We recently attended the DFA E-Commerce Summit at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, California. Dozens of interior designers, manufacturers, and industry leaders gathered to discuss the current challenges the design industry is facing regarding technology & e-commerce. Our CEO & Founder, Heather Gillette, was invited to speak about How Technology is Changing Interior Design, along with other industry front-runners. The Decorative Furnishings Association (DFA) created the summit as a way to help designers navigate the changing landscape of the industry, and to provide a platform for sharing ideas.
“We realized the lack of technology [in the industry],” says Gillette.
“So we had to build tools for ourselves to be much more efficient.” She sees the relationships in the design industry changing, and wants to use tech to maintain open communication. “There are three critical pillars keeping this ecosystem afloat,” she says. “And they are designers, manufacturers, and showrooms.” While DesignerInc is a leader in technology for the design world, we don’t believe taking things online is the only answer. We strongly believe in the power of showrooms for providing inspiration and giving designers the tools to do their best work. However, we’ve found that 73% of designers on DesignerInc do not have access to a showroom close by. This is why we need to adopt technology to reach more designers and create more business.
DesignerInc was one of several companies highlighted at the event who are working at the intersection of technology and design. Gillette spoke alongside representatives from 1stdibs, Studio Designer, Fuigo, Material Bank, Houzz, Ivy, and Dering Hall. All agreed that technology is changing interior design by giving consumers more access to design – both information and inspiration, and the ability to act as their own designer.
“We’re all living in it,” says Maury Riad, CEO of Fuigo. “Were in a very, very unique position as in industry to go ahead and use this idea of aggregation to expand upon this high end interior design industry that we love so much.”
Interior Designers now face the challenge of being able to prove their own value to consumers, and explain the need to hire a professional when so many DIY options exist.
“We’ve created this brand to play on the emotions of consumers about why they should hire a professional,” says Chad Stark, Sr. Vice President of Stark Carpet Corp., speaking about Do It For, the non-profit entity he leads that’s designed to help support the work of professional designers in a DIY world.
Interior Design has always been a physical industry where it was necessary to touch the materials designers were working with. But in today’s digital age, consumers want things faster and designers need to speed up their process without sacrificing quality work. Companies like Material Bank are striving to give designers access, convenience and speed by mobilizing technology.
“We truly understand the architects’ and designers’ issues and problems, the good the bad and the ugly, ” says Adam Sandow, CEO of Material Bank. “[When designers use Material Bank], all materials across every manufacturer are put into a single box. Giving back time and simplicity.”
Another question that’s arisen from merging the worlds of tech and design is how to successfully manage relationships between designers, clients and manufacturers. Those relationships are changing as consumers have more access to goods straight from the manufacturer.
“As a community we are much stronger than we are as individuals,” says Keith Granet, CEO of Studio Designer. “The successful platforms will understand what's important and how people need to wok with their businesses and who they need to engage with.”
The age of tech is upon us, and consumers will not move backward - neither should designers or manufacturers.
“Here we are in the most luxurious of all industries selling product no one really needs,” says Eric Chang, President of the DFA. “That is the power of brand. The DFA is intended to become the definitive business education resource for the interior design industry.”
The E-Commerce Summit is just the first step in helping designers understand technology and how it can play into their businesses moving forward. From streamlining business practices, to gathering and using data about consumers, to improving brand awareness and customer service initiatives, there are many ways that tech is good for the industry.
“There’s data to be had and there are a lot of new learnings,” says Gillette. “I think there are different ways to maximize your businesses just by being online and being a part of something bigger.”
At DesignerInc, we’re excited to continue the conversation about the changes in the design industry, and our mission is to help designers stay ahead of them and thrive in the years to come.