3 Things: Digital Museum, Town Onboarding, YouTube for Furniture Assembly
Happy Sunday and a very warm welcome to all the new subscribers! I’m thrilled and honored to have you as readers and truly appreciate your thoughts and feedback 🙏. Each edition of 3 Things will contain a dive into 3 rabbit holes I’ve found myself going down recently. Subscribe to get each week’s edition straight to your inbox and if you enjoy it, please share (I suck at self-promotions so can use your help)! This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about:
YouTube for Furniture Assembly
1. Digital Museum
As we get closer and closer to the metaverse, more physical goods and traditionally brick and mortar activities continue to move online. In the early days, mail became email, the Yellow Pages became a variety of web directories, games moved online, and digital communities began to form. More recently we’ve seen a massive shift from in-store shopping to e-commerce for everything from clothes to groceries to furniture and household goods. Healthcare continues to shift from being delivered at a hospital or clinic to at the point of the patient via telemedicine. Instead of relying on bars, parties, physical clubs, or setups, we meet friends, significant others, and activity partners online.
One of the newer spaces to be brought to the internet is art, primarily driven by the boom in NFTs. Even traditional auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s have embraced the digital art trend and are each clamoring to become the place where high-end digital art is bought and sold. We are even seeing curated exhibits of this digital art displayed in museums and other physical venues around the world. But what about building the virtual world version of a museum in VR (or AR)? Just as a curator creates an exhibit concept and then acquires the art that they want to display, internet curators can identify the NFTs that they want to showcase, borrow the pieces using smart contracts, and create immersive experiences in virtual worlds like Decentraland that are intended to be experienced in virtual reality (ubiquitous consumer headsets have to become a “thing” at some point, right? 😆). They can charge admission fees, create in-exhibit concerts similar to the Marshmellow concert in Fortnite, and innovate on additional immersive experiences. The first step in this direction was what is now know as Google Arts and Culture where they digitized famous museums from around the world and created a way for anyone to experience it online. Extending this to digital art, mixed reality, and online worlds, a company can take this to a new level and ride the tailwinds of NFTs, gaming, creator economy, and VR.
2. Town Onboarding
According to census data, nearly 10% of the US population (over 30 million people) moves each year. During the last year and a half that number increased as more people were able to work from home and many people wanted to be closer to family or in a location with a less expensive cost of living. Around 31% of GenZ and Millennials picked up and moved during Covid which is a staggering statistic. In general, over the last few years, the trend is that people are moving from bigger cities to suburbs or smaller cities and towns, reversing the trend towards urbanization of the last few decades. Moving is both stressful and expensive. The average interstate move costs over $4000… and that’s not including all of the time it takes to plan the logistics, pack up your stuff (hopefully getting rid of a good amount 😅), deal with cancelling out old accounts for internet, utilities, garbage, etc. It’s definitely a time for optimism and celebrating new opportunities but it’s also an extremely anxiety-provoking experience that never goes as smoothly as anticipated. You are uprooting your life and changing all of your routines, habits, and people that you regularly interact with. And, let’s face it, making friends as adults is HARD!
When you get to your new location, there are a million things you need to deal with like the obvious unpacking and setting up your wifi (priorities 😉), but pretty quickly you realize how many other things need to get done or seem foreign and unknown. A company could provide cities and towns with an onboarding experience, similar to how startups think about product onboarding for new users. When you move, you register an account and are immediately matched with a “town ambassador” of sorts who are volunteers that help welcome new residents. The software can maintain up-to-date resource lists including information about clubs, activities, events, safety information, and more that the user is guided through with a WalkMe or Pendo type experience. There can be guides for different demographics like children where you would find materials on things like childcare (daycares, nannies, au pairs, etc), schools, new parent groups, classes, camps, and more. Various Slack-like channels can provide ways for like-minded people to connect, engage, and message each other. It can also facilitate a local marketplace to buy/sell or gift items. Selling to local government is not the most fun buyer, but starting with affluent suburbs with slightly younger demographics should make monetization relatively straightforward and this would become an extremely sticky product.
3. YouTube for Furniture Assembly
You might associate ready-to-assemble furniture with IKEA but the history goes all the way back to 1859 with the Thonet No. 14 bentwood chair which was the world’s first mass-produced piece of furniture. It was a wild success selling over 50 million units between 1859 and 1930 (and continued to sell millions more in the decades following). In the 1950s, Swedish technician Gillis Lundgren created the concept of the furniture kit after struggling to transport a table in his car. He was the 4th employee at IKEA and discussed the concept with his boss which led to IKEA selling furniture kits that required self-assembly beginning in 1956. Today, the bulk of furniture for sale across nearly every store or marketplace requires assembly and there are entire companies and categories on platforms like Thumbtack or TaskRabbit (which was acquired by IKEA in 2017) devoted to supplying labor to assist with furniture assembly. Ready-to-assemble is already a $14B market and helps bring the price down and dramatically simplifies the shipping and logistics, but it brings with it a bunch of challenges related to quality, assembly, and user satisfaction.
If you’ve tried to assemble your own furniture in the recent past, you’ll know that the instructions are… lacking. Most consist of only cryptic pictures with drawings that make it extremely hard to tell which piece is which and what goes where. If you read reviews of most furniture items, you’ll see that the #1 topic of discussion is around assembly (mostly people complaining that it took 5 hours or was nearly impossible, etc). If you opt to hire a professional, you’re now paying $100+ on top of the cost of the item. Someone should create a high-quality YouTube channel that shows how to assemble thousands of the top selling ready-to-assemble pieces of furniture across a plethora of brands. Many videos exist but most are horrible quality, focused on IKEA furniture, and there is no single trusted place for all brands and types of furniture assembly. In addition to earning revenue from YouTube itself, the furniture companies would be highly incentivized to provide free furniture, sponsor these videos, and also drive traffic to them when consumers make a purchase as this will help improve their NPS (as well as improve their online reviews) and reduce the number of returns or requests for discounts.
That’s all for today! If you have thoughts, comments, or want to get in touch, find me on Twitter at @ezelby and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe and share with a friend or two!