Designers rely on resilience, creativity, partners to succeed during pandemic
Interior designers are facing many challenges working through COVID-19, but they are relying on resilience, creativity and good partners to overcome, according to a survey recently conducted.
That all of the respondents said some portion of their business shifted online during the pandemic, and 30% said that between 50% and 100% of their business with clients was now conducted online.”
The survey asked designers to rate the importance of a wide range or support and tools they needed from manufacturers.
Ultimately, data illustrated that designers understand that, for many manufacturers, managing samples is tedious and time consuming. But on a scale of one to 10, “finish/color/fabric samples” rated a 9.2 with 70% of the respondents individually ranking it 10 out of 10.
In the open comments section of the survey, designers stressed the importance of samples even more.
“Physical samples for finishes, fabrics, etc. will always be important to us regardless of how much we do online,” wrote one designer.
Many designers also noted the need to have two sets of samples easily available.
“[I need] one set of samples to come to me and one set sent to the client/job site in one transaction. This allows for social distancing or, in my case, samples to another state while I remain in N.Y.,” said a designer respondent.
A surprising result from the survey was that virtual appointments with sales reps were ranked as the least-important tool on the list with an average rating of only six on the scale. In total, just 16% of respondents rated this as a 10 on the importance scale.
Outside of virtual appointments, the survey offers several opportunities to fill the void as 54% of those surveyed report that they plan to do more product research and sourcing online even after restrictions are lifted. But the challenge of communicating feel, depth, arm height and more outside of showroom is still a concern and was brought up several times by survey respondents.
In response to the problem, one designer brought up a unique idea relating to the hybrid needs of designers.
“I would love to see someone offer a ‘sit kit’ … (something) you could set out with tied springs that you could put different cushions on,” the designer wrote. “ Something compact that you could ship to clients or drop off for them to experiment with, or even have in our office for clients to try. We have no showrooms within an hour and half from where we are located, so clients having a concept of the feel of upholstery is often an issue.”
Another topic that was cited multiple times as a concern for designers was shipping. Most important to designers was that resources offer varied shipping options and capabilities that address social distancing. It averaged a 7.3 on the sliding scale of importance.
One designer summed up the sentiments of many of the respondents when she wrote that she needs “more drop ship/white glove shipping options. I tend to have an older clientele, and right now they are quite concerned about the virus. The less hands on an item (not going through the receiving warehouse/delivery), the more comfortable they feel.”
As for another side of shipping, that transparency is key. Speaking to this important element, one designer stressed the need for “honesty about supply chain disruptions and lead times.” Another specifically asked that suppliers “let us know when ship dates change rather than making us call and ask about it. Hopefully, that can be automated.”
The importance of transparency and communication came up in other areas of the survey, too.
“Do not be silent,” said one designer who had 50% of her business shift online. “If there is a shift of reps due to COVID, let us know. We are still placing orders, and there are lots of issues with back orders, what percentage of the company is working, what to expect with delays. We are still designing and servicing our clients, and it can be frustrating with delays especially when companies are not letting us know.”
In 2020, because COVID-19 has changed a lot of work, the coordination between CXD and designers is now more online communication. As for the sample and transportation issues mentioned in the article, CXD has been carefully cooperating in this regard and has been recognized by the designer.
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