Australia’s largest online marketplace for furniture and home products, House of Home, was formed in 2015 through the merging of two businesses—Stephen Jones’ Furniture Exchange and Carlinea Williamson’s RenoExchange.
The idea for Jones’ company came to him after spending weekends traipsing around in search of furniture with his pregnant wife and one-year-old child. “It was so incredibly hard…I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t one single place that had everything listed,” Jones told Retailbiz.
So he reconnected with his old friend Jason Wyatt, who already had his own online marketplace, and launched Furniture Exchange. Soon after Jones joined forces with Williamson’s marketplace, which offered everything to do with building and renovating.
“To join RenoExchange with Furniture Exchange made sense as the two businesses complemented each other but still spoke to the same customers,” Williamson said.
The House of Home homepage.
Two years on and the pair are co-CEOs of House of Home, which currently offers over 90,000 products from 400 retail members.
Unique enquiry model
Unlike other ecommerce businesses, the marketplace is not purely a point of sale but rather acts as a vehicle to help retailers using the platform grow their traffic.
“Our focus is actually not to create an online point of sale but instead to raise brand awareness and interest online and to then increase foot traffic in-store for bricks-and-mortar retailers,” said Jones.
“We are passionate about standing up for smaller retailers against bigger players like Amazon, who are exploiting these businesses, and we’re focused on protecting the 93 per cent of retail sales that happen in-store.”
House of Home offers a one-stop-shop for consumers looking for furniture and home products and then connects these customers with retailers.
“Connecting homeowners with great products from great retailers is really at the heart of what we do,” said Williamson.
“We run a unique enquiry system where you can choose to connect with retailers via phone, email, purchase online or in-store. This is what sets us apart from other online marketplaces.”
This enquiry model helps smaller retailers compete against bigger players, by connecting them with a larger audience. House of Home also supports retailers through tailored packages, branding content, data acquisition, HR and networking opportunities, said Jones.
“We’re genuinely dedicated to our retail customers and want to create a curated ‘eco-system’ for them with guidance, support and networking opportunities that go beyond simply generating sales,” he explained.
“We want retailers to not have to worry about anything else but do what they do best—sell great products.”
Selling the marketplace concept
While the company’s numbers continue to rise, Jones said it has been a challenge to sell the idea of a marketplace in today’s digital age.
“The marketplace concept is as old as religion, yet it’s still misunderstood in the digital landscape. Communicating the effectiveness of the associated ‘network effect’ of a marketplace and not getting confused with an ‘SEO re-seller’ or ‘website builder’ has been a challenge.”
House of Home also provides home decor inspiration.
However brands continue to get on board and are growing their business with House of Home, said Williamson.
“Independent retailers have always competed successfully against the larger players, as consumers demand a wider range of furniture and accessories than just what [larger stores] stock.
“What House of Home does is make it easy for the consumer to discover those products from smaller, unique, independent retailers by bringing them all together on a single website.
“And for retailers we help solve their biggest challenge—traffic—whether that’s bringing people in-store or online.”
‘Helping businesses prosper’
Jones said that one of the highlights of running the company has been the chance to help grow and resurrect businesses that have lost their way.
“Unfortunately the marketing strategy for a majority of businesses out there has been to buy a bucket of white paint and write ‘70% off’ on their window,” he said.
“We’re introducing businesses to a new empowered consumer who demands convenience and a clear path to purchase. We have a front row seat to evolving business models and helping businesses prosper.”
House of Home is also evolving and Jones likens the business to “where fashion was five years ago”.
“So in five years’ time, the landscape of ecommerce transactions in particular will have changed dramatically and we are playing a pivotal role in this evolution.”
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