Working in retail means we love nothing more than checking out unique and exciting shopper marketing and brands. One brand that has recently caught our eye is Sofa.com. You may be familiar with their quirky lifestyle advertising (the ones with the dogs on sofas with the evocative lines of ‘may cause drowsiness’).

What’s interesting about Sofa.com is, as their brand name suggests, the fact that they are a brand that has grown through the Internet. An online retailer who have driven growth and sales through a transactional website. You will be hard pushed to find one of their showrooms on the high street or at a retail park. In fact, you won’t find one anywhere in the UK, other than in London’s upmarket Chelsea.

So, the brands first hurdle, being based in the North West there’s nothing more annoying than finding your dream sofa online, you’ve chosen the colour, the size, the price is right too, but wait, you can’t actually sit on it unless you’re down in the capital. Selling high ticket price items such as a sofas usually warrants at least 1 visit to a showroom, normally on a rainy Sunday afternoon, traipsing around furniture outlets trying to look as sophisticated as possible whilst lounging around on showroom furniture. After all, it’s an invested purchase that you’re likely to have in your home for the foreseeable future – it’s imperative that you get it right.

However, a recent visit to London proved the perfect opportunity to visit Sofa.com HQ. Located in a converted warehouse right on the Thames – this isn’t your normal sofa showroom. From your first step inside you’re greeted by warm and friendly staff; invited to have a complimentary tea, coffee, even beer if you so wish. They talk you through how the showroom works, you’re encouraged to take your time, try the sofas, relax, just enjoy it. We feel instantly at ease, no pushy sales person, no ‘exclusive offer must end Sunday’ with no pressure to buy or talk to staff. So, sparkling water in hand, we’re ready to shop.

Here at The Market Creative we use our strategic SHOP tool to help retailers influence shoppers to buy. It explores the 6 dimensions that influence the shopper in the retail environment. It was great to see Sofa.com thoroughly embracing some of these pillars, from communicating their personality, to really engaging with shoppers. People are encouraged to lie on sofas as they would at home, large samples of fabric are available for you to drape over products in order to see what your preferred print or colour looks like, cushions are readily available to accessorise with. All of which really help you to envisage this product in your home, which ultimately is what it’s all about. Sofa.com also had a ‘kids zone’ where children can play, watch TV and generally occupy themselves whilst Mum and Dad shop. Equally ipads are readily available, encouraging people to ‘surf the sofas’ whilst they’re in the showroom, just small touches that make shopping here easy and enjoyable.

We could have happily spent all afternoon at Sofa.com. It was a retail experience, one that as soon as you walked in you felt like you were breathing a special sofa.com air. This showroom embodied the brand and everything that’s so wonderful and unique about it. We left feeling inspired, impressed and desperate to get back online to order a sofa!

Helen Priestley