As part of our D2C special in October's issue of Furniture News, Carina Bartle, VP sales and partnerships at Luxdeco, shares her insights on why consumer-facing brands take B2B directions …
When did your D2C brand first take a B2B route, and why?
When LuxDeco was launched in 2012, we assumed that interior designers wouldn’t want to use us because we were potentially treading on their toes a little bit. Back then, the site was very curated – all by theme or by look – something that no-one else was doing at that time, so we didn’t really know how we were going to be received. But it actually went the other way.
A few of our very first customers were trade customers – both interior designers and architects – and the trade element of the business just grew organically from there through word of mouth.
We’ve got two splits of customer base – the residential interior designers, and the part of the industry that works across hospitality projects. Both are very different B2B customers. The residential interior designers really came through quick and fast for us, particularly in the UK. We also worked with a lot of international interior designers.
With the hospitality clients we initially had a few organically come through, including global major hotel chains, but we had very limited communication because we weren’t dealing directly with the designer, just with their procurement company.
How did you approach that market?
To build on hospitality specifically, we went directly to the designers that we were working with and essentially pitched our services to them face to face, with a really open conversation to explore what we could do.
At the time it was a really unique approach to this market because we were a young and agile business with amazing products from around the world, plus our own lines that were selling really well for residential projects.
We have learned a lot about how to tailor our offer, resulting in a decision to put a team member in Dubai permanently. They’ve been here for a year, and we’ve seen sales increase over +400% and our customer base grow exponentially. It has given us the ability to support and work with the designer or procurement agency locally on exactly what they need, exactly when they need it, because timing is such an important factor in the business.
How does your trade-facing communication differ from your consumer-facing work?
Communication with our LuxDeco Pro customer is different to how we deal with our D2C LuxDeco customers – mainly because there’s a lot more regular communication, you’ve got a lot more of an opportunity to build a rapport, and essentially, if someone wants to work with you, you have to make it fun – you have to make them feel comfortable.
Trade communication is very much reflective of the tone that the client uses with us. If a client uses a formal tone, we’ll reply with a formal tone. If a client wants to build a relationship and communicate over WhatsApp, use emojis, jump on the phone and have a chat, you take a different approach. It is always tailored to how they want to work and who they want to work with.
For designers using LuxDeco, they know they can get accessories, furniture and pretty much anything else from us. We often get a quick WhatsApp or call asking about a specific product or style, and asking if we can help. We feel like we’re part of their team. That’s one of the things that we say when we sign people up for a trade account – we are an extension of your team, and here to assist.
What’s the growth potential – and limitations?
The growth potential for LuxDeco is wider global projects. At the moment our core markets are the UK, Europe, the US and the Middle East. However, we work with global brands and we have global customers, so for us, the growth potential is having teams in different markets – for example, the US. Where we have the Dubai team working alongside the London team and have seen such growth, it’s now about growing into new markets.
The limitations are set by the industry, but the biggest limitation for growth is timescale. For a really beautiful piece of furniture it can take 12-14 weeks, and the industry demands pieces fast. Designers are under more and more pressure to deliver a scheme that is exceptional, that has detail, but in a really quick timeframe and on a budget.
The question is, how can we improve the timescale of the deliveries and craftsmanship? It’s really important to note that interior design, and the way interior designers work, is such a process. It’s an art. Sometimes, even though the customer demands it, there’s going to have to be some pushback, as meeting their request is not always possible, despite our best efforts. We know that if you rush or need items quicker, quality is going to fall.
Can you provide an example or two of how you successfully work with trade partners to achieve results?
We have a trained interior designer within our trade team, which means that we really understand what they need and can offer additional services.
Sometimes we’ll be sent a scheme from a designer, if they’re running out of time, and we’ll assist with the last mile – the heartbeat of a project – which is all the accessories. Once we have the scheme, we can pull together a list of accessories that are available within the timeframe, within budget, and that will work together.
We can even go so far as to do elevations to make sure that things are going to check in the spaces. For example, dressing bookshelves and shelving takes a lot of time because you have to think about the depth and height and how pieces are going to sit together, so it’s actually quite a complicated job.
Read more in October's issue of Furniture News magazine.