I have been in this industry for more than 30 years now; I used to write for Builder/Architect magazine back in the day. A good friend of mine encouraged me to start writing about a year ago, and I thought how good it would be to pass along what I have learned to the next generation of luxury showroom persons.
Many wholesalers who have showrooms still don’t get the luxury showroom market and continue to operate on the wholesale business model. Things are changing fast and those who aren’t looking at changing with the future may not be in business. It is time to start looking at “reframing your showroom” to meet the changes that are happening.
COVID-19 is going to change the way all business operates in the future, and it is changing things already. In the first place, the coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy. It is also having a massive impact on the economy and business as we see it.
We all hope for everything to get back to normal as soon as possible. We especially want to put all the anxiety, fear, suffering and tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. That day will come, but the world and our luxury showrooms will not be the same as before.
This pandemic has already changed how we operate as a showroom. For instance, there have always been those in business who have worked remotely. We are now calling it “working from home.” In most cases, it was considered a secondary choice from “working in the office” because often it was seen as “slacking off.” Now that the tables are turned, suddenly, working from home is the mainstream choice.
Another change is in virtual or digital conferences. Businesses have been trying to push these since the mid-2000s, but they never caught on. Now, virtual consultations, training and meetings are all the rage because travel and large gatherings of people have been put to a halt.
Since there is no alternative, everyone is struggling to find out what works best. I think as time progresses, we will see the quality of online virtual conferences, training and meetings evolve.
Yet another change is that people who are allowed in your brick-and-mortar showroom are using the Internet more. In fact, our Internet use is up nearly 50 percent since COVID-19 became a pandemic, The Guardian notes (https://bit.ly/2zlJQg4).
The good news is that we can still reach our prospective customers online — they’re just looking in different places. Many showrooms see the importance to market their luxury showroom across multiple networks to help people find them.
Pushing the Curve
These changes I described have been as sudden as turning on a faucet or flicking on a light switch — it seemed to happen and become mainstream overnight. The world has changed dramatically in just the last few months. No matter how much we desire for things to return to how they were before, working from home, virtual conferences and multi-platform marketing have now become the new mainstream.
So, what we do with this information when the pandemic passes?
In business, it’s never good to just ride the curve. You need to be ahead of the curve or even better — pushing the curve! It means looking at what is happening and planning for the future. Sometimes it means you might need to take a risk.
About a year ago, Chris Bengtson, the COO of our company, was working with some marketing friends of his who were playing around with Matterport cameras. These cameras create 3D renderings of spaces; the most common application is in the real estate industry. We decided to have all three of our showrooms shot using these 3D cameras to give our customers 24/7 access to “walk through” our showrooms from the comfort of their homes.
Who knew this would be a fantastic tool not only on a regular basis, but also during a global pandemic? To my knowledge, we are the first luxury showroom in the industry to offer this feature. That’s what pushing the curve is.
As people are quarantined at home, some are thinking of the remodeling projects they want to do or contemplating the home they want to build. How are you getting ready for them?
While most showrooms have suspended walk-in traffic, you need to ask yourself — are you utilizing this time to re-do your showroom? If you have enough capital, maybe now is the time to do a showroom refresh, or at least put on a fresh coat of paint.
If budget is an issue, spend some time with your staff and do a walk-through, making a list of improvements you can tackle one at a time when things turn around. Are you prepping the showroom as if there is going to be a wedding when you re-open the doors?
Do you have your technology up to date — operating systems, website, social media, etc.? What about using the video conferencing technology platforms to work with your manufacturer reps who also are working from home to do some staff training? Did you know that video conferencing can be used to offer CEU courses to your interior design and architect clients as they spend time at home?
No matter what, now is not the time to sit back and wait to see what the rest of the world is going to do. Push the curve, be a trendsetter. If anything, COVID-19 has taught us that life is precious, and things can change on a dime. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be afraid to change with the times.
I hope everyone is well during this challenging time and taking all the necessary precautions. Wishing your health and safety.