The days of traditional brick and mortar showrooms displaying  the latest SKUs from brands are dwindling. Brands and manufacturers are shifting the way they market products, opting for more creative approaches that cater to new consumer needs. Meanwhile, consumers have gravitated towards e-commerce for safe, fast and convenient shopping and are looking for opportunities to monetise their assets. It’s safe to say brands will need to adapt to meet these new expectations and behaviours.    

Our mission is to help people live better lives outside – and that mission extends to how our products are sold. To do so, we identified an overlooked opportunity for outdoor furniture that would create a new and unique way of shopping that removes the middle man and showcases our products in an environment they thrive in: the backyards of our customers. 

Why the Neighbourhood Showroom?

Inspired by Airbnb’s commitment to local experiences, we developed the Neighbourhood Showroom (NBS), an innovative and sustainable way to shop for outdoor furniture by leveraging existing infrastructure and connecting with the community. Customers can visit the backyards of real existing customers and shop real Outer products; it’s not only the next generation of retail, but a way for people to connect with their communities and to see products in their natural environment – outside.

Hosts of our Neighbourhood Showrooms are able to real customers with their own range of Outer products who love the outdoors and getting to know their community. As Hosts, they receive a 10% discount on the Outer range, early access to new products, and receive a flat rate for each visit they host so there’s absolutely no pressure to make sales. This allows for a more relaxed experience between Host and shopper with honest insights on the products and being able to experience them in their natural environment.

Expanding to the land down under  

What we love about Australia is the cultural love for the outdoors, so we are excited to have welcomed 12 hosts to our Neighbourhood Showroom community in various parts of the country including Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart.

Jonathan is our first Showroom host in Hobart, Tasmania. Prior to being a host, he had no real outdoor setup until he built a deck in December 2020 and came across Outer. As an advocate for sustainability, Outer proved to be the right fit for his home and two dogs. He spruced the place up with the Wicker collection, and upon hearing about the program, has since been hosting visits from members in his community. 

Lisa and Jono from Mansfield QLD moved from Melbourne to be closer to the beach and see warmer weather. They enjoy entertaining and relaxing in an outdoor space, and with the sea breeze, they opted for the Aluminium range. They’ve hosted the most Australian showroom visits to date, most of them virtual. 

An alternative to the traditional 

With the NBS model, we’re evolving with our customers while innovating retail, especially in the outdoor furniture space. The NBS concept is an evolution of what we already see as the continued trends of the Gig economy – in our case, by helping customers monetise their backyards.  With the rise of social proof, over 80% of customers today look at reviews before making a purchase; the NBS model is bringing this online trend into the real world  by allowing visitors to not only read reviews, but engage with the reviewers and experience the product in its best environment. 

Our Showrooms also are democratising the furniture market. We’re creating retail experiences that are more accessible for customers located anywhere in Australia — particularly areas outside of metro cities such as Hobart and Mansfield — allowing them to experience products firsthand.  By placing the products in the real backyards of Outer customers, we’re also reducing our carbon footprint by not using the number of enormous showroom spaces we would have otherwise occupied.

Sustainability is in Outer’s DNA and with our Neighbourhood Showrooms, we are leading retail to a more sustainable future. With over 1,000 Showrooms in the USA and 15 in Australia, we hope to continue expanding our showrooms in Australia over the coming months and making a difference to the planet, one sofa at a time.

Jiake Liu is co-founder of Outer.