Launching an Online Marketplace for Fine Fabrics
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Launching an Online Marketplace for Fine Fabrics

Tapestria, the latest business venture of the Hunter Douglas Group, the world’s leading producer of window dressings, is the first international online marketplace for fine interior fabrics.

Paul Holmes

Tapestria, the latest business venture of the Hunter Douglas Group, the world’s leading producer of window dressings, is the first international online marketplace for fine interior fabrics. Combining cutting-edge technologies and unmatched global resources, Tapestria is the premiere tool enabling interior designers to quickly and easily source fine fabrics directly from the world’s most prestigious mills. 

Through exclusive agreements with leading European and American fabric mills and a highly refined logistics system, Tapestria can offer designers fabrics that are unavailable through other channels and at highly competitive prices. 
Tapestria approached RF|Binder during the conceptual phase of the project for consultation on positioning, branding, marketing, advertising and media relations.  In 2001, RF|Binder developed a multi-faceted integrated marketing program for the launch of Tapestria to increase brand awareness, and drive membership and sales.

Challenges and Opportunities

With Tapestria, Hunter Douglas was moving a very traditional and well-established industry online. In the typical distribution chain for high-end fabrics, mills sold their fabrics directly to distributors who would then resell them with a considerable mark-up fee to interior designers.   In addition, interior designers were accustomed to visiting showrooms and browsing dated fabric books, rather than using the Internet for searching fabrics.

The industry is also very dependent on trade relationships.  On one hand, Interior designers have spent years developing relationships with high-end distributors and didn’t want to jeopardize those relationships by using Tapestria. On the other hand, Hunter Douglas was very well known for its window coverings but not for fabrics.  The company needed to establish credibility for Tapestria as a provider of high-end fabrics, while not disturbing its own trade relationships. Tapestria recognized that the Internet provided opportunities to simplify the supply chain and radically reduce time to market and price for high-end fabrics. 

Research, Planning and Statement of Objectives

RF|Binder was tasked with three main objectives:
· Create a unique brand identity and position the brand
· Launch Tapestria as Hunter Douglas’ first point of entry on the Internet
· Generate qualified trade memberships. By end of 2001, Tapestria wanted 700 qualified leads

In order to understand the industry and the market opportunity, RF|Binder undertook a massive research survey of interior designers in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta.  This research enabled us to identify key influencers who could serve as advocates on Tapestria’s behalf and help build brand credibility.  The agency and Tapestria assembled an advisory board of top designers, academics and industry professionals, to introduce textile innovations, create trend-watching features, shape educational outreach programs, launch “Designer Collections” and help define Tapestria’s fabric classification standards.  The Board, which meets bi-annually, is currently composed of:
· Jay Coogan (Rhode Island School of Design)
· Frederick Fisher (Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects)
· Randall Ridless (Randall A. Ridless LLC)
· Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz (Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz LLC)
· Bill Sofield (Studio Sofield Inc.)
· Dorothy Twining-Globus (Aspen Design Conference)

RF|Binder attended Heimtextil, the leading fabrics trade show in Frankfurt to identify trends and issues that for Tapestria speaking opportunities.  At Heimtextil, we conducted informal interviews with both American and European interior designers regarding their outlook for 2001, how they purchased fabrics, what types of fabrics they anticipated using in upcoming projects and how they sourced their fabrics. 

Strategic Approach

With an understanding of the interior design community and its key influencers, RF|Binder recommended an integrated marketing strategy for Tapestria, utilizing different communications vehicles (public relations, advertising, direct mail and online marketing) to convey a message in a medium that could resonate with the audience.  Each vehicle was phased in and layered to build the momentum for the brand.
· Trade media relations were primarily focused on building credibility for the concept and beginning to seed awareness of Tapestria. 
· Advertising was focused on building the brand and delivering the product to its end users. 
· Direct mail pieces explained the Tapestria advantage and generated leads. 
· The online marketing campaign and postcard direct mail program converted leads into members and buyers.

Campaign Execution

Phase 1: Pre-launch – “See”
The pre-launch phase consisted of three programs: public relations to trade press, a “teaser” advertising campaign and an online site tour for visitors to Tapestria.  RF|Binder conducted media outreach to trade press both in the US and at Heimtextil in Europe to create an understanding about the Tapestria concept. With the official launch date postponed two months, RF|Binder utilized the advertising campaign to promote brand awareness and drive pre-registration.  During this pre-launch phase, the goal was for users to “see,” or understand the Tapestria concept and fabric visualization technology through the site tour.

Phase 2:  Launch – “Touch”
The launch of Tapestria was tied to the unveiling of “Elements,” Benjamin Noriega Ortiz’s exclusive collection selected from fabrics available at Tapestria. The launch was promoted through select advertisements placed in trade and shelter publications. We officially launched Tapestria and the “Elements” collection with a gala event at the new Sotheby’s restaurant, BID, in conjunction with Interior Design Magazine.

The introduction of Tapestria and the “Elements” collection continued with a direct mail campaign to over 30,000 designers across the US.  Designers received a welcome package containing two direct mail pieces, high-end fabric samples and a mouse pad. In addition, RF|Binder created “Tapestria Tradewatch,” a bi-weekly email newsletter from Tapestria to its members featuring new fabrics, updates on the latest color trends, coverage of international fabric and design events as well as regularly featured insights from Tapestria’s panel of Advisory Board members.  The first newsletter received a 60% open rate and 17% click-through rate.

Phase 3: Convert – “Order”
With the initial branding and acquisition phase of qualified members complete, RF|Binder turned the Tapestria marketing strategy towards customized direct response. An integrated on and offline approach combining direct mail, a bi-weekly email newsletter, and advertising converted qualified members to order fabric samples and purchase. RF|Binder has continued media relations to extend the Elements Collection, resulting in coverage in LDB Interiors, Interior Design, and Metropolitan Home. The second advisory board meeting is scheduled, and a new wave of ad placements focused on lush imagery and action oriented copy.


· Tapestria is positioned as the leader in online fabric sourcing.
· To date, 8,000 members have signed up to Tapestria with 3,200 qualified trade members who are using the service to order fabrics.
· Direct on and offline marketing has received some of the highest results in the industry: with the direct mail strategy alone bringing in over 1600 qualified leads, and email marketing consistently posting over 12% click through rates of qualified membership base.
· RF|Binder Partners has become the agency of record for Tapestria.
· Due to the success of the overall campaign, Hunter Douglas is using this as an example of how to launch additional products and services throughout their organization
· Tapestria and RF|Binder received an Award for the advertising campaign – “Best Use of a Half-Page Spread 2001” by the U.S. Advertising Review.

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