Before furnishing a new place, most homeowners would want the peace of mind of knowing that the Captain America lampshade they ordered matches their leopard-print carpet (or maybe that’s just me).
While the simplicity of viewing furniture and decor online is great, it can be difficult to tell whether one piece will mesh with the other, despite the increasingly high quality of JPEGs and 360 photos various platforms offer to amplify the customer experience.
Even virtual reality has stepped up to assist our shopping needs, with companies such as IKEA using the technology to help customers visualise home products and interact with them within a virtual walkthrough.
Helping customers visualise their home designs was also an idea which came to Lisa Cousens, founder of “product sourcing and styling website” Style Sourcebook.
Through the online platform, users looking to renovate or decorate a space are able to easily search for products across a range of online retailers and mesh them together in a “mood board”.
Spread across a blank canvas, items can be dragged-and-dropped onto a mood board to create a themed design, which can then be shared on social media while becoming available for other designers on the platform to view and take inspiration from.
While there are other platforms and sources available online to source inspiration, the process of actually selecting products and seeing how they fit together is both time consuming and inefficient, Cousens believes.
“With a cross retailer product search and an interactive mood board tool, users can mix and match thousands of products through a drag and drop interface to help them save time and streamline their selection process,” she said.
Planning to renovate an old house that she purchased, Cousens found that the process of discovering and selecting products to furnish the space was draining a significant amount of her time.
“After spending hours researching separate websites and driving around to collect physical samples and swatches, I thought there needs to be a way to streamline this process online.”
“Having worked for over 15 years in senior product roles at some of Australia’s leading online publishers, I had always wanted to be able to leverage my experience to build my own business. So having experienced the problems when selecting products for my own renovation, and knowing Australia’s passion for property, I decided this was the problem worth solving.”
Beginning as a platform where users created mood boards privately, Cousens said feedback from early users led her to add a social element to the tool, where designers would be able to view each other’s creations.
With designers the key user base, Cousens said this move helped established a three-way community, where the average consumer, designer, and retailer could interact by engaging with mood board designs.
Between the social platforms, Cousens said Instagram has been the central location where mood boards are shared, a space which helped Style Sourcebook build its early audience.
“As mood boards provide a rich form of visual content, [social] has been very successful and in the first 10 weeks after our launch our mood boards had already been pro-actively shared with over 980,000 followers on Instagram,” she said.
Currently, Style Sourcebook is connected to products across roughly 700 brands. Discussing why the startup didn’t choose to sell products through Style Sourcebook alongside the mood board tool, Cousens said it was due to a number of hurdles.
“One of the reasons for this is that many of the finishes categories such as flooring, paint, tiles, or stone may require a custom quote rather than an online transaction and we wanted to have a model that worked for the broadest base of products,” she explained.
“A key differentiator of Style Sourcebook is the ability to mix and match furniture and homewares with your finishes so it was important to be able to include these in the platform.”
Originally charging select retailers on an affiliate basis for a commission of transactions, where Style Sourcebook click through to a brand’s website to purchase an item, the startup is now looking to pivot towards a subscription model.
For a monthly fee, retailers will be to list their products on the platform and link to their purchase page.
“This model is then a simple way for any retailer to be able to join, and also caters for categories such as finishes that may not have online transactions but still want to be able to market their products,” said Cousens.
“For retailers, Style Sourcebook provides an engaging way for their customers to interact with their products, and the published mood boards on the site and extended through social is a way to build brand advocacy.”
Ahead of implementing the new revenue model, Cousens said Style Sourcebook will also be looking to grow its internal team while expanding its relationship with retailers and users.
Image: Lisa Cousens. Source: Supplied.