How a Traditional Offline Business Built a Reliable Online Sales Channel: The Wishing Chair Story

Avneet Mann and Vivita Relan, Co-founders of The Wishing Chair

At present, India’s furniture and home decor market is handsomely lucrative, shaping up to be a 40 billion USD business by 2026. The market offers customers a variety of designs that cater to regional and global tastes of customers in India.

But this wasn’t the case back in 2012. Back then, the market was severely restricted in terms of product variety, and did not cater to customers looking for fresh and unique designs. And that’s exactly when two women in their twenties, Viv & Ami, decided to take a plunge in this industry and take things into their own hands by starting their decor business, The Wishing Chair.

But, what made them take this decision?

Did they always want to start a home decor business? Well no, Viv & Ami just wanted to start something of their own. Their ideas ranged from a foot massage business to a makeup franchise, settling on starting a restaurant or a lounge to create a safe space for women to hang out. While working on this idea, they fell in love with the design process instead.

The realisation of their love for decor coincided with the gap in the market for affordable handcrafted products. Call it destiny or pure luck, but their business idea, fueled with their decor passion, found its perfect place in the market.

So it began - Viv & Ami’s adventures with The Wishing Chair. No, there was no magical chair involved, but there was passion and the hope to create an inclusive, ‘happy place’.

The Wishing Chair is a homegrown, women-led business with an impressive Instagram following of 233k and counting. The business is completing a decade this year. We interviewed the founders, Vivita Relan & Avneet Mann, to learn how their self-funded decor brand went from being an offline crowd-puller to online success with Shopify.

Table of contents

How it began…

The Wishing Chair started their first offline store at a 1500-square-foot space in Shahpur Jat, Delhi. The positive response they received from their patrons enabled them to open their flagship store in Gurgaon, followed by three more stores by 2020.

Needless to say, The Wishing Chair was enjoying a great offline presence. Not only did they have five profitable stores, but they were also building a loyal community by offering incentivised referrals and a weekly newsletter called ‘The Delights of Distraction’.

The Wishing Chair store

Add to that, their epic experiential marketing efforts right from organised art workshops called ‘Crafternoons’, where their design team would teach creative activities, to the entertaining sales event called ‘A Spring Fling’ where upto 40 stores collaborated to engage with each other’s audiences. The offline efforts garnered the expected results - increased footfall and customer engagement.

Right when they had started expanding, in 2020, The pandemic hit, and brought a wave of uncertainty for offlines businesses across the board. Regulations changed faster than a week lasted, and offline stores were in a fix about whether they could open their stores or not. Many businesses had to rethink their existence and whether they could continue their work. The Wishing Chair had to shut down two of their five stores. And they, along with many others, had to adapt and adopt online as the way forward.

The Pivot to online

Though they had an online store since 2016, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that it became their focus area..

The founders recalled, "We had been facing a few issues with the website once in a while, since even before the pandemic. Back then, we didn’t really think much of it.. But that wasn’t the experience we could afford to give our customers if we wanted them to continue with us on our journey online.. We realised we needed a website we could rely on."

They were on the lookout for alternatives when their website developer recommended they try out Shopify.

Viv & Ami heeded their developer’s advice and moved to a Shopify store. Banking on a platform that did not let them down, they were able to increase their online sales from 10% to 50% in a relatively short time span. “Since moving to Shopify, we haven’t faced any downtime issues. And we’re now looking at redesigning and upgrading our online store with more features and tools through Shopify 2.0,” they shared.

So how can you transition from offline to online channels, like The Wishing Chair? Take a look at the key highlights from The Wishing Chair’s shift to online sales for cues.

5 key lessons to make your online business successful

Here are five key lessons that you can implement while transitioning to selling online:

1. Create your website on a reliable platform

It’s hard to imagine a flourishing online business without a credible website.

That’s why it’s essential to choose the right platform for your online business. Does that mean you’ll pick the perfect platform from the get-go? Maybe not. Consider The Wishing Chair, for instance.

When The Wishing Chair moved to Magento, the move was not effortless. But their website seemed to be doing okay. However, they soon realised that the website occasionally experienced technical hiccups and the costs were also higher than what they had initially budgeted.

“There were server failures from time to time, and there was not much we could do, especially if the site went down at night. But we didn't think much of it, because our offline business was doing so well”.

When the pandemic hit, they decided to take their online presence seriously. That’s when they moved to Shopify and The Wishing Chair hasn’t slowed down since then. Need inspiration for your Shopify store, take a look at our curated list of 50+ exceptional websites built on Shopify.

2. Quality is your bread and cake

The Wishing Chair Products

One of the reasons why The Wishing Chair stands out from other decor brands is its custom products. They are carefully handcrafted to embody the brand’s unique nature while giving a premium feel.

Product quality is paramount in your online selling journey. Your audience doesn’t have the luxury of checking the products in person and you’re not physically present to convince them to buy your products either.

Therefore, prioritise your product quality straight from day one.

Delivering quality products at the right price will get you the initial set of customers that will help you kick off sales and start your online journey. As you consistently maintain the quality, you will gain organic traffic via word of mouth recommendations and repeat customers, resulting in increased sales and the ability to further grow your brand and establish yourself as a reputable player.

You might wonder how the brand leveraged online word of mouth marketing to show off their products? Through social media! The Wishing Chair encouraged its audience to share their brand experience with the curated hashtag, #TWCMagic. This effort has been successful in getting them a major chunk of their sales.

The Wishing Chair's Instagram

Quality does not mean you have to do everything in-house from scratch. The Wishing Chair started with a self-funded, dropshipping model where they outsourced their production by carefully vetting vendors for quality. Later, when the business expanded, they built up the resources to create tailor-made products in-house. They currently have a nine-person team who source, merchandise and craft unique decor items you can only find on their online store.

Making quality products is no easy task, but creating quality products is where you have full control, building trust and repeat buys. So, use it to your advantage by delivering the best possible quality to your customers.

Learn more:

3. Connect with your audience

To connect with your target audience, you first have to capture their attention. This might seem difficult in the online world. So, how do you stand out and make your audience notice you with so many other brands online? You become a storyteller.

Well, not literally. The idea is to utilise storytelling to represent your brand mission and values. Figure out your brand’s “Why” so you’re more than just about ‘making profits’. Convey your core values and brand mission to your audience, and let them know how you will build your business around these values.

The Wishing Chair religiously abides by their values - ‘Handcrafted & Artisanal’, ‘Cruelty-free’, ‘Real and Relatable’ and ‘Small is Beautiful’. “We hold our values sacred, and would never compromise on them in pursuit of mindless growth,” they said. They publish weekly newsletters where they share their experiences and stories, and build a community of like-minded individuals.

Delights of Distraction by The Wishing Chair

#Pro Tip: Emails can be a great tool to connect with your audience and build a bond.

4. Don’t stick to one online sales channel

Your target audience could be dispersed on various social platforms and search engines. Do you think you could reach them just by having a website?

You are right, you cannot.

What you can do is to use external channels to publicise your brand, sell your products or direct the prospective customers to your website. There are a number of ways you can do this – embedded CTAs, API integrations, or by simply mentioning a shortened URL link (such as in your Instagram bio).

So, to become successful in your online business, establish your presence on multiple sales channels. We’re talking about multichannel ecommerce. Multichannel ecommerce allows you to list and sell your products on more than one online platform.

One of The Wishing Chair’s main sales generators is Instagram. They get 30% of their website traffic and 18% online revenue through their Instagram page.

Another contributor to their online revenue is selling on niche marketplaces like Jaypore, renowned for selling artisanal items and apparels. Online marketplaces are available a dime a dozen, but finding one that gives special attention to your category and gives a sweet commercial deal is what you should always look for.

#Pro Tip: Ensure that the sales platform you choose aligns with your brand and target demographic's preferences. If you're a beauty brand, you can't expect to find your audience on the Pepperfry marketplace, right?

Learn more:


5. Analyse the trends and adapt

A significant benefit of being an online business is that you can use digital tools to gather data about your target audience, and more importantly, analyse that data to gain insights that help you make better decisions.

You can analyse market trends, streamline inventory management, automate your marketing efforts and track your audience’s behaviour.

The Wishing Chair relied on Hotjar to track their audience behaviour on their Shopify store and improve conversions. With this tool, they are able to identify where their audience’s attention drops and collect feedback on their website through pop-ups.

Of course tools are not the only way. Old school still works. Make it a point to browse the internet for market trends and consumer behaviour reports regularly.

For example, The Wishing Chair noticed a consumer report by Accenture that highlighted that 57% of shoppers would switch brands if they didn’t offer fast and flexible delivery alternatives. And so, the Wishing Chair built up their capabilities and delivered seamless customer experience through hyperlocal delivery tie-ups, as well as a pan-India presence with an established partner.

Why go digital?

TWC's Christmas collaboration event

Vivita & Ami enjoy running a digital business because everything’s more rewarding and simpler—be it:

  1. Customer engagement
  2. Order fulfilment
  3. Inventory management, or
  4. Executing sales expansion strategies
  5. Sharper targeting

Need more reasons?

By 2025, there could be 220 million online shoppers in India. That’s a whopping 20% of our country’s population shopping online. That’s why establishing an online business isn’t just an afterthought anymore.

With the digital space allowing you a wider audience reach and automation tools to make everything easier, the question is - why shouldn’t you have an online business?

To set up your online store and make it a success like The Wishing Chair, start with a free trial on Shopify.

Make your online store a reliable sales channel

Your online store can be your main sales driver, just like it was for the The Wishing Chair

Do you want to create your own online store?