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Alright, let’s duke it out: How to take business from clicks to bricks…..

….or “How to play together nicely”.

The supply chain in the interior design industry is long and winding, influenced not only by all parties that contribute to the final sale of a product but also by the seemingly endless array of business models that are involved. Business models that, in many cases are not well synched with the result being a tug of war between parties that, in essence, all have the same goal. To sell the product or, to a lesser degree in this discussion, a service.

So here we are in an economy that seems to wait for someone to make a move, any move, and no one seems to know where to start. I in no way propose to have the answers but not a day goes by when I don’t hear suggestions from various members of the aforementioned supply chain. A discussion on Twitter today prompts me to dig a little bit deeper and bring some of these parties to the proverbial table and hear what everyone has to say, because maybe there is a way to work together in (semi-) perfect harmony and actually create sensible business and marketing models that actually have at least one thing in common – the direction. The folks that started this today : Lee Nicholson aka @filmoreclark who owns a tile showroom in LA with focus on US made products; Brenda Slynn aka @brendaslynn, a kitchen designer; Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo aka @acbddesigns a stylist and host of #designtv and Stacey Garcia a kitchen designer and owner of Garcia Cabinet Makers in Huntington Beach, Ca all commented on the focus for consumers being price, price and price.

I agree with the concern about having to always have the lowest price or even be just plain cheap, but I think there are others forces at play here. Every entity involved in the process of selling a design related product or service has a certain goal, usually the SALE, but the paths that are taken to make that sale vary tremendously and are often counter productive.

Modenus sits at a bit of a hub in the industry in that we work with manufacturers, consumers, design professionals, distributors, trade shows, PR folks and so on and we hear lots of different view points, so maybe it’s time for everyone to talk.

Designers: What do you want or need to make your life easier? What do you need from manufacturers, distributors or retailers? What do you need from digital platforms like Modenus ?

Consumers: Is it all about price for you? How much does buying “green” play into your buying decision? How important is quality?

Manufacturers: What’s your ideal way to sell products? To the consumer? To the design pro? To a distributor?

Retailers: What do you want to see from manufacturers? And how do you like to work with designers ?

So let’s hear what you have to say and maybe we can come up with some answers – together!

  • http://twitter.com/dcoopsd Brandon Smith

    I’m going to keep my response short for the moment until I can really work on a proper response.  Certainly price is always of the essence (unless you’re a sheik or a Lord of something or other) but it isn’t always the answer.  Before validating this argument you really have to determine what kind of client you’re working with.  Is this a client who would rather spend twelve hours online researching the cheapest alternatives or is this an educated client that understands that price is not the only factor in a product selection.

    Of course most of the clients out there are of the “OMG that is so expensive even though we’ll never have to buy one for the duration of our lives” mentality and as a designer I get giddy when I hear say someone say “I just want it perfect; I’m not concerned about the cost”.

  • http://twitter.com/filmoreclark Lee Harris Nicholson

    Love that you started this discussion as it is crucial that we all communicate openly to make it work for all parties involved. When one link fails it just falls apart.
    As a showroom I appreciate all levels of budget from the smallest remodel to the largest new construction. If given the chance to have an open discussion on budget it makes the whole process easier from the start. We are able to manage expectations and save lots of valuable time. In this economy most sales come down to price so that is the right place to start it seems. Why avoid the issue in the beginning only to have it be the elephant in the room later on? I have had many meetings where budget is either taboo or not discussed to find that after weeks of sampling mid to high range tile the budget only allows for more economical tile. Why?

  • http://twitter.com/pickettfurnitur Pickett Furniture

    I suspect I lose a fair amount of clients because one of the first things I tell them is that I will never be the least expensive bid. We pay our workers above average wages, source the best materials (often driving several states away to hand pick the wood myself) available, and hire the best (environmentally safe/no voc) finishers available. Oh, we also meet or exceed every deadline. This type of service costs and it’s not something we feel comfortable sacrificing in order to make a sale. Certain clients seeks us out for this, and we love working with them.

    But 80% of clients are looking at the bottom line. And similar products to ours are readily available for less money. But I feel pretty comfortable, those products are not produced with the same standards as ours.

    A similar conversation is happening right now on Apartment Therapy in their post of a meetup recap on knockoffs. Interestingly, most of the commenters are consumers and all of them say price is the #1 factor when purchasing furniture.

  • http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com Paul Anater

    I love Lee’s suggestion that customers be upfront about budgets. A lot of people have the mistaken idea that holding onto a total budget number is some kind of a master trump card. There is always a good-better-best, always and there’s nothing worse than losing a customer over price. Sometimes that’s inevitable but as often as not relative expense is a perception rather than a reality. One of the best services site like Modenus can deliver is to help set customers’ expectations by explaining relative costs.

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    I totally agree with what you’re saying about budget discussion up front, it’s just not a market for going over budget, not that there ever was a market for that. I also think that it’s very important for designers and showrooms to really, slowly and precisely demonstrate their value proposition. I say slowly without being condescending. Design and remodeling are confusing and stressful and buyers don’t take the time to hear what you’re saying. So being very specific about not just being “the store” but also the project manager, designer, installer, person who handles things that go wrong – you get the idea – is very important. I find that design pros often play that down. Thing is a vendor or designer, you HAVE to be in control of the conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/filmoreclark Lee Harris Nicholson

    So agree! I see so many clients that are scared and/or frustrated with the process. Take time to educate and listen to the client. I truly think a caring discussion reveals wonderful options.

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    Interesting point Paul about setting expectations, first we have to fight every weekend warrior show ever created since those have a lot to do with irrational expectations. :)

    Here’s what I struggle with. At Modenus, we allow the manufacturer to realize essentially any biz model. They can be trade-only, one specific country only, direct traffic to their website or to e-comm or to brick and mortar. We’re not here to dictate we want to facilitate. BUT so many don’t take advantage of what we offer, don’t want to show “where to buy” sources but rather want all traffic to come back to them. Which is fine in theory but web works with short attention span. So someone finds the perfect product on Modenus, all the info, pricing included can be there, they LOVE IT, now we send them to the manufacturer website where they have to search all over again? Why? We’re a comprehensive platform to avoid that, to send people straight to the place where they can buy.

    So one of my questions to people like @filmoreclark is, how about we make the connection to the product line from your end, as a showroom/retailer? Thoughts on that? We want to help find solutions that work even if we have to ruffle a few feathers.

  • http://twitter.com/dcoopsd Brandon Smith

    One of the big things I like to do with my clients very early on in the process is determine exactly what is most important in the project.  From that point we budget accordingly.  I had the privilege of finishing a kitchen/family room/dining room remodel that priced roughly around $60,000.  Not a small number mind you but a serious investment for the client and he was very concerned with cost.  In those initial stages we determined that maintenance of his counters and his faucet were the two single most important items to him.  The result is that we indulged on hand fabricated stainless steel counter tops (with a price of about $5500) and a $450 faucet. The result was that we needed to be more conscious of other decisions which led to using non-custom cabinetry and searching for deals (Bosch had a serious rebate going on at the time).

    Ok so where was I going with that. Oh yeah.  That big bad elephant in the room, the budget, is a huge item to get out of the way.  As Lee mentioned, you’d hate to waste everyone’s time looking at hand painted tile crafted by monks on top of a Tebetian hillside when the client can barely afford white 3×6 subway tile from Home Depot. 

    BUT… with that in mind, it is the designer’s duty to do their due diligence up front to ensure that no one’s time is wasted and the project is headed in the right direction.

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    Exactly. And it’s what we’re all doing in Social Media. Its not about reaching millions it’s about connecting with individuals and building relationships. It’s tedious. Time consuming and at the moment hard to monetize but a huge leg up when things stabilize a bit.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisShowroom ChristophersShowroom

    I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this now for a couple of hrs and from all angles. I can see where manufacturers may be taking the safe opt out back to them as it bounces clients from there and they don’t have to choose where to send the puchasing client. From the other side those of us who carry these lines would love to have the clientele directed back to us, the ones in the trenches representing their lines. 
     From Modenus’ position it does have a presumable end for the interested client to ultimately be directed to a place of purchase. That’s kinda what everyone wants right?
    That said it makes sense to make things easier, cutting steps if possible and get the client to the product for purchase. Unfortunately I can see for each user as well as product, this may have a whole variety of ways, so again the listing manufacturer or product has to establish that up front, where to send their leads?
    Each Manufacturer has already established means of distribution, some may be growing, others may still being established etc, but they should know how they want their products to flow in their supply chain so really the question is why aren’t they willing to make that more public on Modenus’ comprehensive trade paltform?
    All they’d have to do is have the little enter your zip code to find the nearest ” dealer, supplier, trade partner, displaying showroom” whatever?
    And why not list a couple of the nearest choices?

    I think it does make alot of sense to have pricing shown with their product, this can save alot of time and direct the serious clients forward. Wherever forward is?  

  • http://designkula.com Corey Klassen

    Well, now that the preverbal door is open here, clients do not purchase based upon price, they purchase based upon emotion – but that’s not for here. 1) faster estimating process 2) ACCURATE one page specifications with complete dimensions and mechanical (enough with the installation guides, they’re useless to me) 3) Photographs and detail shots for inspiration boards and cut-sheets.

    I can sell an igloo interior to a Floridian, I can’t support inaccurate documentation.

  • http://twitter.com/NicoYektai Nico Yektai

    I am one of those who is looking for a Lord or a Sheik!  Well sort of.  I design and make one of a kind pieces of furniture and my best clients are those who have already decided that they need a standout piece regardless of price.  I have been showing and selling through art galleries for years.  I live in the Hamptons so there is ample local possibility for me.  I branched out three years ago and started doing shows to boost my national presence and to increase awareness of my work with designers.
    I dont publish my prices on the web because i would rather have an exchange with a prospective client than have prices chase them away right off the bat.  If I ever decide to pursue limited production I have a bunch of contacts that I know are interested in my work at a lower price.

    My push out of the NY area included increased attention to my web presence.  I am always on the look out for sites that will increase my exposure, generate traffic and at the very least give me a solid back link to bolster my own SEO efforts.  Modenus has not produced much traffic to my site but it does serve me well on all other points.  I really like everything about the way that Modenus is structured from the galleries to the price structure for being featured in the newsletter etc.  I wouldn’t mind getting a report via email on the number of views that my products get (sort of like a facebook fan page stats reports I get once a week).  It may help me and other small artisans make the transition to being a paid member.  It also would encourage me to promote my listing on Modenus as part of my other online efforts.  I like to see the results and for some reason i dont use the stats feature in my profile.  I had forgotten about it.  The weekly report could encourage us all to help promote the site benefitting all of us.   

  • http://www.inclinedesign.info CASUDI

    This is an important post.

    My clients are perhaps not very typical as their focus is on “value”, which of course can mean the lowest price! Any help I can get in educating clients on the value of the product whether online resources like Modenus, retailers or manufacturers is extremely helpful. Let me show this with an example of something which happened to me earlier this week when I went for a pedicure/manicure and the two cute Asian girls working on me admired my Eric Javits hat (not a red one). They asked how much it cost and when I replied $200 but it really was cheap, they near died! I explained I often kept my hats for 10 years, so this means $20 per year = really cheap. They got it. Do you see a connection with educating the client on LED lighting? You are selling value and excellent or best value can equal the lowest price. Does this make sense?

    My biggest issue when searching online is fast access to dimension (in inches and centimeters)

    BTW as a a consumer I AM a value shopper ~ O, I guess you gathered that!

    PS: lots of really good comments have appeared since I read your post yesterday. Great contributions…..

    CASUDI

  • http://twitter.com/cabinetmakers Garcia Cabinetmakers

    This is a great discussion. Thank you Veronika.  I find that even after having a prospective client discussion on budget, their project goals and quality issues, they often don’t really know what they want.  They might start out wanting very detailed cabinetry but end up wanting something different. We are a custom cabinet shop.  Prices can vary considerably between materials and detailing.  Being a good communicator is critical in our business in so many ways. A kitchen sale is complicated and can go wrong at many junctures.  We understand that price is an important component of the sale but it is only one of many important factors. 

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisShowroom ChristophersShowroom

    have you seen the Apt’s advertising the banners on the highway for $1000 Ikea gift cards for signup? WE know the quality isn’t there and most of our businesses aren’t catering to that market, but perception is, with decent design and mass mailings with a magnificient advertising budget quality must exist..? it does have some impact for those of us hitting middle income buyers.

  • http://home-decorating-makeovers.com/ Jennifer Duchene

    Love that you brought this to the table Veronika.. Such a complex situation.  Most clients need more education to understand exactly why they need a designer. When they have not had the experience of how much a designer saves them they can baulk at the hourly rate. Quality or life span are difficult to appreciate without education. 
    Many designers have traditionally not charged an hourly, instead making profit on selling product. Now clients can buy product directly from the wholesaler/ manufacturer etc and the big box stores are offering free design services.
    So designers need to evolve. 
    To be a designer requires many skills. It is a complex job that many people put down thinking its about fluffing pillows.

    Consumers need to know what they are paying for.  Clients need to appreciate what a designer brings to the table.  and Designers need to understand what the client is looking for.  Knowing the budget up front will save time and money. Having that conversation is so important. Giving people choices to build a space over time. Or offering options that wont break the bank.  Educating people that the room does not need to be filled all at once. It can be built in layers if necessary.

    People do not typically distinguish quality without having that conversation with someone in the design industry.  There seems to be a gap in understanding that quality is worth paying for. A lousy sofa for $1,200.00 as apposed to a decent one at say $4,000.00 (examples) surely over 10- 15 years the more expensive quality sofa will be a better investment. 

    Design shows on tv typically don’t address labor or professional services.  Somehow that is always assumed to be free.   I think the American model has educated many people to think paying retail is a bad thing.  The result is a lot of cheap items that break and land in landfill.  Focusing on quality and educating people on the value of an item over its life span, and letting them know which items are worth splurging on and where to cut corners would help. So would reducing consumerism for its own sake. 

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    Excellent idea Nico, I’ve read this and added it to our development list right away. We can see Modenus working in a number of ways depending on the brand and our experience in this hopefully benefits the designer/manufacturer.
    For instance some brands on the site need only a large product mix. They may list 100-200 products and do very well. Others do well with a fairly small product mix but may need to be in our newsletter to get more attention or we have to send some editorial and advertorial love their way.
    It depends often on whether the brand is a well known one or a smaller brand that has a story to tell.
    In your case @nicoyektai:disqus I’d think we would want to 1. show more products, 2. be in the newsletter on a regular basis and 3. create a manufacturer spotlight in the blog which is what’s in our designer/maker listing anyway.
    While you consider that, definitely add more products, you know you CAN list more than 5 right?

    Thanks for your input, love it.

    Oh, do you offer trade pricing? Are you indicating that on your listing?

    And final question, where will you be showing next?

  • http://twitter.com/NicoYektai Nico Yektai

    Thanks Veronika.  I did not know that I could list more than 5!  Thanks for this discussion and thanks for using your position at the center of our industry for good!  Great discussion

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    @JenniferDuchene:disqus great comments and something I want to try and share with our Twitter communities as well since it hits the mark “filling landfills”. What I also wondered about is your interaction with suppliers and manufacturers. See, to me, the interaction and conversation you mention is VERY PERSONAL.

    Here’s our issue on Modenus. We list products. Consumers and trade come to see them and, provided we have enough product specific information they can make an educated decision about the product, so now they have to get in touch with someone who can turn this interest into a sale.
    Now as @nicoyektai:disqus  as said above, he wants people to call him, cool, because he’s the best person to make that sale. Other manufacturers may re-direct to their website which to me is dangerous because they’re forcing the client to do double work.

    What I would like to see on Modenus is a listing of designers, retailers and showrooms that carry a line so that a consumer has a choice to engage with whomever they’re more comfortable with.
    In practice this doesn’t work because manufacturers want control over who gets the sale – you see the predicament on that end?

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    I just noticed there’s a whole slew of great comments about the relationship between designer, retailer and supplier on ASID Industry partners group on Linked In.

    Here’s one comment that hit home, what do you think?

    Renee Beerck •

    I would love to see our supplier keep their
    pricing to the trade only and stop selling to internet companies that
    are selling at almost cost. When our suppliers do this makes our jobs
    hard to make any profitt and stay in business. This is a big problem
    and we as a group should stand together. I have talk to the reps of the
    companies that do this and I use as little as possible.

  • http://twitter.com/kbtribechat Kitchen & Bath Chat

    We are going to continue this discussion on Twitter at #kbtribechat this Wednesday (8/24) from 2-3pm eastern time.  Please join us ~ and spread the word.  Our TOPIC: Clicks to Bricks – Can we make it happen?

  • http://www.modenus.com Veronika Miller

    I wanted to share another great post that came to me via facebook:
    Excellent analogy and very much in going with what @CASUDI:disqus said:

    Christopher Ardrey I’ve
    said for yrs manufacturers should brand differentiate, as Masco started
    out with Peerless, then Delta, then Their Numerous highend endeavors
    from Epic, to Artistic Brass to Brizo and keep them in their rightful
    places. Develope product lines that
    encompass ea group. But then Greed and Ego takes over. Would Bentley
    stand for their Automobiles to be shown, listed & sold via the
    internet at 55% off? Extremely doubtful. Better yet would the Bentley
    Dealer with a showroom, Auto’s on the floor, advertising, employees,
    with all their overhead for one second stand by and allow yet? Yet how
    many of the higher end Plbg lines like to equate themselves to being on
    par with say Bentley Autoworks? Well, then they should act like it and
    support their supporting cast of dealer networks and offer support
    instead of allowing us to be chopped off at the knees as they stare
    blankly the other way. Now’s the time they should boldly address it, one
    way or the other before they find they’ve diluted their brand and
    alienated all of us in the industry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/terry.babij Terry Babij

    We are in the fashion business and we cannot design product for a season or two. Many of our popular items have been active for years! Clothiers want you to be updated several times a year. As a supplier of decorative hardware we may touch people a few times in their life time. So our focus is to connect and let the designers and specifiers know what Berenson can do help them make hardware selection easier. Working through distributors and select showrooms help put product closer to the need.

    I work hard connecting and nurturing the contacts I develop to make it easy and add value to our channel.

  • http://twitter.com/TALV58 Todd Vendituoli

    I have been following this as it has gone along and these are my observations and thoughts. It seems that there needs to be a new way to present to the consumer and that the supply chain needs to be updated. Modenus provides a valuable service to a wide range of people from potential clients on up.
    Now there seems to be a kink in how the information is spread out along the way and that needs to be changed for the age we live in.
    This is what I see needing to be happening:
    I see an item on Modenus:
    I click on item- a new page comes up and gives me options to click on:
    1.Find ______________ locally by zip code and gives a list- click on one of your choices or
    2. Find more info on- click and there is information from Manufacturer etc or

    3. click for pricing- price comes up or

    4. buy now- click and get internet source or local- click your choice and order or

    5. send email to- choices come up -click and write
    These are just suggestions and there are probably more.

    Everything needs to be only a click away or people will move on. Think of how you view things on the internet.  If you HAVE to send an e-mail to get info its not going to work. Instant info is the name of the game and therefore a new co-operation between all parties has to be implemented including manufacturers, retailers, designers etc
    The whole plan has to be based on the needs of the consumer not just the single manufacturer or retailer etc. The consumer has the voting power and that is their money.  Everyone needs to work together in order to make the experience easy and pleasurable for the consumer. Do that and and there will be a successful outcome.

     Does all of this happen now? I don’t believe so.
    Is there a solution? Yes but all the parties will have to work together so that clicks get turned to bricks.
    Just my thoughts and I’m sure some will disagree and if it opens up the topic then great!

  • http://www.mactonweb.com/web-design-company-united-kingdom.html web design london

    Excellent idea Nico, I’ve read this and added it to our development list right away. We can see Modenus working in a number of ways depending on the brand and our experience in this hopefully benefits the designer/manufacturer. 

 

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