Exclusive: Furniture retailer Coco Republic prepares for U.S. online launch

Jack Kiefer
Jack Kiefer, CTO, Coco Republic

An Australia-based, luxury global furniture brand is taking its U.S. business omnichannel.

Coco Republic, which operates brick-and-mortar and online retail channels in Australia and New Zealand, as well as a physical flagship store in San Francisco and a promotional U.S. website, will open a full-fledged U.S, e-commerce store in May 2023. Jack Kiefer, CTO and Skye Westcott, CEO of Coco Republic, recently sat down with Chain Store Age to give an exclusive preview of their U.S. omnichannel expansion plans.

What made you decide at that you wanted to enter the U.S. e-commerce market?
Skye Westcott: Coco Republic has been in the e-commerce business in Australia and New Zealand in the past 10 years. In today's world, you have to let the customer shop where and when they want. So ], we are undergoing a huge upgrade in the U.S., where we had a promotional site without e-commerce functionality. It includes new training for all teams, from merchandising to stores to warehouse to customer service.

We’re getting to the other side of that and it is a brilliant system. Having that figured out and then with the launch in May, we are going to be set up for true success. And when I say success, it's not just monetary, it's also the customer experience.

How did you select and build your U.S. omnichannel infrastructure?
Jack Kiefer: Coco Republic decided that we want to have great technology, but we don't want to be a technology shop. This took us down a certain path. We evaluated a bunch of different solutions, and we ended up selecting Storis, which has been around for about 40 years, only servicing the furniture and appliance markets.

Instead of getting into an enterprise environment where you have to build out the whole solution, Storis has all the edge cases already programmed in and has thought through all the situations that you experience as a furniture retailer.

In addition, Storis has three main built-in components of the system architecture. These are POS, which will run our whole store operation, as well as ERP and warehouse management functions. Those three functions are built together.

Coco Republic is building what's called a composable architecture. The best kind of description that I can give is to think of it as power strip in between our ERP and all of our applications. We're going to plug in BigCommerce as our web architecture.

We're going to plug in Salsify as our product information management (PIM) and digital asset management (DAM) platform. We’ll also plug in Blueconic as our customer data platform. The composable architecture allows us to plug in best-of-breed SaaS applications. We want to be able to subscribe to and get services to help us manage the best applications that will enable Coco Republic to accomplish our business goals.

Coco Republic also has a partnership with a with a credit card processor called Ayden that will let us send a customer a text or an email and they can check out on their phone. What we're trying to do is to give customers any opportunity to transact with us in the store, and after they have left the store.

Finally, we will have flexibility at any time based on what our business needs are. For example, if we want to generate cash at the end of a quarter, instead of shipping complete during the current month, we'll ship open orders that may be 60% in stock or 60% complete, versus 100%. The environment we are building will give us the flexibility to accommodate those needs.

What are the core principles behind your omnichannel offering?
Skye Westcott: Furniture is a large purchase. It's not an impulse buy for $5. Usually the customer doesn’t make a purchase on the first visit. Often, a customer will come in, see something, then go home and measure or bring swatches home to see how they look in their home. We want the customer and the salesperson to stay connected through the whole journey.

Jack Kiefer: To illustrate, let's say a customer comes in and creates a quote. It's a highly considered purchase. Chances are, they're not going to convert in the store during that visit. Once we’ve created a quote, it becomes available online.

How does Coco Republic handle warehousing and distribution?
Jack Kiefer: We run our own warehouse, but we have the ability to allocate inventory at the store level or warehouse level. We know if product is on the water because our transportation systems are integrated. Coco Republic knows where and when an item is being produced, we know where it is on the water, and we have visibility into how many days away it is.

This means we can confidently tell the customer that an order is three weeks out, or 17 days out. That way, we can manage customer expectations when it comes to delivery.

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