Why DTC furniture brand Sabai uses Instagram stories for product development

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When Sabai Designs co-founders Phantila Phataraprasit and Caitlin Ellen set out to debut their online furniture brand two years ago, they decided to crowdsource their ideas from the get go. 

Before officially launching their first line of products in September, the duo turned to Instagram — not only to build an audience but get customer feedback while still designing the initial collection. For Sabai’s first collection — which consists of a sofa and sectional — the founders used Instagram Stories’ poll feature to survey customers about the pieces. They asked for feedback from their nearly 5,000 followers on features like arm width, leg styles and fabrics. These steps, they said, helped the young company avoid early production mistakes; Ones they likely would have made had they based all decisions on the founders’ personal preferences.

For the brand, the polls presented a clean way to get instant feedback from core customers, and helped the founders hone features and messaging. “We do Instagram polling because we find it minimizes the risk of failed launches,” said Phataraprasit. “Lots of consumers are dying to give their opinions — it’s a missed opportunity to not take advantage of their enthusiasm.” Phataraprasit described it as “the easiest format” for crowdsourcing ideas.

...For many retailers, listening to the community is important in launching new offerings, said Greg Petro, CEO and founder of retail analytics platform First Insight. “It’s particularly valuable in the furniture sector, where lead times are longer and the investment in each unit of inventory is higher,” he explained.

Petro said that utilizing Instagram’s vast user base is also a clever tactic for drawing relevant inspiration. The social network has been launching new tools to help brands connect with followers — including 3D design tools — which Facebook has been rolling out this year. Using Instagram, said Petro, allows brands “to get customer feedback earlier than ever in the design and development process.” This way, startups can cut underperforming designs “before investing in detailed design and physical samples.” 

These days, brands have to separate the signal from the noise in an ever-crowded field, Petro said. More brands are trying to find new ways to easily gather intelligence about their customers.

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