Designers, Don't Play Hard to Get!
Since the rise of the internet and the ease of shopping online, the design industry has been searching for new ways to effectively work with customers and continue to be profitable. In the golden age of decorating, you had exclusive access to a slew of designer-only retail shops set up to serve you. You’d grab your customer and take them on a shopping spree through the city; the experience of special access you provided plus the closed system of designer pricing nearly guaranteed you 30-50% profits on your clients’ furniture purchasing. Now, clients can find “everything they’d ever want” without getting dressed or leaving their sofa. It’s even harder to make a profit, as the vendors no longer need an army of interior designers to sell their products. Of course, some vendors - mostly the high-end and specialty manufacturers - resisted this change for years. However, as the customer used to a high-touch level of service has largely retired and settled in their established homes, the next wave of designer clientele has risen up and demanded simple interactions and clear prices. These market forces have also been accelerated by several years due to the pandemic. As a result, finding even those “exclusive” brands available for purchase online is a simple process for you and your customers. Does this mean you’ll have even less opportunity for profit as a designer? Fortunately, likely no.
Even though the interior design market did experience some floundering in recent years under these competitive conditions, newopportunities are emerging that let you make your business operations simpler and re-establish your profits. Communication tools like Google Meet make video communication from anywhere free and easy. Design tools like DesignFiles make it simple to convey your vision. And Sourcing tools like Daniel House Club make it possible for you to recommend and be profitable on your clients’ online purchases. All of this allows you to spend less time running around town, managing spreadsheets of purchasing and tracking shipping information.
When markets shift rapidly it can be disorienting. There is always a temptation to ignore changes and keep plodding along the way you always have. If you have robust systems, solid vendor relationships, and a long pipeline of customers, you may be fine for a while. Still, customer demands and preferences shift very
quickly and continually getting ahead of them- even when you’re currently successful- is key to sustained growth. Most changes that help improve your business today are reasonably simple to implement. The primary goal is clarity on what it means to do business with you.
This has been miscommunicated for years as transparency. Restoration Hardware doesn’t tell its customers how much their furniture costs them to buy, and their customers don’t expect they should. Your customers don’t either. RH, does, however, make it very clear what it looks like to complete a transaction with them. This is what you need to do, too. A potential client should be able to arrive on your website or hold a conversation with you and very quickly ascertain the process of working with you, and the cost. Pricing clarity is one of the most significant elements of a customer choosing to purchase a product or service. If posting your pricing online makes you nervous, at the very least, consider sharing real-life examples. Perhaps below a photograph of a project you worked on say, “I spent 65 hours, at $100/hour, designing this 600 square foot living space. The customer spent $18,000 on furniture. For a comparable space, you should expect to spend $34,500.” If you can go beyond this and share your price per room or per square foot, even better. A customer is coming to your website with the same expectations they come to every website: if they don’t know how to work with you in three seconds, they’re leaving.
Once you obtain one of these internet savvy customers, it’s imperative that you stick to your systems. They’re not necessarily unreasonable, but the whole consumer world they know is Amazon-based, which is to say: very, very easy and quick to work with. Yes, aspects of that are challenging for designers, but be clear about that, too. You can say, “This is not a quick and cheap process. We’ll make hundreds of decisions together and you’re going to have to spend more money than you may be accustomed. But, you’ll love the result.” Remember, the price isn’t scary (these people spend $12 on toast). But, not knowing what they’re getting into is terrifying.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Daniel House Club can help you serve these e-commerce-centric customers. We’re a great resource for a traditional designer simply because it’s easy to shop so many vendors at once. And, we offer even more value when you use our site with your customers. You can create boards and carts organized by rooms and these can act as virtual shopping lists when you send them to your clients. All they have to do is lay back on their sofa and explore everything you chose for their project. When they’re ready to purchase, they can complete the transaction right away. You’ll get paid (up to 50%) on everything they buy, and we’ll handle all the shipping logistics.
Our goal truly is to bring back the golden age of decorating by leaning into online tools. We allow you to meet your client right where they are, offer them the tremendous value of ease, and improve your profitability. Even more importantly, we make it simple for you to offer your customer clarity in the otherwise murky world of interior design. They will love you for this clarity. Figure out how to provide it and you’ll never play hard to get again.