There’s just one thing online interior design entrepreneurs like me love more than cupcakes, and that’s being at the vanguard of the evolution of an entire industry.
Every industry has its challenges when it comes to evolving to better serve its customers online. Many industries struggle with piracy, others with delivery and logistics.
My industry, residential interior design, has struggled to evolve its cost-to-serve model toward something that is attractive to more than just the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
But interior designers are getting there.
When I launched my online interior design website six years ago, the first sightings of an online competitor were buried on page eight of a Google search in the form of “design in a box” services. Design in a box required the client to complete an online form and pay $800 via PayPal to an interior designer that the client would never actually speak to. Six to eight weeks later, a large hat box would be delivered full of fabric samples, paint colors, a space plan and a shopping list of furniture and decorative accessories.
Admirable in its presentation, the design in a box as a product was extremely beautifully prepared. However, at $800 per room, not a lot of homeowners were choosing a hat box over a local designer. It failed to expand the overall interior design client base to a significantly broader online market.
My firm conducted a survey of 954 of our online interior design clients and revealed that 89.6 percent of them had never hired a designer prior to working with our online design firm. The primary reason given for not having hired an interior designer was the perception that doing so would have too great an impact on overall project costs. They felt they couldn’t afford it
Today, Angie’s List members planning a home renovation or remodeling project can get tremendous value from an interior designer that consults via telephone, Skype, email or webinar. And yes, some offer beautiful, custom-designed packages delivered to your home in a box.
Virtual designers offer a wide range of services, including providing access to exclusive designer discounts from popular retailers and trade sources. In many cases, the client can avoid paying sales tax on high-ticket items due to online purchasing.
Designing virtually cuts the cost of doing business dramatically for an interior designer. It removes the time and cost of driving in traffic. Online catalogs replace frequent trips to the design center. The virtual designer is able to serve a greater number of clients more efficiently thanks to free online tools like Pinterest, Google SketchUp and Homestyler.
All of this efficiency and cost savings has resulted in much more affordable fixed fee per room design options that are in reach of a greater number of homeowners, particularly those who don't need to pay $99 to $250 per hour for full service in-home design consultation. This shift of the cost model in our industry means more homeowners are consulting with affordable online interior designers to get much more out of their design budgets and DIY projects.
Yes, wealthy homeowners in the Hamptons will always enjoy bragging about how much they’ve spent as they sip champagne at the polo match. However, the online interior design industry is enabling a much greater number of homeowners to brag about how much they've saved.
Amanda Zettel is a certified interior designer and the founder and principal designer for a leading online interior design firm Homemade Design Corporation (HMD). Zettel earned her design degree from Parson’s The New School in New York City and gained experience working for interior design giants in both New York and Los Angeles. More information about HMD online interior design is available at HMDhome.com.
As of April 23 2012, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check AngiesList.com for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.