I featured client, Villa Interiors in an article about the move online for Giftrap Magazine:
Villa Interiors, owner and Creative Director Rosemary Devlin, is a retailer not afraid to make whatever changes need to be made to her business in order to survive and grow in the ever changing retail environment. The Furniture Retailer has been in retail enough to know that successful retailers must change and evolve or perish.
A few years ago, she opened a second store in Crows Nest and eventually closed her Paddington store and concentrated her energy and resources on the one store. She built a thriving business with a loyal and growing following.
Recognising the change in consumer behavior and spending, over the past 18 months she has diversified her product offering to include more decor and gift lines to compliment her big ticket items.
Villa Interiors has had a computer in store and use email to communicate internally and with customers for many years, they are adopters by nature.
Rosemary recognised and observed the move online and researched selling furniture online, no mean feat! She recognised that an online presence: website, online store, social media, was going to be the norm and what customers would be expecting of all retailers. Rosemary also knew that having a physical store and a real life presence would be her point of difference with the many online stores that had popped up.
After a false start with a web developer, Rosemary attended my retail seminars and we started to work together to design her move online.
“I know what my strengths are and what they aren’t. It was important for me that we did this properly and without mistakes. I have seen so many websites that aren’t set up properly and seem to be missing something and I wanted mine to be spot on because that is how I run my store and my business”, says Rosemary.
The use of the word design is deliberate. Rosemary knew that she wanted to have an online store, informative website, regular email communication with customers and a social media presence, what she didn’t know was how or where to start.
We began by working on a Marketing Strategy; nothing would happen before we determined the objectives, language and strategy for the move online and integration with the offline store. The strategy defined the steps that would be taken and what needed to be done before we typed one word online.
I created a Facebook page, a twitter account, setup a foursquare location and Google places page. On Facebook, we began talking about the website development so as to build anticipation. It is important to reserve the URLs (web addresses) that are consistent before beginning to build online – even if they are not populated.
The website was mapped out and the pages determines based on the in-store shopping experience. The design, layout and aesthetic are very important online and this took a bit of time to get right.
The biggest job was ahead of us; putting the ranging information together. Furniture stores are complicated; one product comes in various sizes, materials, custom options. Understanding this complexity helped determine how we set up the online store.
We used WordPress to set up the website and chose the WP E-Commerce cart as we could customize it to suite our requirements. Loading the product has taken a looooooong time as it is being done in between running and managing a busy store.
Customers had been asking about a website for quite a while and staff were pushing for one too. So the support has been great. Interestingly out customers are definitely more comfortable visiting the website and are not social media users as can be seen from the data. This is a great opportunity for the business.
We started the email campaigns once we had loaded about 50% of the product and let them know we were online. “We were very careful to let people know we were online and were adding products to the store every day and encourage them to come into the store and view the extended range and fabric library.
At the moment, the in-store team are showing customers the website on the computer in store. Rosemary will be introducing iPads for the staff to use while they are serving customers. The tablets will be used to easily browse colour and customisation options that were previously done with a thick and heavy catalogue. They will also use the tablets to take customers details and requirements as they go rather than having to enter it after the customer leaves the store which is much more efficient.
When not in use the iPads will be set to screen saver, flipping though pictures loaded from the website and in store. They are such a great tool and this is only the tip of the iceberg for integration in-store.
Rosemary used her iPhone to check into the online activity as well as emails and store communication. In-store the phone is used to photograph stock for online as well as sending pictures to customers who may call or have been in store – a picture tells a thousand words!
Villa staff are embracing the technology easily and are eager to learn and integrate the technology into their service and activity in store. They have always been customer service focused and see this as a sales tool, which it is and are not daunted by it at all (rare and nice!). Training was almost not needed as the staff had spent time on the site in their own time and came armed with questions and a request list!
“The response has been very positive! Customers call referring to the website or come in store and refer to the site so we know they are using and enjoying it”. There is a lot of information; product, design, ordering, trends etc on the site not just the online store, so customers have a much better experience. Customers are more informed once they have been on the site and have generally shopped around so we know they are more serious than window shopping when they go into details.
“We have had great feedback on the look and feel of the site. Even the web hosting tech guy commented it was an attractive functional site when I called with a question!”, laughs Rosemary.
Before the online store was up we had people posting on the Facebook page asking for product they were looking for or prices on items we featured. So online sales started early! Sales are increasing the longer the site is up and we have had a lot of great feedback and new product suggestion coming from customers too. Obviously we are selling more small items directly on the site. Furniture sales sometimes involve a little bit of personal service. “The day we sold our first table online was very exciting!!”, shares Rosemary.
We have also started using Pinterest to create design and product inspiration. This is an ideal tool for a furniture store.
Rosemary has seen a new customer, online, on the phone and in-store. She also sees the traffic and sales that have come in the first few months of implementation and is excited for what the year will bring!
497 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (02) 9437 6150
Facebook: Villa Interiors
Pinterest: Rosemary Devlin
Four Square: Villa Interiors Crows Nest
Google Place: Villa Interiors Crows Nest