For many design studios, e-commerce is a natural next step when looking to diversify revenue streams. As a studio’s follower base builds, integrating an online store into a service-based website can be very strategic. And while we always encourage designers to grow and innovate their business models, there are some logistical challenges of e-commerce to consider.
As Lauren Liess mentioned on The Interior Collective podcast, having reliable shipping teams in place is absolutely key. Additionally, during an interview with Shea McGee, she emphasized how expanding into e-commerce requires honestly assessing your bandwidth upfront.
For those ready to make the leap, we’ve put together a designer’s guide to selling products, including several shop-friendly website templates to help get you started.
A Designer's Guide to Selling Products
Consider Your Platform
While brick-and-mortar shops are making a slow comeback, the majority of designers begin with an online shop. We encourage many of our clients at IDCO Studio to use Wix as their hosting site. Wix makes it simple to transition your site from an incredible, intuitive portfolio to an easy-to-maintain e-commerce site. Even with a smaller inventory, you can create discount codes, generate newsletters, accept payments, track inventory, handle shipping and taxes, and run promotions all within the dashboard. Shopify is another excellent platform geared toward high-volume sales. Spend time checking out all the options to find what works best for you.
Establish Trade Accounts
We’re adamant about the value of trade accounts, especially when expanding into e-commerce. The process sounds complicated, but it only involves showing your business license and completing a couple of applications. As you shop for trade vendors, confirm if they allow e-commerce for interior designers. Most of them will! You’ll be assigned a sales rep (usually by region) who will be your point of contact for all orders moving forward.
Create an Inventory Plan
Once your trade vendor accounts are in place, ask about order minimums and reorder minimums, which will vary from vendor to vendor. Most range from $500-$1500, but the reorder minimums should be much lower. Some vendors might not have a reorder minimum at all.
Another critical question for your trade vendors is per-item minimums. Depending on how products are packaged, items might come in multiples of 2, 4, 6, or even 12. We recommend starting small with inventory numbers and focusing on growing your inventory range. In the early stages, it’s more important that your store looks fully stocked and offers multiple purchase opportunities than to have large quantities on hand. You want clients coming back for more and checking in for new products regularly. A shop featuring only a handful of products can be a disincentive for repeat visits.
Act as Quality Control
You want to curate products that fit your aesthetic, but what’s even more important is that the products you do sell are designed to last. It only takes one unfortunate purchase for a client not to return or leav