BONUS
April 30, 2020

"The Consultation Is Not Where It Begins And Ends"

Brian sits down with Ariel Kaye, CEO and founder of Parachute Home to discuss innovation in crisis as a home goods brand.

this episode sponsored by

No items found.

Brian sits down with Ariel Kaye, CEO and founder of Parachute Home to discuss innovation in crisis as a home goods brand.

Phillip: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about, well, next generation commerce. And today, that means something different than what it used to mean. We have a really cool episode here today. Brian is sitting down with Ariel Kaye, the CEO and founder of Parachute Home. And it's gonna be an amazing interview. I encourage you to stick around for it. I want to let you in on a couple of things that are happening before we get into today's mini episode. And that is the first is you need to subscribe to Future Commerce Insiders. We recently moved it to a Sunday published schedule. Every Sunday at 8:00 am you're going to get an insightful and long form essay about things that we think that you need to know about in the world of commerce, the world of eCommerce, what's happening in the world of retail, direct to consumer and all of the above. You can get that by going over to FutureCommerce.fm and signing up at the bottom of the page for our FC Insiders newsletter. And remember, that comes out every Sunday at 8:00 am, and we want to get you on the list. If you're on that list you're going to be reminded about the next thing that I'm really excited about. We are launching a brand new report called Nine by Nine. We think that there are nine categories, or nine recurring themes, of things that we think are transformational in our world. And across those recurring themes we're going to detail the reason why we believe that they matter. And we're going to bring you insight from some of the smartest people that we know in the world of eCommerce and direct to consumer to tell you what brands they think are making impacts in these areas. We're really excited for this. We can't wait to bring it to you in partnership with all of our Future Commerce alumni. And you can get on the list, so you can be the first to know when it drops in late May. Do that right now at FutureCommerce.fm/NineByNine. That's FutureCommerce.fm/NineByNine. We'll see you there. And we can't wait for the report. OK. Without any further ado, let's jump into Brian's interview with the CEO and founder of Parachute Home, Ariel Kaye.


Brian: [00:02:09] Welcome, Ariel.


Ariel: [00:02:11] Hi. Thanks for having me.


Brian: [00:02:13] You are the CEO and founder of Parachute. Tell us a little bit about your story. How did you start Parachute and take it to where it is today?


Ariel: [00:02:23] Sure. So Parachute is a modern lifestyle brand, and we are committed to making you feel at home. So we design products that kind of enhance your comfort in room to room. My background is actually in advertising, and I spent many years working in advertising, but have always been a home decor enthusiast and had an interior design blog. Like so long ago that it's not even worth really mentioning. But that's really where my passion for home and design really just flourished. And so then fast forward to 2012, looking for a career change, decided I wanted to merge my interests in branding and connecting with customers and also building a physical product in the home space and launched Parachute in January 2014 with a small assortment of sheets and duvet covers. And we've been busy building many products, opening 10 retail stores and really building a brand that people have come to know and love within the home.


Brian: [00:03:32] Yeah, definitely. I've known about Parachute for a while, and it is a very beautiful brand. Super, super cool. I love what you've built, and what a success story like kind of coming out of advertising and like content space. Very, very on point place to come from right now. Building content and then sort of pivoting to selling products.


Ariel: [00:03:59] Sure. Yeah. It's definitely not the most conventional path. But for me, you know, I was on the strategic side of creative when I worked in advertising and spending so much time doing consumer behavior research, like really thinking about how to connect with the customer. And it was such an incredible experience to have leading up to building this brand because we're so customer focused and everything we do is with the customer in mind. And so, yeah, it's a not the most conventional. But, you know, definitely I'm grateful for my experience and how it brought me to where I am today.


Brian: [00:04:34] Yeah, definitely. And well, where we are today is quite the place. You mentioned being customer focused. This is a very, very challenging time for for businesses and customers across the board.


Ariel: [00:04:47] Yes.


Brian: [00:04:47] You have a brick and mortar presence at 10 different stores across the country. Tell us about how you're seeing COVID 19 impact your business right now.


Ariel: [00:05:02] Sure. So like most businesses, we've been impacted pretty hard. You know, closing 10 of our stores has significant impact on the business. You know, our stores serve many purposes, including driving revenue. They're profitable. And we employ a lot of people through our retail stores. So certainly closing those doors and having really no sense of when they might open again creates a challenge and just a real shift in terms of our strategy. I mean, we had a plan of opening quite a few more stores this year, which for now are sort of on pause. So one of the things that we've done in the past few weeks is really think about how we can bring that in-store experience online and create virtual ways to connect with our customers, because that's really what our stores are all about. I mean, they are ways that we deepen our relationship with our customer and really connect and educate and we help them style their homes. And so we decided to launch and really build upon what had just been a small kind of pilot program that we were testing, this virtual styling consultant, which is a one on one appointment that can happen via video or call, where we work directly with our customers to help them solve whatever problem they're looking to solve it within their home. It could be how to redo their bedroom or well within limitations, redo their bedroom, or what kind of rug should they use in their living room, or how to break up space. And it's been really fun for us to connect and to keep that relationship thriving in a time where I think connection is just so critical and so important.


Brian: [00:06:56] Yeah, I think it's huge because, well, first of all, it speaks really strongly to how you view your customers. To implement something like this, and I'm assuming this is at no cost to the customer, no requirements for purchase.


Ariel: [00:07:12] Yes.


Brian: [00:07:12] Like this is just a service that you're offering. It's so intimate as well. It's such an intimate thing to offer because people are going to be allowing your stylist to come in and look inside their home.


Ariel: [00:07:29] Absolutely.


Brian: [00:07:29] And what a relationship you've had to have developed with those customers in order for them to feel comfortable sharing what their home looks like. And they probably, you know, they're going to show parts of their homes that they're not particularly happy with either. Tell me about some of the feedback you've heard as a result of launching this.


Ariel: [00:07:52] It's been really positive. You know, we are seeing a really strong response from our customers. It is really personal. The consultation is not where it begins and ends. There's often many follow up emails that take place and a real relationship that develops between stylists and customer. We have a conversion rate that we're really proud of. And it seems to be a a tool that customers are getting on a lot of value out of. But I've always felt that whatever we can do to make customers purchase with confidence is just so helpful. And people want to make these decisions and feel so great about them, especially when they're spending money, especially in a time of uncertainty. And so I think, you know, this is a program that has allowed us to continue to really get to know our customers and to create community. And this is a program that will continue even after our stores reopen. In fact, we're thinking about ways that we can have these appointments available in-store and, you know, create a dedicated space within our office with tons of products. So if people are doing video styling we have a bunch of products within arms reach, so that we can show all the products and how the colors mix to match. And really, I mean, we're thinking a lot about how to continue to improve and enhance this experience for the foreseeable future.


Brian: [00:09:24] I love that. You're not thinking about just how to solve this current problem. You're thinking about how to take something, a creative solution that honestly you may or may not have launched without... Or did you already launch this prior to reaching that situation that we're in?


Ariel: [00:09:42] Yeah, we had tested it, and we were in kind of like a pre launch testing phase, having a few styling consultants and just and kind of getting feedback. Yes. Not knowing what was to come. And so we had already gotten things set up. But in the past few weeks, we've accelerated the development of what this program looks like. We create mood boards and we've made sure that those mood boards are even better and more robust and really have color palettes and things that just really help bring the experience to life. But, yeah, we are thinking about... In addition to the virtual selling systems, we're fast tracking developments like curbside pickup and buy online/pick up in-store and sort of things that we know, even when our stores reopen, are going to be helpful for a customer who might not be ready to to shop in the way that they once did.


Brian: [00:10:41] Right. People's purchasing patterns and the ways that they used to shop could for some people, maybe they will go back to the way they used to do things. For some people, maybe they actually prefer the experience of being in their home and engaging with Parachute from a place that they feel really comfortable in.


Ariel: [00:11:00] And I think it's just going to take time also. You know, it's I think this is going to, the transition phase, is going to take time. And we want to be really sensitive to that and make sure that we can support our customers as we're all kind of navigating these uncharted times.


Brian: [00:11:17] Yeah. And again, I think I love that you're looking ahead to what this could look like even if we do kind of go back. And there's an extended period where people are not quite ready, or are self quarantined, or whatever it is, as we kind of go forward into next year looking at how stores will play into that and physical plays into that is is so important. I think it's a really good lesson for our listeners. You should be thinking about how your programs extend beyond just right now. The here and now. Planning even in this moment of the unknown. Thinking about what's ahead and how to leverage what you're doing right now in the future is super, super important.


Ariel: [00:12:08] Yeah. I agree.


Brian: [00:12:09] I think the fact that you had already been getting into a program like this, you've been piloting this program ahead of time, speaks to something that I think that we've been seeing as a trend among some of the other companies we've talked with during this period. And that is a lot of the investments that you were making that seemed a little bit risky at the time, or maybe a little bit, you know, almost premature or just there was a lot of, like, questions about whether, you know, Best Buy should be doing curbside pickup and like did people actually want that or need that. And yet now it's like the only way that people are interacting with the brand, or not the only way, but one of the main ways.


Ariel: [00:12:55] Yup. Yup.


Brian: [00:12:55] I think there's a huge lesson, and I think you're a perfect example of this, that your efforts to be innovative actually are leading to success in ways that you could have never expected when faced with a crisis like we're facing right now. Talk to me about some of the other investments that you've made. I know you just released a new collaboration with Madewell, and I'm assuming that's been in the works for a while. But talk to me about some other investments you've made in the past year that you feel like are making a difference right now.


Ariel: [00:13:30] Sure. So I mentioned that we are... Well the idea behind the styling concept consultations, too, is how do we look at Parachute more than just a brand and more than just a product, but really as a services platform? And so this was kind of our first launch within what services could look like more broadly. But in the past year, we actually had quite a few launches. Madewell, being her most recent launch earlier this week. But a year ago, we launched a mattress for the first time, which was a really big launch for us and one that has had really tremendous success. You know, we found a way to carve out a piece of the market that wasn't oversaturated in a completely oversaturated market. And that was, you know, this kind of heritage based eco luxury and coils, incredibly comfortable ergonomic really, really premium mattress. And so that was a big, big deal for us because it allowed us to really own the entire sleep experience. You know, now you can not just use our sheets and our duvet covers and our featherbed beds, but you can also have that foundation to the best night of sleep. In the past year we've also launched rugs. I mean, really, the past year for us was a big shift from being bedding and bath to really being a home lifestyle brand and thinking about how we're connecting with people in many rooms within their house. We also launched pajamas for the first time, thinking about this like lifestyle component. And so, yeah, there's been a lot of newness. And then from a development perspective, I mean, we're continuing to fine tune our site experience and how we're thinking about site speed. And, you know, just like really improving the customer experience. It all comes back to the customer. But we're excited about things like buy online/pick up in-store and curbside pickup in. And just the idea has always been like, how do we be where our customers are? And and how do we serve our customers' needs? And I think we're checking a lot of boxes in that way. Last year was also a really big year for retail. And we're quite sad that our stores are closed now, but, you know, confident they will open again soon.


Brian: [00:15:52] Yeah, that's a really good point. I think you've made a lot of the investments. You've seen a lot of success in the past year. You're in a category where, like all the things that you named I can imagine are actually potentially up. Like pajamas. If anything, people right now are buying things that they can lounge around their home in or to beautify their home because they're stuck in their homes. That's the only thing that they can do.


Ariel: [00:16:20] Yeah.


Brian: [00:16:20] How have you seen sales overall being impacted by this? Are you seeing certain parts of your business like way up and then other parts are down? Or are you seeing things are down overall? Are you seeing things are up overall? What your experience there?


Ariel: [00:16:38] Our eComm business is holding on strong. It's doing well. Like you said, people are home and, you know, people are thinking about ways that they can make their home even more comfortable given that we are stuck here for the foreseeable future. And that comfort is key when their homes are now serving many purposes. You know, your dining room table is also your desk and your couch might be where you do calls, you know, and so, you know, thinking comfort throughout the home, I think, has definitely inspired people to upgrade or refresh or change what they already have. So that's been great. Robes which are always a great seller for us, have been selling really, really strong. Like, they're up quite a bit. I think, again, because people are lounging and using loungewear as their everyday wear. I am for one living in my robe, and our team. Zoom calls are all... You see a lot of robe's which I love. It's very own brand for us. But you know, that's a product that is really comfortable and one that makes people feel really cozy. And so we are definitely in the cozy, comfy world. And that's, I think, what a lot of people are looking for right now. So that's been... We're lucky that we are in that category. But we've also been impacted tremendously. You know, things like retail really does have a significant impact on us. We have a hospitality business that is pretty much on pause because that's an industry that's been really impacted. So we're, like any company, we're making adjustments, you know, almost hour to hour in terms of strategy. And I think being nimble and being thoughtful is really the game right now. And our focus is getting to the other side of this stronger, and we're making tough decisions in order for us to get there. So this wasn't the plan for 2020.


Brian: [00:18:53] Right.


Ariel: [00:18:53] There were a lot of other things that we were really excited about focusing on. I keep reminding myself that really great companies do come out of times of turmoil and that there's significant lessons to be learned and growth opportunities. And that's been sort of my star as we navigate.


Brian: [00:19:15] Yeah, I think it's a really good point as well. So you're seeing success in the comfy, cozy, which I think that's exactly what people need right now. So I love that. Are you going to be influenced... Is your product strategy going to be influenced by the current crisis and the places where you see people purchasing? Are you going to adjust your product roadmap to sort of play into that? Or do you see yourself sort of being a little bit more agnostic and a little bit less concerned about like what that product roadmap looks like as a result of what we're seeing right now?


Ariel: [00:20:02] Our product roadmap won't change. You know, I think we're looking at our supply chain and our logistics and seeing where we can mitigate any sort of risk given the stresses that we're seeing on things like carriers and shipping, but our product roadmap is really comfy, cozy all day long.


Brian: [00:20:26] Right. {laughter}


Ariel: [00:20:26] That's not going to change. And we've got really beautiful products coming out this year. And so far, there hasn't been any sort of shift in that strategy or any delays in terms of what we're planning on launching over the next few months. And so we're really grateful about that. You know, we're getting really creative in terms of how we're photographing and shooting some of those products, since we're not able to do photo shoots right now. But we're pretty set in terms of what's happening this year. And we just we keep investing in more things that are comfy, cozy throughout the home. And so I think that that will continue to be the plan.


Brian: [00:21:07] Nice.


Ariel: [00:21:09] Yeah.


Brian: [00:21:09] Well, thank you so much for coming on and talking to us a little bit about how you're handling this and how you're connecting deeper with your customers and the impact that you're seeing on your business. I believe you've got a book coming out soon. I would love to hear a little bit more about that before we get off the call.


Ariel: [00:21:28] Sure. So I have a book coming out on April 14th. It's called How to Make a House a Home. And the idea... I had no idea that we would be in our home in this kind of way when this book was coming out when I wrote it. But in many ways, it's even more relevant now. It's really all about creating purposeful personal space. And it's sort of different than a traditional design book. A lot of anecdotes about my own experience as well as how I think about things like color and lighting and flow of a space and really about intentional living, creating a home that nurtures you. It's a really great book, and I hope that it has a positive impact, given that we're confined to our homes and there's a lot of kind of cool tips and things about how to refresh what you already have. And so I'm really excited about the launch. It's my first book and definitely a bucket list moment. So, yes, super excited.


Brian: [00:22:38] Congratulations. I can't think of a better book to read right now. Learning about how to make my home a place that's more thoughtful and more nurturing. That's as good as it gets.


Ariel: [00:22:50] Well, thank you for saying so. Yeah, it's a strange time to be publishing or launching your first book. We're trying to figure out how to celebrate it more virtually. So it'll be fun.


Brian: [00:23:06] Great. Well, I am looking forward to it. Where can people find you and find your book as it comes out?


Ariel: [00:23:15] The book will be available most booksellers. It's also gonna be available on our Web site at ParachuteHome.com. Amazon. Indiebooks.com. For the next few days before it launches were also offering a free candle with preorder. But it'll be available where you buy books.


Brian: [00:23:37] Great. Well, thanks so much, Ariel, for coming on the show. And we look forward to seeing more from Parachute soon.


Ariel: [00:23:44] Thanks.


Phillip: [00:23:49] Thank you so much for listening to this bonus episode of Future Commerce. We want to make sure that you always have Future Commerce wherever you go. Why don't you subscribe to Future Commerce right now on Spotify or Stitcher Premium and get it Apple Podcasts or Google Play or wherever else you get podcasts these days. Why don't you check out our web site at FutureCommerce.fm. and subscribe to that Future Commerce Insider's newsletter where you can stay on top of everything that we think is important in the world of eCommerce, retail, and DTC. We want to hear from you. Drop us a line at Hello@FutureCommerce.fm. And tell us what you think about the show, and leave us a five star on iTunes or something like that. It would be really nice if you did that. Thank you for listening. We'll see you on Friday for our normal episode.


Recent episodes

LATEST PODCASTS