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Interviews

Patio Furniture Is Hot This Winter?!

April 15, 2021
Mae Rice

Most outdoor furniture retailers don’t increase marketing spend in winter months. So why did Outer, a DTC outdoor furniture company, double down on holiday marketing last winter? Founder Jiake Liu explains his strategy that led to millions in sales.

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Winter really has been a wonderland for Outer.

Though the company sells outdoor furniture, a seemingly seasonal product, it had a very successful November — in fact, it was “the single most profitable month in the history of Outer,” CEO Jiake Liu told MarketerHire.

So how did this summer’s fastest-growing American brand continue its streak into the colder months? Liu shared the playbook. 

Winter is coming

[MH] How did your team go into this winter? Were you confident it would be a success, even though [checks notes] winter is cold?

[JL] This is Outer’s second winter ever, and the first winter that we're doubling down on marketing and really trying to get traffic and conversions. We decided that this is the time to once and for all figure out whether winter is worth our marketing investment, because we could just say, “Why compete with billions of other brands out there on the [holiday] CPMs?” 

But to prove it out, we went full force this year. We developed a lot of email content, and a whole BFCM strategy. November was not a peak sales month, but because of our off-the-charts unit economics, it was the single most profitable month in the history of Outer. 

All about the BFCM

Tell me more about your BFCM strategy — did you guys offer a discount?

We’re a premium brand, and we don’t want to play the end of summer liquidation game. We don’t want to play into that furniture trope. The only way you can get a discount of any significance from Outer is if you apply to become one of our neighborhood showroom hosts. (During Covid, we’ve paused all physical visits, but prospective customers can still chat virtually with a host in their area.) 

Normally, you get a 10% discount for applying. For Black Friday, we doubled that, and we took the strategy of “Buy now, and we’ll deliver in spring.” It's a win for the customer because they get to take advantage of really great pricing, and they don't have to store it somewhere for winter. It's a win for us because we're realizing revenue up front. 

Keeping CAC low when CPM goes high

How did you keep your CAC so low during BFCM, when CPMs go through the roof?

We definitely do a lot of paid spend, but we have a weeks-long consideration cycle. People don’t impulse buy from us. Our AOV is about $5,000 — I joke that the only DTC company that's more expensive than us is Tesla. So we started ramping up spend a little bit ahead of Thanksgiving, knowing that we’d be building a list of leads. And then when CPMs shot up, we leveraged lifecycle marketing, and used email drip campaigns to convert those leads. 

Email education

What sort of messaging did you use in those emails?

It’s all about educating on our sustainable practices, the quality of our material and our 10-year warranty. Compared to a thousand-dollar couch you buy on Wayfair that falls apart in a year… you do the math. It’s actually pretty good value.

The pandemic... didn't hurt

Did you use any pandemic-related messaging in November — like, “This winter, hang out with friends outside, for your own safety!”

I mean, that's been the messaging all year round, honestly. Starting in the spring, our message was, “Your backyard is your safe haven.” We planned it last year — we actually laid it out for March. Who knew there was going to be a pandemic that would make it literally true. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is senior editor at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she enjoys interviewing marketing experts and learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture. She also loves any ad that makes her say "Huh?!" — especially Tim and Eric's ad for Totino's pizza rolls, which she watches way more often than you would think.

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