John Dupra is co-founder of Revel Woods at revelwoods.com. Revel Woods is a company that was borne out of his family’s business, Installers Warehouse, a hardwood flooring wholesaler-distributor. Revel Woods is a new approach to e-commerce and digital in a traditional industry. Dupra and his colleagues took inspiration from clothing delivery services like Stitchfix and Trunk Club. Looking outside your industry for ideas and inspiration is what needs to happen to compete more effectively, especially online, with big-box stores and online competitors like Amazon.
Podcast episode highlights:
Whether Amazon is truly a threat to the hardwoods flooring industry. “Amazon is a threat to literally every industry I guess if you’re not them. They have a lot of money. I hear they don’t make money, but I hear they have a lot of it in terms of being profitable. I don’t know, they don’t show me their financials, but I’ve seen enough sources to suggest that they don’t necessarily run at a profit, but that is how a lot of modern businesses work. Amazon is like the king of e-commerce and they have a fairly specific way that they go about this. So your question then do I see them as a threat, I see them as a distant potential threat, but I’m not seeing enough in the short-term because as somebody who started in an e-commerce business in flooring and looked at, extensively, different models that existed and decided to do one that didn’t exist for the same reason. I would imagine that they’re really smart over there. They have to be aware of the pitfalls that we saw. I’m sure their research on the same things, which is probably why we haven’t seen them blast into this market yet the way they did with say the purchase of Whole Foods.”
How Revel Woods came about. “That was less interesting to me to just say OK well let’s grab a Shopify template, take some pictures of the flooring samples we already offer here. Slap them on the internet for dirt cheap and see if we can just shove it out the door. We thought if we’re going to do this we need to do something that’s truly going to be special and is actually going to solve these problems. Could we create something, it’s going to be harder, but could we create something that would be lasting, that would have a long-term effect that’s self-ustaining, that doesn’t require you to go into a showroom somewhere in Omaha so that we can steal that person’s sale. We’re a wholesaler whose salespeople in our market that are those exact retailers. We weren’t going to try and steal sales that we know, and love, and care about those people and their businesses and have continued to try to help them grow even through this process. We just weren’t going to do that. Whatever we were going to do it wasn’t going to be that. … I found a clothing website. I’m trying to remember what it’s called, it’s like Men’s Style Lab. I don’t think they exist anymore. It was basically like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club when Trunk Club was originally launched before Nordstrom bought them. … a light bulb went on.”
The challenges of building something that did not yet exist. “A lot of late nights, a lot of adult beverages, a lot of yelling at each other, refining it, pitching it to my father, who was the ultimate decision-maker in this. He basically let us run with it and he lent his expertise, but he gave us the authority to say, ‘You’re this generation. Why don’t you dig in and figure out what this needs to look like.’ What about the freight? What about the client, how do we determine that? We ended up using the zip code to cross reference with climate ratings. … We couldn’t just slap this thing together in a weekend on Squarespace and call it a day. This thing had to be custom built, there was just no way around it as far as we knew.”
Applying an offline business model online. “Our thought process was this generation wants to be able to research anonymously and they don’t want to be bothered all the time, so our technology allowed them to get really all the way through the process if they wanted without talking to a specialist. It didn’t require talking to a specialist, but that option is still there if you needed it.”
Evolving the approach as conditions change. “We have needed to be flexible. I can’t say everybody needs to be flexible. I can speak for myself though. Here’s one of the interesting things we notice when we started this. We really were thinking consumer first when we started this. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it now but it’s true. We were thinking yeah, homeowners are going to love this, it’s going to simplify the process for them, it’s going to make this more efficient, they’re going to love it. They’re going to love the quiz. People love quizzes. What we noticed was we are selling a product that most consumers buy what, maybe three times in their life so that’s not a lot. … So educating the consumer is great, but how you did it, and how you expect them to learn it, and how they’re getting this message … it’s a tall order, a real tall order. What we noticed is that we were solving a problem for homeowners that they didn’t know they had. … What we did see is professional installers who don’t have showrooms and that we basically opened a showroom in their pocket. So through our pro account they could use this selection tool, they could be onsite with the customer, in the customer’s home. If the customer says they want pre-finished they could be on the site right there going through the process with them with an iPad and say, ‘Okay, here’s some options. I’ll have the samples … Put your email address in here. It’s $10, we’ll have the samples shipped right here, they’ll be here in a couple days. Let me know what you pick,’ or you even buy it.