twice yearly to visit manufacturers, identify new products and meet with prospective new suppliers. We encourage franchisees to join us to help select products and forge closer relationships with their counterparts.
The shopping experience we offer customers is also very different from the competition. Bedshed recently began rolling out a new store layout which is contemporary, spacious and offers a more comfortable shopping experience. Bedroom settings are located in vignettes with interchangeable backdrops to better showcase our range and great selection of quality accessories.
Part of our revamped store layout includes Australian-first technology which offers customers a new level of freedom, knowledge and convenience. In-store touch screen kiosks have recently been installed at Joondalup in Perth and Moorabbin in Melbourne.
The new store design also features a dedicated kids’ zone decked out in wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling purple. It highlights our great range of children’s bedroom furniture and accessories and is a bright and fun space complete with a television to keep the little ones entertained while mum and dad browse.
Our brand personality has a cheeky element to it which ensures we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Do you have specialty or in-house branded products? How and where are your products generally sourced?
We source our products from a mix of local and international suppliers. We stock a large selection of products from leading brands along with Bedshed’s private label brands Dreamsense and Insignia.
Our Merchandise Advisory Council has its finger on the international pulse with its twice yearly overseas buying trips where we visit suppliers, look at new products and witness the latest trends in bedding and bedroom furniture.
Can you break down your marketing mix for me? What works well for Bedshed and what is yet to be tried?
Our marketing mix primarily comprises advertising, public relations and online. This combination is highly effective in reaching local consumers and our loyal customer base.
How do you develop website content (in-house, outsourced)? Do you have much traction on social media and can you describe the strategy behind this?
Bedshed’s website content is largely generated by our digital agency.
We’re in the process of building a social media presence, and we’re taking the time to get this right. Strategically, we need to build content which is true to Bedshed’s brand and unique personality.
Do you have any plans for the future you’re willing to share with us? Any developments on the horizon?
We have an aggressive east coast expansion program on the horizon and will maintain our big focus on innovation. The Australian-first technology we introduced at our Joondalup store in Perth and Moorabbin in Melbourne is likely to be seen throughout our national store network in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space.