Online dorm furnishings retailer Dormify is readying itself for the back-to-school sales rush by opening pop-up shops.
The retailer is opening temporary “style studios” in New York City, Chicago and Bethesda, Maryland, from May to August in hopes of surging the retailer’s sales at least 80% year over year, says Lauren Ulmer, director of product at Dormify.
Dormify is doing “pop ups just for the summer months when it is our peak season,” she says. This “peak season” is back-to-school, which is when sales increase five-times over the average, Ulmer says.
For the past few years, Dormify has offered styling services, in which consumers can book appointments to come into the retailer’s New York City headquarters and a stylist will help the shopper pick out products to design her dorm room. A shopper selects products, and then Dormify will order and ship them to her house, or directly to her school at a later date, so the customer doesn’t have to pack and move the bulky items, Ulmer says. The new style studios will operate in the same way.
Dormify learned that shoppers who came in for a style appointments had up to a five-times higher average order value compared with the online average order value. For example, online, a shopper may just buy a $120 comforter, but at a style appointment, spend $600 to buy the comforter plus matching pillows and wall decor. For this reason, the retailer decided to open more style studios.
Co-founder Amanda Zuckerman started Dormify in 2011 when she was in college. The site was a blog where she and her mom posted tips about how to style a dorm room. In 2013 the pair launched an online store, and Dormify started selling bedding, pillows and wall artwork that they designed and manufactured themselves. Dormify also sells organization and desk accessories from a supplier.
Although all of the sales are technically online, Ulmer estimates that sales from styling appointments at its headquarters are about 5-10% of its overall sales.
Dormify grew sales 192% from 2015 to 2017 and has generated millions in sales annually. Dormify projects to double in revenue in 2018. In 2017, the retailer switched to a Shopify Inc. e-commerce platform from its Magento e-commerce platform, Ulmer says.
One of the main benefits of the new platform is how fast it loads, Ulmer says. On average, each page loads completely in five seconds, and the first visual element shows up in the first 1.5 seconds, she says. This is a large improvement over the previous load time of between nine and 15 seconds, she says.
Previously, Dormify had to manage servers and balance its load times, whereas now Shopify manages all of the servers and speed optimization for the retailer, Ulmer says. Also, on the platform’s backend, it’s easier for Dormify to make edits in bulk, she says.
Now, the retailer hopes it can increase its sales another 80% with the style studios, and other customer acquisition strategies, such as via email address acquisition and paid ads on Instagram.
Customer acquisition is essential to Dormify’s success, as every year its audience—the incoming college freshman class—changes.
This year, the retailer is using a referral program in hopes of generating new customers. Dormify is offering previous customers a credit for as many referrals as they can generate. The customer will receive a unique link with a tracking code to provide to friends so that she gets credit for her friends’ purchases. The hope is that an upper classmen will suggest Dormify to her younger friends, Ulmer says.
On Instagram, Dormify works to keep up to date on the latest tools, such as posting to Instagram Stories and creating polls for shoppers to fill out and then share with their friends.