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Clint Engel

FurnitureDealer.net promotes new business social network, DoBizBuzz

MINNEAPOLIS — FurnitureDealer.net has launched a new service - a home furnishings social and business network of sorts - designed to connect local retailers, sales representatives, suppliers and consumers and combat the sales inroads of pure e-commerce players.

DoBizBuzz The Furnishing Network features more than 1,000 interconnected local shopping websites, such as DresserDealers.com, SofaDealers.com, state dealer locator directories and single-dealer websites - rich with product catalogs, videos and details about local stores, their services and their products.

Andy Bernstein, founder of both FurnitureDealer.net and DoBizBuzz, said the network of websites is attracting more than 3 million consumer visits per month, even though it has only been soft launched.

Bernstein will be at the High Point Market this week talking to suppliers and retailers about how the free service will benefit them.

Users can sign up and link in to the site at http://dobizbuzz.com. The website has a video explaining the network, complete with warnings about the growth of e-commerce players at the expense of traditional furniture stores.

"This platform allows products and stores to get found locally when the consumer wants to shop at their convenience, 24 hours a day," Bernstein said.

"We maintain the product catalog. We take the responsibility of keeping it fresh by constantly updating the new introductions and by eliminating discontinued items from the network."

His retailer clients, he said, "believe that when customers pre-shop online before they buy, they are likely to buy with more confidence and ultimately be happier with their final selections."

Bernstein said the network was developed to drive business to local stores rather than to "virtual retailers that ship nationally."

Through the network, suppliers can control distribution in geographical markets. Retailers that display the products consumers are searching for will come up at the top of store locator lists. When retailers sell a product but don't necessarily display it, they will show up further down the list.

DoBizBuzz plans to add functions that will give suppliers the ability to enforce minimum-advertised-price policies and weed out retailers who sell online into territories beyond their physical store markets.

The service will rely on advertising to support its cost structure, Bernstein said.

Dealers and suppliers are offered free home pages on the network under a marketing program with the slogan "Homepages for Hometowns." The content, which can include videos and other features, will automatically be disseminated to all the other websites on the network where these dealers or suppliers are listed.

"It's like an adrenaline boost of marketing for the local retailer and their suppliers," said Joe Craddock, DoBizBuzz's chief technology officer.

He said the software and strategy for the network were under development for three years.

"We've made it so simple that a retailer can sign up and have their local store integrated on the network in less than five minutes," Craddock said. "Their brands, products, store information, advertising and much more are all published seamlessly into the network."

Just like with a social network, the connecting of dealers to suppliers and their catalogs requires agreement by both parties to participate, Bernstein said. He added that supplier representatives will have a central role in bringing the two parties together and controlling online local distribution.

Emerald Home Furnishings and Coaster were the first suppliers to launch on the network early this year.

In March, Bernstein attended Nationwide Marketing Group's PrimeTime Show in Orlando, Fla., where 200 or more retailers signed up. To date there are about 1,000 retailers on the network.

Bernstein said his main job during the High Point Market will be explaining to suppliers how this ramped up exposure will be good for everyone involved - suppliers, local retailers and consumers.

While consumers are still free to practice so-called showrooming - using mobile devices to find a better price online after visiting their local store for a demonstration - in the long run Bernstein said he believes the network will eliminate a "worldwide price war" by giving consumers all the information they need to research and then shop locally.

That would mean suppliers will no longer feel the need to extend their reach by selling to e-commerce companies that ship nationally, he said.

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