by Gord McIntosh
Owners of Comfortable Dwelling, Kyle and Heather Prestanski (center & right), receive a Digital Transformation Grant.
Kyle and Heather Prestanski always felt uncomfortable standing in acres of furniture with commission sales reps hovering nearby. So, at the beginning of summer 2019, they opened Comfortable Dwelling in Tilbury, Ontario, a furniture store and design studio you would describe as the opposite of a big box retailer.
Instead of being in a strip of big box stores, Comfortable Dwelling is in the centre of Tilbury, a hub in the Chatham-Kent area in southwestern Ontario as a main street business. In addition to home furnishings, Comfortable Dwelling offers interior and furniture design studio services, either in the shop, at the client’s home or over the web.
Comfortable Dwelling couldn’t be more different from a highway furniture store. “We’re not salespeople,” says Heather, the resident designer.
Therein lies the challenge – educating people on how they’re different from a big furniture store, why design is important and how Comfortable Dwelling works with customers to get it “just right.”
To help get their story online, the Prestanskis applied for a Digital Transformation Grant from Digital Main Street, a digital transformation program funded by the government of Ontario and delivered by the Ontario BIA Association.
They have a clean modern website with great images, and they’re ramping up their social media. But the Prestanskis realize with something so visual as design, they needed video to really show what Comfortable Dwelling is all about.
“We’re a very different concept that people don’t understand yet,” says Heather. “We’ve had people walk in the door and say ‘Oh, I thought there would be more furniture here.’ So, we think a video telling people about design and how we work with them will help them understand better.’’
The two entrepreneurs are looking to attract three-to-four additional customers per month through various video campaigns on their website and the e-commerce site. They’ll push the video out through their Facebook and Instagram.
The extra revenue they will generate will be partly reinvested in digital marketing. Their plan is to maintain a steady budget of $500-$1000 per month for digital marketing campaigns to include more photos and videos of before-and-after transformations.
“The majority of the grant funds are going to a videographer to tell our story,” says Kyle. “Because we’re an interior design studio and not a traditional retailer, there’s a learning curve being in a small town. So, we need to help our market understand how we work, how we serve our clients, why Tilbury is our home base, and what’s our mission.”
The digital marketing push doesn’t stop there. The website, besides plenty of eye candy, shows a clever combination of personal service and online ingenuity.
You can sign up for a monthly workshop where you can dive into various topics of furniture design such as what style is right for you or what to look for when buying furnishings. Kyle and Heather bring in guest speakers like the manager of the local paint store to ensure you receive expert advice.
Kyle and Heather also don’t want you to buy something you can’t afford. Really. There is a downloadable budget guide on their website. (Heather is a former banker.)
Finally, you don’t even have to come into the store. You can buy directly online from their Shopify digital storefront. Part of the plan is to add more products to their online store catalogue and showcase them with beautiful pictures and interesting descriptions.
Because their difference is their design approach to interiors and furniture, they’re using digital tools to bring that experience online. You may be hundreds of kilometres away, but you can provide your requirements online and through video conferencing. In return, you will receive a 3D rendering of a design for as low as $297, compared to as much as $1,500 with a typical designer.
Now they are well on their way to their goal of becoming the No.1 design studio in the region by the end of 2019, thanks to online marketing and Digital Main Street.
Digital Main Street, a highly successful program first developed by the Toronto Association of BIAs and funded by the City of Toronto, is now available across Ontario thanks to the Government of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) and ready to help main street small businesses to thrive in the digital economy.