Poppin, a new vertical online retailer, launched today. The company, that is selling products to help define people’s workstyle, intends to fill the gap between the products we use for work and those available in the rest of our lives. Led creatively by designer, Jeff Miller, Poppin is introducing 250 original products spanning the writing, paper, desktop, presentation, kitchen, technology and furniture categories. This past weekend, Forbes sat down with CEO, Randy Nicolau, and CMO, Kevin Ranford, to learn more before the launch.
Brandon Gutman: What’s the vision behind Poppin?
Randy Nicolau: Poppin was created to fill the design gap between the products we use to work and those available in the rest of our lives. Everybody does some kind of work each day, be it as a student, a homemaker, a small business owner, or a professional and each has been forced to accept the same drab and dreary products that have cluttered the marketplace for decades. We simply ask, why shouldn’t your desk look as good as you do?
It’s no secret that a happier workplace is a more productive workplace.
Who is backing Poppin?
Randy Nicolau: The company is privately held and backed by Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital, and Poppin’s Founder J. Christopher Burch. We are lucky to have investors with deep roots backing revolutionary e-commerce companies like Fab, Birch Box, Warby Parker and H. Bloom.
How are you positioning yourselves as a brand?
Randy Nicolau: Poppin is an innovative online retailer selling colorful essentials for one’s work-lifestyle. We are a fun company that offers a distinctive collection of chic yet affordable products and an engaging shopping experience that allows customers to define their own workstyle. Personal expression doesn’t have to stop when you get dressed to begin your workday!
What’s the differentiation from Staples, OfficeDepot and OfficeMax?
Randy Nicolau: The biggest differentiator is that we design the products we sell which give us a consistent style and quality across our entire product line, from desktop items, to notebooks, to furniture. We also have a relentless focus on the customer experience from product copy, to packaging, to customer happiness. If our customers aren’t blown away at every touch-point, we’ve failed.
The big box guys, on the other hand, typically re-sell products from hundreds of different suppliers which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get the type of design consistency consumers look for when accessorizing their lives. These retailers get staplers from one supplier, tape dispensers from another, and pens from a third so designs vary wildly and color coordinating is non-existent unless your favorite color happens to be black. It also means consumers have to wade through 50,000 items, whereas Poppin focuses on the 500 we think consumers want.
Furthermore, Poppin doesn’t sell paper and toner because we are not an office supply company. We are a workstyle company. These loss leaders are the lifeblood of office supply retailers for driving repeat customer visits. Poppin, however, uses fashion trends like color blocking and gift items like our Pop Starter kit to give our customers a reason to return.
What are your marketing objectives within the first year of launch? Describe your customer demo and key marketing channels.
Kevin Ranford: One of our key marketing objectives is to identify and acquire design-focused and fashion-forward customers, and ultimately create a new market for workstyle products. The Poppin customer demo will consist of shoppers with a love for great design and a passion to work happy. We have an integrated multi-channel marketing strategy (Social Media, Online Display, etc) with a keen focus on leveraging key influencers and decision makers.
Despite appealing directly to individual consumers, we are proud to have design and employee-focused corporate customers like Rachel Zoe Media Group, Buddy Media, LinkedIn, Fab.com and many more.
Describe some of the innovative shopping functionality on Poppin.com.
Kevin Ranford: The Poppin online shopping experience features several innovative tools, most notably “Design-a-Desk” and “Shop-by Color.” Our “Design a Desk” functionality allows shoppers to populate a virtual desktop with a variety of products and easily visualize custom color combinations, adding their own personality to their workstyle. When they find the look they love, they can add the items to their cart with one click.
Our “Shop by Color” feature allows Poppin customers to easily browse all products available in their favorite colors. Students heading off to the University of Tennessee may want to browse Orange and white notebooks and pens, while the marketing team at Sweet-n-Low may be looking for pink desktop accessories or tech gadgets.
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