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Commercial Furniture Branches Out To B2C

Jack Dorsey says Twitter employees can work from home forever. Reed Hastings says remote work is a ‘pure negative.’ The heated debate over work-from-home (WFH) is on.

The experiment with widespread remote work began in March. Six months later, executives have drawn different conclusions about its effect on productivity, creativity, inclusion and culture. 

“As a result the COVID calamity will prompt a long-overdue phase of technological and social experimentation, neither business as usual nor a fatal blow to the office. This era holds promise but also brings threats, not least to companies’ cultures,” according to The Economist.

One challenge is not to the office, but to its furniture suppliers. Commercial office furniture suppliers experienced a shock due to COVID-19. However, they were able to branch out to the B2C space. 

How have B2B furniture brands adjusted their ad spend and how are they reaching new customers amid the pandemic? 

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WFH complicated business as usual for furniture suppliers

Traditional office suppliers were not prepared for the COVID-19 shock. Office furniture purchases went from sales, delivery, and assembly by the truckload to individual orders. Consumers wanted affordable, ergonomic chairs that they could order online and put together themselves easily.

This led to a number of complications, spanning from pricing to logistics. 

“We’re not used to dealing with the end user—if we get a call from a customer about a missing screw, we’re not set up to handle that,” said Soren Stig-Nielsen, president of LINAK U.S. Inc. These new consumer patterns are not likely to change until there is a vaccine, and even after that, it’s unclear what percentage of the workforce will fully return to the office. 

Some leaders, like Herman Miller’s Lori Gee, say they believe that the office will continue, even if it is in the form of small, satellite offices. 

There is an unmet demand for kid-sized desks and chairs as well. Between mid-July and August, the term “kids desk” rose 3783% and “computer desk” increased 257% on Amazon, according to Profitero. However, unfortunately for parents, there is a shortage of furniture and many items are backordered.

The pandemic forced office furniture suppliers to pivot. As individuals set up their office and schooling spaces, traditional B2B furniture companies began to advertise and sell in the B2C market.

MediaRadar Insights: How did B2B furniture suppliers change their advertising in response to their new buyers?

Commercial furniture brands increased ad spending by 235% this year, when compared to the time frame in 2019. This increase in ad spend happened as soon as WFH became the norm for many Americans. At the same time, traditional furniture brands saw a 7% decline in advertising year-to-date (YTD).

This is due to the explosion of needs for home office goods. The top brands driving this increase include Varidesk and X-chair.

Normally commercial furniture brands advertise exclusively in the world of B2B media, and although they are still advertising significantly in B2B publications, we are now seeing commercial furniture ads in the world of B2C marketing. For example, the X-Chair has been running commercials on TV.

Before Americans needed to set up a functional home office, these ads were exclusively targeted towards businesses. Now, we even see a subtle change in the creative with the copy and the “home office approved” stamp in the upper corner.

Many industries pivoted during this pandemic, not least office furniture companies. Corporations are cancelling their commercial leases, telling employees they may or may not return to the office even after the vaccine is widely distributed. When they do, it is likely that many companies will offer flexible work schedules. 

With these widespread changes to work and office set-ups, it is hard to predict the furniture needs of future businesses. Furniture companies will need to stay agile and responsive to the changes as they come—but for now the focus is on the home office. 

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.