Virtual Personal Stylist
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Virtual Personal Stylist

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Virtual Personal Stylist

The recent Ava Living Social Marketing Program has made some of you very curious about virtual design. Questions like, “should we be doing this”, “is it worth it” and “does design really work without placing eyes on a client’s space” have all come up. I’m glad to see these questions being raised because that means you are really thinking about your business and the direction you want to take it. We should never take any recommendation at face value. It’s smart to evaluate any new program or service and make sure it aligns with your business values and goals.

And that is probably the best way answer the above questions; step back, evaluate the facts and then make a decision that’s right for you and your business. But let me provide some additional background to help you make that evaluation. Virtual design seems to be taking a hold in our industry as another way to work with clients. While there are no specific statistics available yet on the growth of virtual design in our industry as a whole, there is every indication that this is a trend that is here to stay based on its continued promotion on designer websites as well as industry specific sites such as Ava Living.

The face of today’s consumer is changing. More consumers are now looking to the Internet as well as social networking sites to research products and services, get information and make purchases. Here are some statistics to get you thinking:

Over half (51.0%) of consumers are using the Internet before making a purchase in shops, educating themselves on the best deals available. (Verdict Research, May 2009)
Social networks and blogs are the fourth most popular online activities, beating personal email. 67% of global users visit member communities and 10% of all time spent on the Internet is spent on social media sites. (Econsultancy, 2009)
In 2013, nearly 155 million US Internet users will consume some form of user-generated content, up from almost 116 million in 2008. (eMarketer, 2009)
What does this mean? Consumers are going online at increasing rates and using online resources to make purchasing decisions. How does this translate to virtual design? Virtual design is simply another way to touch consumers online and expand your circle of potential clients. Geographic limits no longer define how we do business.

Through the Internet, we can literally now service clients around the country. Clients are looking to connect with someone they know, like and trust to handle their interior design projects and through the Internet, they have more resources than ever at their fingertips to locate that person. Just as we’re always looking for that “ideal” client, we need to remember prospects are also looking to find that “ideal” designer. We also need to keep in mind that many consumers find it intimidating to pick up the phone and call us about our services. They’re not sure what questions to ask and dread that we’ll simply be too expensive so they self-select and end up not doing anything. They are curious about what we do and want to reach out to us first in non-threatening ways. Social marketing through websites, virtual design and blogs provides a means for them to connect with you and build that know, like and trust factor they need before taking the next step.

There are some services that women especially will pay anything and do anything to maintain a relationship. Think of your hair stylist, your dentist and your OB-GYN. I’ve known people to travel 50+ miles for a hair appointment because they know, like and trust that person. The same is true in the services we offer. Once clients know, like and trust us, they are will to pay anything, do anything to maintain that relationship. Virtual design allows you to open the door to establishing these types of relationships that can truly turn into something long term as well as maintain that relationship should you or your client have to relocate to another area.

I personally just signed on a client in New York City for virtual design services. Why did she elect to go this route? She was a referral and just wasn’t finding the “right” person locally. Her project is small and is one I can easily service virtually. We talked on the phone, immediately connected and she’s already talking about larger projects for the future. Do you see how virtual design opened the door? We’re building a solid rapport through this smaller project and she’s offered to compensate me for my travel to her home to help her on the larger projects in the future. That’s music to a designers ears.: )

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