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Italian design furniture taps the web for sales and innovation

office chair

Until 2011 online sales in the sector of Italian design furniture were worth less than 1% of all purchases over the Internet, but last year the incidence has doubled. And for the Politecnico di Milano  in recent months  the sites that offer home decor products and office furniture have multiplied.

Without a doubt, the web is less expensive. It’s promising for Made in Italy office and home furniture: a channel with which to reach new customers and new markets. The only viable if you do not have budget to spend between millionaires fairs and marketing. In recent months, manufacturers and designers seem to understand, as revealed by the data on e- commerce at the Milan Polytechnic. “In recent months we have multiplied the sites that offer home decor products,” says Valentina Pontiggia, a researcher at the Centre and the Polytechnic University of Milan – commerce.

The most popular model is that of flash sales. Limited offers, at a significant discount on stock that big brands want to dispose of. Dalani ( ), a community of online shopping, is accessed by invitation only Open to all instead Lovethesign ( ), a site which from November until now scored a million hits. ” We are leaders in Italy for variety of catalog : over 5 thousand products of 200 companies,” says the 32 year-old Simone Panfilo, co-founder. Known brands such as Foscarini lamps and creations of artisans, as the tables of the woodwork Venetian Bortolato : the furnishings are offered in time with discounts up to 60%, or at list price in the catalog permanently. ” We treat the selection, only one in ten of those which we examine is involved,” he continues. ” We want to be, for quality, the next step to Ikea.” A startup that convinces the lenders: Lovethesign has just raised one million euro from United Ventures, which it uses to launch abroad.

The Internet as a sales channel, then. Others, however, are betting that the web can revolutionize the entire production process, for example by a dialogue between young designers and craftsmen. Formabilio ( ) is an idea of Maria Grazia Andali, 36, and her husband, Andrea Carbone, 37: ” A real company, with its own brand,” she explained. Notably, though : the projects are collected through themed competitions online and voted on by the creative community. The production, then, is carried out by small craft.  At the moment, there are four supply agreements, 67 thousand designers enrolled in the community, mostly young talents : the one who wins a contest is paid 7% of the selling price. That happens only online : “After the summer we get to about 40 furniture, with a tab on the designer and manufacturer Company.” And in September 2013 will start the activity of SlowD ( ), a startup that will offer  ” zero kilometer ” furniture. A widespread factory : the designers designs, the user buys online, the order is assigned to the artisan closest to him.

Attempts to enhance the heritage crafts typical of Made in Italy. A value that the Internet is likely to conceal, but also allows you to communicate in innovative ways. Just look at the videos made in the workshops by creative Italian company ( ), which reactivates brand and sells Italian excellence in danger of extinction. From copper to Trentino lightweight chair of Chiavari, “A Slow Food design “, summarizes the Milanese architect Alberto Nespoli, one of the founders. “Let us forget productions and with the help of craftsmen update.” The products are all customizable, the target high, the turnover 90 million Euros. On the site you will discover the stories of objects, which can be ordered directly through the portal or at the store. “The process of purchase is now multi-purpose, explains Mr. Pontiggia – the integration between online and offline leads to new sales strategies.”

“For us it is a tool able to connect new customers and internationally,” says Diego Paccagnella, 36, creator of Design- Apart ( design – ), living showroom of Made in Italy furniture, which will open in September in Manhattan. Living, because Paccagnella will dwell there for a year with his wife and son, presenting the furniture in a daily context. ” “Online you can buy items of the collections base, but the one on which we focus are the custom-made furniture, to be developed together with the customer. The site will help create the community, valuing our history and that of the company.”

Some  younger and innovative manufacturers also try to tap the web on their own. Filippo Berto, 36, is the owner of the company Brianzola Sofas. It’s online since 1999, then came the blog, Facebook page and e-commerce, ” Worth 20 % of sales, about € 4 million per year,” he says. ” But the web has helped us above all to communicate our story and our territory, building a deeper relationship with our customers.” To which the whole company had to adjust, ” On the net you promise transparency,” he concludes. ” Then you can not back out, you need to fulfill your promises.”


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