The challenge of a hybrid business model

HFA CEO Blog_10-21-The Challenge of a Hybrid Business Model

Have you noticed that you now have to be good at three things? In our case at HFA, like every other business, we have had to create a hybrid business model.

COVID world, we now have hybrid gatherings, or in the case of your business, you have a hybrid business model now. A perfect example of this is our September board meeting. Pre-COVID, this would be an in-person meet in a centrally located city. Those meetings have their own dynamic you have to plan for. How can we keep 30 people engaged and focused? Of course, our board meetings were 100% virtual last year, which is its own complicated animal. Talk about how to keep people engaged and focused. Virtual is a challenge because everyone joins the meeting in a room full of distractions. Today, we have to hold a hybrid in-person/virtual board meeting because of differing comfort levels, yet another unique dynamic full of different pitfalls and obstacles.

This is not a ‘woe is me’ article. Instead, our hybrid business approach made me realize that you, our members, have seen COVID add to the complexity of doing business due to your own need to become good at three different customer environments.

With your doors closed at the outset of the pandemic, whether you were already headlong into e-commerce or had a solid website and social media presence, you had to get good at it quickly. It was the only way that customers were connecting with you. As your stores reopened, your challenge became how to manage the sales floor with numerous restrictions. You had to be really good at the in-store experience from a sales and a safety standpoint. Today, with the complications of product shortages and delays, store owners have to be good at that in-store experience and the online experience. You have to be mindful of how both of those customer connections come together. In recent months, we have spent so much time talking to retailers, merchandisers, and marketers about these exact issues. How do you move people successfully from your digital presence to your sales floor, knowing that’s where most of the sales will transact? You have got to be good at three things, just on the customer experience side of your business.

Are there lessons in this? The word that I keep hearing from more and more people in our industry is agility. There may come a time soon where you have to be really good at yet something else in the realm of customer experience. For me and HFA, as we adapt to your changing needs, we need to look for what might be next proactively. My caveat is if we’re not prepared to adapt, then there’s a good chance we’ll get run over.

Hybrids are here to stay as complexities impact our businesses. Let’s get good at them and become more agile. As your association, we can get through whatever comes next together.

Mark Schumacher

Mark Schumacher is the CEO of the Home Furnishings Association. To contact us about important issues or actions facing our retailers, please use our contact form.

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