Listening and Engaging Leads to Innovation at Design Within Reach

Barney Beal, Former Content Director

June 21, 2016

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a regular series profiling NetSuite customers who are changing their markets through innovation. For more interviews in the series, visit the Profiles in Innovation(opens in new tab) landing page.

Design Within Reach makes authentic modern furniture accessible to the North American consumer. DWR brought classic designs that were formerly available only in Europe to the masses through retail locations in U.S. and Canada and its ecommerce website.

Bethany Kemp, VP of Technology and Information Systems at Design Within Reach, believes fostering a culture that values input from every customer, employee and partner enables the business to stand out in the marketplace.

“Courage, curiosity, and the ability to take advantage when you see the opportunity—and don’t wait to do that. Take that step as soon as you see the opportunity.”Bethany Kemp, VP of Technology and Information Systems, Design Within Reach

How is Design Within Reach uniquely positioned to innovate in the retail industry?

First and foremost, it’s about the product. Having the right product, iconic pieces, exclusive pieces, and a full assortment of product that we feel very passionate about. Secondly, it’s about our people. The account executives in our Studios are interior designers, they’re architects, they have a background that enables them to work with our clients to build a space, build a living environment. They’re not just selling you a sofa.

What characteristics does a company culture need to be innovative?

Courage, curiosity, and the ability to take advantage when you see the opportunity—and don’t wait to do that. Take that step as soon as you see the opportunity.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned when looking to enter and disrupt a market?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is not second-guess yourself, and then, maybe even more importantly, to listen and to ask a lot of questions. To listen, because whether it’s with your clients, or whether it’s with your employees, they’re sitting with and living with that, whatever scenario that is. They’re going to be able to provide you with so much information to give you those ideas for how to find the niche or find that one thing that’s going to differentiate you from the rest.

What’s a piece of advice you would give to a leader entrepreneur looking to innovate?

What I would say is, really two things. One: Don’t underestimate the importance of the people that you have around you. Take the time to really listen to what they’re saying and learn from their input. And two: Make sure everyone feels like they’re a part of what you’re trying to build. Whether it’s a call center representative, the CEO, or your customers, take the time to appreciate them. Listen and ask questions over and over again, so that you know you’re staying on the right track.

How will your company improve the online and/or in store customer experience this holiday season?

The holiday season is less of a big push for us. Our big sales spikes correspond with our sale events, but what we're trying to really focus on and create is giving our account executives a 360-degree view of the customer. If you walk into a DWR Studio, our goal is to help you with any question you have ­– from past purchases to general inquiries ­­– and to have every account executive, whether it's through our call center, our website or an in-person consultation, have that information ready.

How will the Internet of Things impact what retail will look like in the year 2020?

One example that could come into play for us might be having a desk chair tell you when it’s time for you to get up and take a break, or perhaps reminding you to improve on your posture. These types of implications for the furniture industry are really interesting.

Technology is going to be so seamlessly integrated into everything that we do as consumers that it’s not something you think about anymore. It’s something that’s just a part of your daily life, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.

Can you share a story about when you made a bold decision in your business, or a moment where you became uncomfortable with being uncomfortable?

I am in this position right now. We decided to take a really huge step and replace all of our backend systems. We chose to go with Salesforce and NetSuite and making that decision – to really move away from what we had been using for 10 years and switch to innovative cloud platforms of the future – was very difficult.

To learn more about innovation and the rapidly-changing landscape for business, download the white paper, The Physics of Business are Being Rewritten(opens in new tab).

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