by Jennifer Green, CEO

The Pandemic Has Changed the Furniture Industry’s Marketing and Communications During Its Largest Event

For over a century, those in the home furnishings industry have flocked to High Point, North Carolina for the biannual High Point Market.

This highly anticipated event draws upwards of 75,000 attendees — including 2,000 vendors, designers and manufacturers — who converge to take in the new displays and product introductions, spread throughout 11.5 million square feet of showroom space.

A typical Market boasts manufacturers, designers, buyers, media and guests from all over the world who come to see and sell the latest in home décor and furniture. With so much to see and do, these industry experts squeeze as much into five days as possible.

2020: Anything but typical

What has historically been an in-person, very tactile and tangible experience changed last year. In 2020, for the first time in its 100+ year history, the High Point Market Authority was forced to cancel its April 2020 market. Although the marketplace was able to open its doors for the October 2020 show, the event drew only a fraction of its typical numbers.

Not only did this have a huge impact on the Market experience, but it also forced manufacturers to find new ways to showcase and sell their product. This meant getting creative and changing the platforms they used to market themselves and their newest offerings. As marketers, we saw this manifest in two major directions.

Showrooms go virtual

Because they couldn’t host guests in person, and because many visitors chose to skip these Markets for safety reasons, exhibitors sought to create a virtual High Point presence. For example, rug manufacturer Loloi created a feature-rich Virtual Showroom, using video to recreate the experience of a personal showroom tour.

Other companies hosted Zoom conferences via mobile to allow company representatives to “walk” visitors through their displays in real-time. Though they had a vastly different feel from in-person showings, these meetings offered an innovative but personal way for companies to use technology to stay in front of buyers.

Marketing activities move online

High Point has always welcomed top journalists from around the globe to its Media Center where they can pick up media kits from interesting brands and learn about new companies. However, without the ability to utilize this media resource, many companies created their own digital media kits. Online resource sites like this one from office and entertainment furniture manufacturer BDI allow companies to share press releases, high-res imagery and pertinent company and product design information with members of the press.

The High Point Market even developed a “Digital Press Kit Builder” for exhibitors on the website, to support the growing number of media that have been put on temporary travel bans. The bonus of this format is that it provides an easy way for journalists to instantly access information about a brand, without adding to their own paper pileup.

Though they (virtual showrooms) had a vastly different feel from in-person showings, these meetings offered an innovative but personal way for companies to use technology to stay in front of buyers.

Digital displays are here to stay

Just as the pandemic saw an accelerated shift to online shopping, I anticipate that the new branded digital presence will remain a major player at High Point. Many companies already have announced plans to attend the Spring 2021 Market, which will be held in June instead of April.  Regardless of the time and place, however, the pandemic has shown the furniture industry—and perhaps all marketers—that we can create effective experiences online that sell products, no matter what buyers were used to.

Our agency has also long advocated for the creation of online press materials to alleviate the expense of printing and the exertion of toting paper media kits to in-person events. Many media we work with have come to favor the digital format as well. In addition, we’ve found the ability to provide virtual and personalized showroom tours to press who can’t attend helps broaden our media outreach and coverage.

Though the High Point Market will likely return to its former glory of massive in-person crowds, a digital shift has occurred. And buyers / media have seen how effective online can be. Companies who want to successfully reach their audience, moving forward, must make a digital presence part of their overall marketing strategies.

LiveEcho’s marketing experts bring years of expertise in digital execution, amplification and engagement, plus we continue to evolve with the industries we serve. Contact us today or call  to learn more.