How Industry West shifted from B2B to DTC during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 11-05-2020

Industry West is a B2B and direct to consumer (DTC) furniture retailer that curates modern, artisan-crafted furniture and décor, with an emphasis on high-design. The brand’s beautiful yet functional pieces can be found in some of the hippest offices in Silicon Valley, as well as in airports, food courts, hotels, and homes all over North America.

In March when the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic started changing the way we live, communicate and work, the team of 40 or so employees at Industry West, who were already dispersed around the United States, didn’t have much trouble adjusting to remote work. However, a lot of the company’s commercial customers—many of whom are in the hospitality industry— had to pause their business during the pandemic. To stay in the game, Industry West swiftly shifted its own business to prioritize a nascent, direct to consumer strategy.

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“We were seeing the B2B and trade side of our business tapering off, so we needed to quickly shift the focus on our direct-to-consumer business—especially with so many consumers moving to shopping online during the pandemic,” said Ian Leslie, CMO of Industry West, in an exclusive interview. “While we have had a B2C e-commerce presence for some time, it hasn’t traditionally accounted for as much revenue. Its share of revenue has grown really exponentially since February.”

A homey approach to product marketing

With more of a priority on its direct to consumer (DTC) business, Industry West needed to completely rethink content and refocus the product mix it was pushing to its homebound customers. “We began to push a much more home-friendly editorial content, and promoting softer goods like lounge chairs, sofas and beds, and focused less on office furniture,” said Leslie. “And while we’ve always been upfront about delivery times for our furniture, we found that consumers were more accepting of longer lead times than before… there was a sense that people were going to be home for a while.”

The company also began to more actively market its new content to consumers on digital channels, which Leslie admits is a competitive marketplace from an acquisition/CPM perspective. “But we’ve gone from a 75/25 split—where 75 percent of our business is trade, and 25 percent is on the consumer side—to a 40/60 split, where the DTC business is now almost half of our revenue,” he said.

And, according to Leslie, the growth in DTC has meant organizational shifts within the company as well. Industry West needed a back-end staff that better reflected its transforming business, and so people were moved from the “B2B side of the house,” into positions that supported the budding DTC business.

“We’ve also brought on a full-time e-commerce director who is able to do frontend work, and now we are laser-focused in understanding everything that’s happening on our site, which was built on Magento Commerce” he said. “E-commerce has always been an important channel for us, but the past few months have been some of our best months ever.”

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For example, with its renewed focus on DTC, Industry West is finding that improving mobile checkout is more important than ever. When the brand previously dealt with enterprise customers, they were prone to place large quantity orders via phone. However, now most consumers are placing their orders via mobile or on the desktop. According to Leslie, improving checkout, and adding convenient payment options, as well as a new, personalized merchandising strategy on product-level pages have increased mobile conversions for Industry West substantially.

“Our priority right now is to do whatever it takes to make the customer experience easier and faster on mobile (and the web),” Leslie said.

A look into the future: Continued focus on innovation and connecting more with consumers

As you read this, Industry West is busy creating a separate DTC website that will focus on selling surplus warehouse inventory. “We are building a headless site,” Leslie revealed.

“The ability for us to just kind of spin up this warehouse site where we may be able to move out inventory a little bit faster at a lower price point and not at the margins that we necessarily would be gunning for in the past is a way for us to clear out capital as a reaction to what’s happening in our business,” Leslie explained.

The retailer is also planning a virtual showroom to promote its newest products and will be teaming up with a popular NYC interior designer to make it more entertaining for its shoppers. According to Leslie, branding is going to be a big bet for the next year or more, as Industry West works to better establish itself as a household name.

“We predict continued increases in demand on the consumer side and we’re just going to roll with that,” Leslie said.

Topics: Commerce, B2B, Retail, Experience-Driven Commerce, Marketing, Retail and ECommerce Trends, SMB, COVID-19, Experience Cloud, Customer Stories

Products: Magento Commerce,