New brand name was developed from a call to action to address various challenges buyers were experiencing at markets
LAS VEGAS — With the unveiling of a new brand image this week, International Market Centers abandons the IMC moniker that has been in place for the past dozen years and that defined its position as a major home furnishings market destination.
The Andmore brand also does away with the company’s Juniper moniker for IMC’s online wholesale marketplace for its High Point, Las Vegas and Atlanta markets.
The new brand, as officials explained during a press conference this week, aims to combine the physical (showroom space) and digital (online marketplace) assets of IMC and Juniper by creating an omnichannel buying experience for retailers and designers from around the world.
But in coming up with a new brand, the company sought to create more than just a label for these platforms. It meant to create solutions that improve the buying experience for everyone involved. That includes buyers seeking to see the most resources in a short amount of time and the showrooms they visit that are there to attract as many visitors as possible.
“Changing a brand is a very big deal,” said Dorothy Belshaw, executive vice president and chief growth officer of Andmore. “But it is just one element of a business transformation. It’s just a name, and new brands are defined by the actions of the business and they are brought to life by the ability of a company and its people to clearly and consistently live out that brand promise.”
The change in brand name and strategy grew from about a year of research and speaking with market customers to better understand their concerns and where the markets were coming up short in addressing those concerns.
From that, it learned several key frustrations or pain points they were experiencing as buyers:
+ 50% of the buyers in these conversations said that there was a steep learning curve relating to the use of technology as a buying tool.
+ 52% said they were becoming frustrated with their experiences online with wholesalers.
+ 89% said buying online is more complicated than in person, or offline.
+ New buyers in particular also said navigating markets is a key challenge that impedes their ability to shop the events more quickly and effectively.
“Buyers reiterated that the ability to see and feel products in person was still a critical aspect of their purchasing process,” said Karen Olson, chief marketing officer. “But at the same time, those buyers want to be able to leverage those digital assets and physical channels.”
She noted that Juniper initially set out to address the digital needs of customers “through a multichannel approach, a product-centric approach.”
“Customers could utilize the individual tools that we offered, but they weren’t fully integrated and seamless for their usage,” she said. “So customers really wanted a more seamless experience across the physical and digital channels to reduce complexity.”
The new revised strategy, she said, is focused on building “a true multichannel offering with the customer at the center of everything that we do. … So by starting with the customer and with the customer’s perspective, we continue to add offerings and tools to our toolkit, while at the same time creating a seamless integration between the showroom and digital experience for the customer.”
The name, Olson said, reflects the company’s omnichannel approach that touches more buyers and more sellers with more tools, with more convenience and in more places to do business.
“We are transitioning into a single unified brand identity — Andmore — that provides that connection between all of our products and services — whether physical or digital — to buyers and sellers to understand the full breadth of offerings of our company.”
“So everything has the Andmore brand tied to it,” she added, not only of the individual markets, but also things like signage within individual buildings to the new website, www.andmore.com, email addresses and business cards.
The company said the first product introduction under the new brand name is a new app called @Market. It includes premarket planning tools, a personal QR code for quick badge pickup, directions to help buyers navigate the markets and the ability to capture and organize market images along with notes.
Spearheading the digital transformation is Mark Crowther, who came to the company about four months ago as chief digital officer.
He described the new branding as a “phenomenal launch pad for an omnichannel strategy,” noting that “the role that digital can play is very much putting the customer at the center of everything we do. I think there is a lot of humility in that approach in that we want to be world class in listening to our buyers and sellers, understanding what they need most from us in helping them grow their business. And from there, building those tools that exactly will deliver on that commitment.”
This will address another key area where buyers said they need help — making them have a more efficient market experience.
“They asked us to help them make their time at market more efficient … and the release of the app does exactly that,” Crowther said. “It gives buyers the opportunity to plan and execute their market visits more efficiently … with additional features that allow them to capture even more value from their market experience and stay connected to sellers.”
Bob Maricich, chief executive officer of Andmore, said that the changes are timely as they will address the needs of a host of new buyers attending markets, namely helping them navigate the thousands of square feet of exhibit space. Technology, he said, can assist buyers in that process.
“Whether it is apparel, or gift or furniture … it is critical that we focus on solving a significant buyer pain point, initially, and buyers tell us that their biggest challenge is discovery,” he said. “So we are going to focus on making discovery easier.”
“You think of somebody new coming to market for a first, second or third time and trying to sort through 10 million square feet, seven million square feet or five million square feet, it’s really a daunting task,” he added. “I think we can really have a major impact in making that experience a lot more productive and efficient for them. And as we do that, we also have opportunities with the data part to help make their decisions more informed as well.”
Focusing on the needs of buyers, in particular, officials noted, will in turn benefit sellers who place an extremely high value on traffic and time spent with buyers.
“With most of the tenants and exhibitors that have been involved in the discovery process, they always want us to do more, to help buyers get to markets, to help buyers find them and to help them connect with those buyers,” said Belshaw. “So providing these tools for buyers and continually providing dynamic and evolving market experiences for buyers is going to do what exhibitors really need.”
Added Maricich: “There are two sides to the marketplace and at the end of the day — and I have said this before — we get paid for up to bats,” he said, pointing out that a common question at markets from exhibitors is “Where are all the buyers?” Well, they are there, and everybody you want to see is there. And, by the way, if we can connect you digitally as well as physically and make that shopping experience — or those up to bats — more productive, we have done something that I think is really impactful.”