We talk to ArtiCAD director Theresa Turner about how the company has faced up to the challenges of the past year, and what new developments it has in store for customers.
• How has ArtiCAD been coping with the challenges of COVID-19?
When the first lockdown was introduced, there was a clear advantage for any company working in the IT sector. Remote working had in many cases already been implemented and was well bedded in, which meant that quickly we were offering the same levels of support and customer service as before the pandemic. Our customer base in the UK numbers more than 3,600. Small, medium and large clients shared the same determination to get their businesses up and running, so to help them we introduced a number of services such as free temporary licenses for homeworking. Anyone wishing to install an ArtiCAD licence on a different machine could download as many temporary licences as they needed for all their designers. We also offered free skills training webinars and access to our weblead technology, RoomPlanner for customers' websites. This has proved invaluable in engaging website visitors and capturing detailed project information, especially during showroom closure. Our sales 'evaporated' in April and May 2020, following a hugely successful KBB show in March, but from June onwards, sales accelerated and 2020 finished up even stronger than 2019, both in the UK and in our international businesses.
• What are the most popular products and why do you think that is?
ArtiVR, our online virtual reality software, proved very popular this year, both with and without the use of the Oculus headset. It is the ideal way to present designs to customers remotely and allows them to really experience their new room. It’s a cost-effective, yet powerful and flexible VR system – and has certainly delivered great results for an increasing number of retailers. Our client F&L Supplies says that it delivers 100% sales conversion for them. Our other online tools, such as RoomPlanner and RoomStyler have also come into their own, helping retailers to secure leads, engage with prospective clients and then keep them closely involved in the design process.
• What support do you currently offer retailers?
In addition to the special lockdown services we introduced and extended into this more recent lockdown, we are continuing to develop new support services such as training, videos and webinars. The heart of our new website is a comprehensive customer portal and help centre. Our Supplier Partnership Programme means that we work with many of the leading manufacturers and suppliers to the KBB sector to develop graphics catalogues of all their products, which are then made available to our retailers.
• What are your plans for the brand over the next year?
We have embarked upon the most extensive software development programme in our history, with more tools to help our customers manage their business, from sales lead to installation and every stage in between. We are also enhancing our core design and pricing software, as well as our Smart Systems pricing and management products and this will continue in the year ahead. A major introduction will be new catalogues of thousands of European products which we have developed with our majority shareholder, Germany-based SHD. A new version of ArtiVR will be announced in the Spring, with new features such as virtual meetings actually within the proposed room design. Bespoke versions of Room Planner, Room Styler and Pan360°are also becoming increasingly popular. These can be tailored to meet specific needs, and integrated into existing systems such as e-commerce, manufacturing and warehousing. As lockdown restrictions ease and retailers with premises can reopen, I think that the experience of the last year will enable them to offer a much more flexible and more productive approach to business. Many will have gained a huge amount of experience in designing and selling online, which can be used to complement more traditional approaches or to offer their customers even more choice of how they wish to work with them. A truly blended marketing, design and sales environment beckons for the benefit of retailers and customers alike. Seize it!