Q&A:Anthony Soohoo, Founder and CEO, Dot & Bo

Millennials behave in a different way to any other consumer group. Digitally savvy, migratory, renters and new homeowners, their idea of the ideal shopping experience is very different to previous generations.

Yet many retailers target them in the exact same way as older shoppers and then wonder why they aren’t getting effective results.

To understand more about the challenges facing modern retailers in attracting this audience, we spoke to Anthony Soohoo, who launched Dot & Bo in 2013, the first major US home furnishings brand for this age group.

When Dot & Bo first launched, no other furniture company was targeting Millennials – how did that affect your strategy, and how has it impacted the way your business has grown?

60% of our audience is under 45 years of age, with the majority being Millennials. The reason for this is we aim to solve the concerns they face. Not everyone is an interior designer at heart, and most consumers need context on what furniture and decor look good together – without having to pay a consultant.

At the end of the day, no matter how incredible your merchandise might be, consumers – and Millennials in particular – don’t connect with products, they connect with stories.

What is the secret to blending content with ecommerce?

As a retailer, it’s our job to inspire our customers and help them spark creative ideas. We approach our experience as if we’re magazine editors, creating engaging narratives that establish product authority.

It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t approach a content-meets-commerce experience with the mindset strictly of a merchant. In today’s ecommerce landscape, most shopping experiences are search based and retailers often forget to tell stories to keep customers engaged – relegating the brands to little more than the point of checkout.

Your business proposition is developed around curation – can you tell us more about how you use data to achieve this?

When it comes to curation, there is a balance that needs to be achieved between art (storytelling) and science (algorithm). First and foremost, we develop each furniture collection by brainstorming a creative design theme. Technology then comes into play to support the narrative and to gain a comprehensive understanding of our consumer. We leverage data such as customer acquisition, shopping behavior and vendor performance to further define the collection story.

There has been noise over the last year around consumers being less focused on things and more on experiences. How is your brand dealing with this challenge?

We believe that the process of transforming a house into a home is an experience in itself. Decorating a space is something that is constantly shifting and in many ways is never done. By providing our community with daily design inspiration, we hope to continue this journey by sparking creative ideas members might not have otherwise unlocked.

You recently launched Dot & Bo for business – what inspired you to develop into this area?

As a result of the increasing demand and appetite for modern design in professional environments, we began piloting our B2B services last summer. We received an overwhelming amount of interest and positive feedback and decided to officially launch Dot & Bo for Business in March of this year. Unlike traditional home goods retailers, we provide each client with tailored support, from a real person, at every step of the way.

In recent years we’ve seen online pure play giants like Amazon launch brick-and-mortar stores. Is this something you’d ever consider?

Absolutely, this is something we’ve been thinking about quite a bit. While the Millennial generation is inherently connected and digitally savvy, they tap into online channels to become better-informed shoppers – but in some cases, they still want to physically interact with goods prior to purchase. This behavior, where people browse online and purchase in stores, is known as reverse showrooming.

We believe the future of shopping is a unified experience in which online, virtual and physical components work seamlessly together. I am personally very excited to see the world of retail evolve tremendously over the next few years.

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