“We present a new way of shopping”: Retailer Q&A with The Longest Stay
As you’d expect, running the Home Interiors Directory (part of my CannySites.com business) means that I get to work with a lot of etailers who are operating in – and competing in – the interiors and home furnishings space. From category-straddling big names like Sainsbury’s and Dunelm, to smaller specialists in rugs, sofas or glassware, all are aiming to communicate a USP in terms of product, value, service and brand.
While many etailer homepages are dominated by Amazon-style product information and value messages, you do sometimes come across stores that make an impact by doing something different. Previously, I blogged about the stunning homepage images used by my client The Original Sofa Co., and recently my interest was similarly piqued by another retailer I’m now working with at the Home Interiors Directory: The Longest Stay, which launched last year.
The Longest Stay’s homepage grabs the attention because at first glance it’s not entirely clear that it’s a store at all – most prominent on the page is ‘The Longest Stay Magazine’, an interactive online publication featuring the elegant products and sumptuous photography that you’d expect to find in a print glossy.
While “luxury lifestyle” etailer Achica – which I blogged about a year ago – publishes its Achica Living magazine both digitally and in print, it’s not an especially integral (or integrated) part of the site.
In contrast, The Longest Stay is interesting not only because it places the magazine at the heart of the site and its brand, but also because it uses ‘click and buy’ technology to let customers purchase products directly from the magazine pages – in other words, a real twist on the accepted and established ways of setting out an online store.
So, curious to find out more, I spoke to The Longest Stay’s founder and CEO, Sherry Roberts, about the inspiration behind The Longest Stay and her plans for the future.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your business – where is it based, what’s its history, and what does it do?
The Longest Stay is an interactive online magazine and store where discerning interiors enthusiasts can buy from our curated collection of furniture, home accessories and luxury gifts.
We recently moved into our offices in Chelsea where our team of two has grown to seven in just a few months (yes, my posh pooch Bella Do counts).
My original idea for the business was a chic boutique hotel in the heart of Rome. The concept moved away from that when I became an entrepreneur in residence in the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland.
After three years of research, with 30 students under my tutelage, it became evident that people want what they see in the beautiful spreads of a glossy magazine. I spent the next two years in planes (over 200 all over Europe), immersed in interior design shows (over 25) being guided by top people in the world of interiors.
The Longest Stay is an efficient way of shopping, as we do the sourcing for the customer, we share the back stories of each product in our collection, and we show them how to style our products with our magazine.
Best of all, you can click and buy what you see on our editorial pages and have it delivered to your home.
The Longest Stay is how you furnish the home you never want to leave…
Q. And what’s your own role in the business?
As founder and CEO I have worn and still wear many hats in the company. Mainly, I hold the concept and vision of The Longest Stay but my days are spent in investors’ meetings, product sourcing, editorial and marketing efforts.
The team refers to me as ‘social fab glue’ because I connect top makers, designers and buyers from around the world.
Q. What’s your business model, and why? Is it bricks, clicks or both?
Clicks. I think that we are moving towards a digital world at the speed of light. You can do almost anything online but I would not discount that one day we may have a showroom of our own.
Q. Looking forward, what do you see as the greatest opportunities for a business like yours at the moment?
Our biggest opportunity is to do for the interiors world what Net-A-Porter has done for fashion. Ten years ago it was said that no-one would ever buy clothes online; today the same thing is said about interiors.
The Longest Stay is here to change that notion, one divine product at a time…
Q. And what about the main challenges?
We present the customer with a new way of shopping. Buying the products they fall in love with directly from our editorial pages. No one in the UK is doing this.
As much as it is our USP it also represents a challenge because we are constantly innovating and experimenting.
Q. Where do you hope your business will be in five years’ time?
I expect our business will be at the forefront of the publishing and interiors world. Our business will set a standard for how the digital publishing industry will develop to house its own e-commerce branch.
At the moment, companies have expertise in either one or the other; we will have both in five years’ time.
Q. And any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to add?
There is no magic wand – everything is trial and error, but I am confident our concept and brand will grow quickly. We are branching out organically; soon we will be taking on interior design projects as people are starting to love our style.
Retailer Q&A is a format where Soult’s Retail View talks to retailers – large or small, and whether bricks, clicks or multichannel – about their current innovations, aspirations and challenges. As always with Soult’s Retail View, the features are not paid for – it’s all about providing interesting stories and content for the blog’s readers. If you run a retail business and are interested in taking part in the feature, please drop me an email or a tweet.
Remember, my retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com. To feature your business in CannySites.com’s Home Interiors Directory, visit www.homeinteriorsdirectory.co.uk/advertise/.