A showroom is more than a space. E-commerce and the Amazon effect continue to give life to new ideas and experiences that previously were not available. From the looks of things, the world is headed in a direction where independent brands can distinguish themselves with unique offerings and appeal to new consumers with online shops. But what about physical retail locations?
There a lots of advantages to having a physical location. There is no lack of debate about it either. The goal of this article is to explore some of those advantages and to discuss some of our experiences, moving in to the ODU Innovation Center at the end of 2016. Startup life has lots of things to consider and there is no shortage of decision-making going around when starting a company. Let’s dive in.
- Get Physical. Offices get a lot of attention. Anyway you look at it there’s no getting around it. By opening a showroom we were able to show our customers our process and importantly, we help them fully experience our brand. The internet has a wonderful ability to connect people that are not in the same place. Physical locations still have the ability to make people feel at home and to see themselves in your product. If nothing else, prospects become aware of you and that’s all most small businesses are looking for, especially in the fashion industry.
Physical locations have been a place to draw out a brand’s creativity and soul. From the fixtures to the windows it all say something about the company. I learned that nothing is perfect when you start out. This dilemma keeps many on the sidelines but after all it is better to score 1 point instead of not scoring any points. The key is to be thoughtful and use the imagination. Being in a physical space inspires action.
- It seems to be an overlooked advantage to having a showroom but the reality is that you have the ability to develop brand and to enhance marketing efforts. I learned that content from offline can be a major asset when creating content for online. Online still influences what customers think about a company but it’s invaluable to use both channels together. It may be harder to see this idea if the company is very large with locations in every city or especially in saturated markets.
For a young company with goals to reach new customers, it has been great for us to have a place to call home. We point to a place on the map and invite customers to come in the doors. After all that’s what economic development is all about. Once customers know where you are you stay top of mind. I learned that this is a powerful way to be consumed. Having a visual picture of something can help us remember or even take action in ways that we just normally wouldn’t have if it was only in the digital world.
- Love Marketing. At HPC, marketing allows us to make new relationships that add value. By opening a showroom we gave our customers another point of contact to continue the relationship. It is something that compliments the e-commerce journey immensely. If we can give value to customers beyond a product wouldn’t it be a good thing? I started the company because there were not a lot of companies out there doing this. The 1:1 relationship makes a difference.
Whether it is lifestyle photos or interviews there are many ways to keep customers engaged. It might be simple but I learned that the more value a company gives the more it can grow. It comes down to effort as well. It is easy to debate and go back and forth about small details that might not make a difference in the big scheme of things. I learned to get past this and move ahead with the actual work. There is no other alternative to the outreach.
- Product Reviews. Getting good feedback is always nice. By opening our showroom I learned something that I could never learn online. You may not know this but each of our bags are made from recycled plastic and recycled billboards. This makes each bag different. When customers come to our showroom they usually pick up every bag that they want to see what “inside” they will get. This is another advantage to shopping our exclusive collection in person.
By inviting customers into the showroom I actually learned a lot more about the reaction to a unique lining. The exclusivity of every item is special and makes a relationship that only we can create for the customer. Seeing how that discovery happens and what it means to the customer is something that only could happen in a showroom. It’s a very magical moment.
- Give Experience. Experiences are more important. I learned about the upside to creating experiences that support a product. We work hard but we work harder to share the progress that we make without customers and fans. Experience and storytelling go hand in hand. So why stop there? Even thought it is a mobile first world and the internet is making more noise then ever some people still question the ROI. They see social media as something that is temporary or even lower on the value ladder “a waste of time”.
I learned that social media is not only the most important distribution outlet for us it is changing the trajectory of the company. When we started we didn’t have any online presence if you can believe that. Every time someone finds us for the first time it is a journey. We want to optimize that and make it better. Our showroom is a big milestone for the customer in that journey. Especially if they have seen us through social media posts or read about us in the press.
- Keep Designing. By opening a showroom I learned that each day we become better as a company. The showroom is a realization of that and opens us up to new opportunities each day. Making the “next design” is a lot easier when you can spread out your vision on foam boards and really flesh out all the possibilities. Showing it to others is how things actually get done.
We always wanted our design process to be physical. As we bring our new concepts into the world it’s nice that the showroom lets us test and see what customers think. I learned that design constraints are be lifted by having a space to design in. Not to mention prototyping, testing, iterating, etc can all be much easier when there is customer foot traffic to share ideas and receive feedback from.
- I’m big on energy and believe that it can be the determining factor for a lot of the success we have had. I work hard to keep our energy high and positive. There are lots of things to be thankful for but the customers that we have are why we do what we do. A simple idea to make a better bag at its core is about people. That’s why we do what we do. I learned that a cool idea is one thing and the people that support that cool idea is another.
We have aspirations to grow and the question is always how fast? I may have mentioned this before but patience is something that I learned a lot about. I used to get excited with the prospect of growing out of control. I think now I understand that growth is a choice. Putting the work in and being prudent will give longevity. Patience will help along the way.
Conclusion. In conclusion, there are many facets to running a business. Starting a business today is glamourized and elevated. The showroom that we have is a big step in the right direction. We have more exciting news for physical experiences in 2017. If you would like to visit our showroom we invite you to come see us at 501 Boush Street Suite B Norfolk, VA 23510, Monday – Friday, 11am – 6 pm. For more articles, updates, and more you can follow our journey at here.