Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool Event meets buyers in-person and online

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As more Americans get vaccinated, brands are starting to explore what events will look like going forward. Apartment Therapy’s hybrid Small/Cool Experience is looking to gain first-party data from the best of both worlds — customers ready to shop in-person, and those still happy shopping online.

From June 11-13, Apartment Therapy will be hosting its second-ever Small/Cool Experience, a half virtual, half in-person event consisting of 10 rooms built out in lower Manhattan. Each room will be decorated by a different designer and have 25 shoppable products per room that event-goers can purchase via affiliate or website links. In-person attendees can scan a room’s QR code on the wall to see products, while online customers can shop the rooms on the Apartment Therapy website through 3D renderings. Shoppers with an Apartment Therapy account can add the products to a wish list.

Having both an in-person and virtual event will allow Apartment Therapy to gain insights on both kinds of consumers through QR codes at the physical event as well as the virtual rooms on the Apartment Therapy website. The site launched their own first-party data solution, Blueprint, in April after seeing bumps in site traffic and revenue during the pandemic. Now, those event interactions and purchases can help build out Blueprint, as well as partnerships with brands involved in Small/Cool Experience.

“First party data has become an increased priority across the board as we look to get a deeper understanding of our readers, their interests and shopping habits,” Apartment Therapy’s vp of brand innovation and strategy Media Lauren Murphy wrote in an email response to Digiday. 

“In terms of the event, we’ll be sharing back a broad range of data with our brand partners around audience behavior and interaction with the rooms and products, in addition to some opt-in information shared by our audience via sweepstakes and email lists.”

Finding the balance in a virtual and in-person event required some adjustments. At the start of planning, Apartment Therapy wanted to launch a custom app, but realized that would be a big lift on the back-end for event partners. 

“We opted to take it online, and all we require from brand partners is a link to each product page on their site (or an e-commerce partner of their choice),” wrote Murphy. Brand partners include Behr, Overstock and Tuft and Needle.

The pandemic had Americans across the country rethinking how their homes needed to work for them, especially those living in smaller spaces. That had folks turning to sites like Apartment Therapy for ideas and products. Since the pandemic, Apartment Therapy has seen an increase in site traffic and revenue. The site’s unique visitors were up 56% year over year in March according to Comscore. Registered users have increased 150% year over year and e-commerce revenue was up 100% year over year, according to Murphy, who declined to give exact figures. 

The event is catering to buyers who want to see products in-person, as well as the growing number of consumers who have warmed to shopping for big-ticket furniture pieces online. The result has been an uptick in home furnishings sales.

“Customers’ preferences definitely shifted. Rather, they were forced to shift. They had to be ok with purchasing furniture online,” said Dave Nielsen, president of Overstock.com, which is sponsoring Apartment Therapy’s event. “That was just what the category needed.”

Furniture and home furnishings are forecasted to generate nearly $106 billion, or 11.7%, of all U.S. retail e-commerce sales this year, up 12.3% from 2020, according to an April 2021 report by eMarketer.

“The days of needing to go to a big retail location to buy furniture are over,” said Nielsen.

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