Sabai utilized Instagram to solicit design feedback for its launch with the Essentials Collection.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – D2C upholstery resource Sabai, which started selling its initial Essentials collection online last August, has prioritized consumer feedback on its product direction since the company’s inception.
To that end, founders Caitlin Ellen and Phantila Phataraprasit utilize Instagram and their now some 3,000 followers to research customer preferences ranging from color to silhouette to appetites for sustainably produced goods. They find Instagram an ideal medium to gather feedback while designing because they want customers to see their upholstery, which is made in High Point and ships flat-pack, as a good fit for their home.
“To us, that means going beyond our personal preferences by integrating our communities’ feedback to build out designs,” Ellen said. For their first introduction — the Essential collection sofa, sectional and ottoman — Sabai spent six months surveying potential customers for leg styles, fabrics and the general look of the sofa.
“We had a framework of how we wanted the product to look: a plusher feel in a knock-down design,” Ellen said. “Our initial following was mostly family and friends. We got 100 to 200 people responding to the questions, so we felt we had enough to work with. Now that we’ve been growing our following on Instagram, the numbers have grown.”
Currently, Sabai’s Instagram audience provides a potential sample of around 3,000 consumers.
Ellen noted that Instagram polling can involve some selection bias, i.e., some respondents might not fit Sabai’s targeted consumer group. Techniques such as a suggestion box in Sabai’s color poll for shades not in the sample, help filter respondents.
“You have to take some results with a grain of salt, but overall we really value the feedback,” Ellen said. “Engaging with our customers is such an important part of our design philosophy.
Evolving the process
More recently, Sabai has polled Instagram followers on new color selections for new pieces and will solicit feedback for an entirely new collection coming out next year.
“We’ll be doing more testing ahead of a fall rollout” for new colors, Ellen said.
Subai also recently queried followers on their attitude toward purchasing sustainably produced furniture. That effort is an example of how Instagram polling can evolve. That means new and more exciting forms of engagement.
“We’re trying to come up with ways to make polling engaging so that customers feel compelled to participate,” she said. “People want to give their two cents, but we want to make it more fun, like a game.”
The sustainability poll, for instance, was set up with a “March Madness” theme complete with a “Sweet 16” bracket where followers could fill in their responses.
Gauging the impact
Ellen said that while it’s hard to put a number on Instagram polling’s dollar impact on actual sales, after-sale follow up indicates the feedback used in the design process helps.
“We do a lot of research with our customers with calls and surveys, so we have a sense of how people respond to our product,” Ellen said. “Forty-five percent say they picked Sabai primarily because of the design.”
For Sabai, Instagram allows the company “to test people’s preferences on a large scale and also allow for our community to be heard,” Ellen said. “Some of the answers may be aspirational – and people may not end up ordering the colors they claimed to like – but we had a lot of success designing the sofa with our community’s help via Instagram, and now we get nothing but compliments about the design. So we really trust their taste.”