With roots firmly in place, Branches grows in new directions
Sisters, Co-owners Adjust to Challenging Times
By Ellen Linnemann
Family-owned for more than 25 years, designers and sisters Sarah and Lauren (who took over the business started by their mother) knew that although they were faced with a number of challenges and changes to how they typically did business, that this unanticipated change also presented a great opportunity to improve their existing practices. “Resisting change is futile,” says Sarah. “We knew that we couldn’t get stuck in old ways of ‘how we used to do it’ and instead concentrated on things we could do to not only continue running the business during challenging times, but to actually improve some of our practices in order to grow.”
The sisters came up with a number of strategies for how they could adapt to the changed times in order to best meet the new needs of their clients. Like many businesses, they decided to move quickly into the “virtual” and digital arena – with Lauren pointing out that “what was once ‘a nice thing to have’ became a necessity very rapidly, and we threw ourselves into building a top-notch website and online presence through multiple social media channels.”
With their “branches” now strong, and learning from the success of their quick pivot and subsequent full-force-leap into the digital arena, both Sarah and Lauren offer the following tips for other businesses to remain on solid ground, and potentially grow, during these challenging times.
1. Adapt! “Instead of waiting for the return to ‘back to normal’, we reprioritized quickly to meet our clients where they were and continued to see how we can best serve them, says Lauren.
2. Be brave. “It is NOT easy to go into the unknown, but leading with our intuition, trusting in our team, and listening to our customers made the hard decisions and actions easier” Sarah notes. “It’s paid off in big ways and made our business stronger.”
3. Put yourself out there! “Hey, when the world is flipped upside down, you’ve got nothing to lose,” both agree. “We wanted to provide a value to our customer base beyond just the products and sales, so we created ways for our Branches friends and family to engage with more educational and entertaining how-to-videos, take-home kits, and online workshops.
Both Sarah and Lauren point to a number of specific strategies and tactics that they took as being instrumental in the successful “pivot” – and growth – of Branches throughout the pandemic:
- Completely revamping the Branches website (branchesdesigns.com) to include 700+ products — complete with professional photography, setting up shipping accounts, and investing in Google and social media advertising support to reach new clients. “Our online sales through the website, especially those from out-of-town/state, accounted for a significant amount of sales while shut down,” says Sarah, further pointing out that “as we opened, we had new clients come visit to see products in person after discovering the site and our Instagram and social media pages.” The new Branches website has since become a major contributor to sales and new customer development, reaching people across the United States, and has also supported local client development as those in the Lowcountry are now more exposed to their services, products, and story. “We’ve incorporated more videos to highlight shop happenings and best-selling products, and make shopping the website as if you were in the store with product details and professional photography,” notes Lauren. “It’s helped us stay connected to our current customer base, reconnect with out-of-town clients, and find new customers from across the United States.”
- Offering virtual “house call” consultations to clients to ‘walk through’ their spaces via Zoom or FaceTime, offering 1:1 personal design recommendations and creating custom designs for delivery, shipping, or pick-up.
- Hosting weekly Facebook Lives to stay in touch with customers near and far about design tips, decor trends, and fun ways to add new life to forgotten family pieces. “We anticipated doing it for a couple of weeks, but it was so popular that we continued beyond the shut-down into the summer,” notes Lauren.
- Creating “virtual workshops” where participants can buy a “kit” and follow along via Facebook Live to learn about creating new pieces for their homes.
- Starting and creating content (i.e., info/details on best sellers and favorite items) on a new Branches YouTube channel.