Staying in business for a quarter-century is no small feat. It takes smarts, ingenuity, resilience, and a little bit of luck. Above all, it requires changing with the times.
When Stephan Elbaz founded Interior Motif in Hoboken, New Jersey 25 years ago, the world of window coverings was relatively simple. The distribution channels for blinds, shades, shutters, and drapes were pretty straightforward, and delivering a great customer experience really came down to execution. That was before home automation, “smart” devices like Amazon’s Alexa and the Nest Thermostat added complexity, and consumers started taking to social media to tell the world about their experiences with businesses, for better or worse.
“We’re always trying to reinvent ourselves,” Stephan says. “We want to maintain that old school charm while adding the sophistication and technology of the new generation.”
These days, Stephan’s business looks very different than it did during the 1990s. Sure, Interior Motif still keeps a physical showroom and enjoys the distribution advantages of being the only Hunter Douglas gallery dealer in the region. But consumer tastes have changed at an accelerating rate as technology has opened up a new world of possibilities.
To stay relevant, Stephan has embraced change. As one example, he now has a “mobile showroom” in addition to his storefront gallery, an all-glass subcontainer with air conditioning, heat, wifi, high-quality audio, and high-definition screens to show patrons 3D renderings of what their space could look like. Now, instead of requiring prospective clients to come to the store, Stephan can take the experience to them at open houses or big events at growing housing developments.
“The mobile showroom has helped us think outside the box about new ways to attract customers and partners,” Stephan says. “We can create our own events by taking the showroom on the road, creating multimedia experiences, and bringing in guest speakers like HDTV personalities.”
Stephan has also embraced the Digital Age. He produces a video series called “Behind the Shades,” where he provides an all-access look at installations or closet remodelings. In addition, he looks for opportunities to use the Internet to engage with customers and attract new business.
The best place to start is online review forums like Yelp, Google, and Facebook, where consumers are talking about businesses whether they like it or not. Stephan admits some anxiety about online reviews — like most business owners, he finds it nerve-wracking that people can say whatever they want about your company online these days. But he also recognizes the huge opportunity.
“Customers are more vocal than they’ve ever been about their experience, so it’s up to the business to do right by them,” Stephan says. “We constantly have customers tell us they found our business because of online reviews. I make it a priority to read everything people say and respond whether it’s positive or negative.”
That might sound like an overwhelming task, but Stephan makes it easier with Womply, which allows him to see and respond to all of his company’s reviews on multiple sites from one place. Womply also alerts him when someone posts a new review about his business.
“Womply takes my business to a whole new level of being able to reach more customers,” Stephan says. “Some of our best and most valuable clients have found us purely from what they’ve read about us in online reviews.”
As one example, one of Interior Motif’s largest accounts was working with a dealer that couldn’t deliver on expectations, so the company turned to Google to look for a new partner. The company saw Interior Motif’s 4.3-star average — and reviews that focused on white glove customer care — and signed up to do multiple buildings with Stephan’s company.
In the age of online reviews, every business has to join the conversation, but the rewards are huge. Stephan says most customers are reasonable and understand that even well-intentioned businesses occasionally don’t deliver on expectations. When that happens, a response to an online review can have a big impact.
“I always thank our positive reviewers and ask the negative ones what we could do better,” Stephan says. “I’ve actually had people tell me they were touched when I responded to a bad review so they changed it. In some cases, people just think it’s easier to post a review instead of contacting the business. They just want to be heard.”
Be sure to check out Interior Motif’s blog for tips on adding affordable luxury to your home, or schedule a free consultation if you’re in the New Jersey area. If you’re a small business looking to get more customers or take control of your online business reputation, request more info about how Womply can help you.