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Brosa opens tech-infused showroom

Melbourne-based furniture brand Brosa has opened its first bricks-and-mortar showroom to the public, following in the footsteps of e-commerce pioneers, such as Warby Parker and Bonobos, that have gone offline to grow their business and allow customers to touch and feel the product.

The showroom, located on Johnston Street in Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighbourhood, features a curated range of living room, dining, bedroom and outdoor furniture sourced from the brand’s network of global makers.

Each piece is tagged with a QR code, so customers can look up specific details about the product on their smartphone, and so Brosa can keep track of which items are trending in-store and swap out less popular products.  

There is also a touchscreen showing a live feed of the products people are looking at online, and digital ‘mood boards’ where customers can see what different products look like together. 

Interior designers are on hand to guide customers through the showroom, share styling advice and, for those who opt-in, offer value-add services, such as 3D visualisations of redecorated rooms in their home.

“It’s a culmination of retail as it should be,” Ivan Lim, Brosa’s founder and CEO, told Internet Retailing.

Brosa has tested this concept for the past two years in its appointment-only Studio showrooms in Melbourne and Sydney.

But the new showroom, called Studio+, allows the retailer to scale up the experience and reach new customers, who may never have heard of the brand before. (Studio+ is located amidst a cluster of furniture retailers including Great Dane and Matt Blatt.)

“I think there’s a real opportunity here for us to make it a hub for customers to experience the brand,” Lim said. “We’ve talked about doing workshops and collaborating with other brands.”

Gearing up for growth

Building a business that people not only buy from, but also buy into, is a key part of Brosa’s growth strategy. It’s a similar approach to the one e-commerce pioneers such as Warby Parker and Bonobos have employed to great success.

“We’re building a brand here, which is why I’m excited to come on board…the potential of this brand,” Anna Stockley, Brosa’s COO, told Internet Retailing.

Stockley joined Brosa in July. Previously, she was head of marketing and online at Mecca, and before that, she worked at Bonobos, the US online apparel business, which was one of the first e-commerce brands to go offline.

Stockley was responsible for rolling out Bonobos’ first 12 Guideshops, the inventory-less stores where customers could go to touch and feel the products and check fit.

And she’s not the only big hire Brosa has made recently. In February 2018, the business brought over Flipkart’s former head of private label Rushabh Sanghavi as its chief merchandising officer.

While at Flipkart, Sanghavi was responsible for building up the company’s entire furniture private label supply chain from scratch.

The recent hires, together with the new showroom, indicate Lim’s ambitions for Brosa to become a significant player in the furniture category.

“The bar is high, and the category hasn’t caught up,” he said about most retailers in the space.

“We’re bringing our best-in-class knowledge together with customer-first thinking. It all starts with her or him. We believe that’s what makes us different to the other guys out there.”

Lim, who has a digital marketing background, co-founded Brosa, which means ‘smile’ in Icelandic, in 2014 to provide designer furniture at an affordable price point.

The business works directly with manufacturers, whose faces and stories are featured across its website and showroom, cutting out the middleman and associated markup.

From the beginning, Lim and co-founder David Wei built Brosa with a ‘digital-first’ mindset. Customers can book deliveries by SMS, and key decisions are driven by data. The backend is highly scalable, thanks to a proprietary technology stack.

When it came time to develop the Studio+ concept, this way of thinking led the team to build an internal CRM module, to enable the interior designers to pull up customers’ online wish lists on their laptops.

“Coming from a bricks-and-mortar business, it’s just jaw-dropping to me what we can do; the ease with which you can then respond to the customer’s needs,” Stockley commented.

She believes this gives Brosa a significant advantage over its competitors.

“Other categories have been disrupted. We’ve got fantastic apparel players like The Iconic. But the furniture sector hasn’t had that player. We’re it.”

Over the past five years, Brosa has raised $8 million from investors including AirTree Ventures and Bailador, which it has put into its underlying technology, building up a team of delivery trucks and drivers and making several key hires.