Selling interior design services in the 2020s
Friday, September 27, 2019
Two inevitable trends will transform the interior design industry in the coming decade. One is the rise of the millennial client. The other is the maturing of e-commerce.
These trends are inextricably linked. Designers who want to remain competitive in this changing market will need to innovate their marketing and business processes to attract and retain these clients.
During the next decade, millennials will enter their 30s and 40s, gradually replacing baby boomers as the primary clients for interior design services as they buy homes and establish businesses. Although they currently make up a relatively small fraction of interior design clients, their numbers have been growing in recent years.
They have a high appreciation for good design and want to occupy spaces customized for their tastes and preferences. They also are looking for efficient and stylish ways to integrate smart technologies into those spaces.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, more than 9 in 10 millennials own one or more smart devices, and 1 in 5 only use smart devices to go online.
They are the heaviest users of social media and e-commerce. About 6 in 10 do the majority of their shopping online rather than in stores, and smart devices are their preferred tool for online shopping.
Mobile devices also are millennials tool of choice for communication. That’s because texting, instant messaging, and online chatting are their preferred forms of communication. They tend to use email sparingly and abhor transactional telephone conversations.
What do these trends mean for interior designers?
For one, it means that more prospective clients in the future will search for a designer online and evaluate designers by what they find there. That search is likely to be limited. Consider this statistic: 70% of mobile searches result in a purchase decision in less than an hour.
While hiring a designer is not the same as buying a pair of shoes, millennial clients will be expecting a fairly similar e-commerce experience. That is to say they will be looking for clear information about what services the designer provides and what they cost.
They will be interested in reading unbiased reviews from previous clients. They will want to be able to text the design firm with any questions and get a quick response. They will want a simple electronic billing and payment system to handle financial transactions related to their project.
Most designers today already have websites, online portfolios and social media presence to promote themselves. But they need to do more on the business end to prepare for this new type of client. Millennial designer Erinn Valencich told attendees at this year’s DFA E-Commerce Summit that digitally-oriented clients are frustrated by broken processes and lack of transparency and efficiency in design today.
She recommends designers and vendors streamline their offerings, provide detailed but easily digestible information about their products and services and implement processes that save clients time.
In addition, as smart devices become more powerful and sophisticated, more businesses will be using technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to showcase their offerings and provide high quality experiences to customers. Designers need to become familiar with those technologies and stay up-to-date on developments that will make them more available.
This transition is not going to take place overnight. Designers have ample time to make the needed changes to engage this new client. For those who aren’t comfortable with the technology, remember that some millennials are designers, too. You might want to think about hiring or partnering with a tech-savvy millennial as a first step toward moving your business into the next decade.
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