The Cheyenne-based retailer talks technology upgrades, community support, and the silver linings of a chaotic time.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change rapidly, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
“We truly have the best community,” says Carman Hess, president of the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Wyoming Home. “I love the Western industry because it is a close group. We are all only separated by a degree or two, and we all know the value of the hard work we put into our businesses.”
We spoke to Hess in late April as part of an ongoing effort to support our friends in the Western retail industry. In the wake of the Coronavirus, some of our favorite stores and shops are thinking outside the box to reach customers in new ways—and discovering some benefits to that innovation along the way.
For Hess, that has led to a belief that, ultimately, those in the Western community will come out of this situation better people than before. Read more of our interview with Hess below.
How is your current business environment different from the normal?
Wyoming Home usually has a lot of foot traffic, customers coming through the doors. Right now, we have closed to foot traffic, but we are filling customer orders that are placed over the phone and online [as of May 6, Wyoming Home had re-opened with limited store hours]. We have upped our presence on social media (Facebook and Instagram Live), multiple daily posts and, of course, utilizing the C&I Marketplace.
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to the current situation?
The biggest challenge has been making sure our store is seen. SEO is huge, but we are working hard to find the right words to help us stand out from the crowd.
We have upped our presence on social media (Facebook and Instagram Live), multiple daily posts and, of course, utilizing the C&I Marketplace.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
We were lucky to have a user-friendly website set up in 2018. It is easy for us manipulate the site from the back end and keep it up to date with inventory. We have linked our site with our Facebook and Instagram sites to utilize those tools to sell our product.
Has anything changed in how you interact with your customers online and on the phone?
With the worry of a “Shelter In Place” order, the store phones were forwarded to my personal cell phone. This has made it a lot easier to interact with customers and to let them know that even though the store is temporarily closed to foot traffic, we are still here to give the same great customer service they have come to expect from Wyoming Home. I have been receiving more direct messages on social media from customers and that is great because I can quickly get answers to them while being on the go. A huge thing that has happened is learning new features and discovering apps for my smartphone that allow me to assist customers quickly. Example: the measuring tool has been a LIFESAVER!
Check out more of Wyoming Home’s unique furniture selection online.
Has any recent content resonated with your audience?
I think the idea of making our content more “personal” has resonated with my audience. I was talking with my neighbor and she told me that the best response she received on a post was a picture of her bedroom that she restyled. That got me thinking that I needed to show some of our product in my house. So I styled my guest bathroom with some pieces—customers liked that. I talked about a furniture line we carry and showed my personal furniture—customers seemed to like that as well. I needed a picture of my daughter for a local ad so I took one of her reading to the stuffed animals at the shop and a lot of people liked that. I think the reason those posts did well with our audience is because it was authentic. Sure, it is staged. but it is in my personal space.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
What I have noticed is home décor for sure is a big thing. Consumers have had six weeks to look at their space, critique it, and decide that they need to update something! We have been promoting a lot of our home décor lines to our audience.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses trying to adjust to the online market right now?
Add product daily, update your content, make sure links work, and for sure make sure that you are keeping your audience informed on what you have added to the site and new product coming into the store.
Where have you found the most support for your business during this time—local customers, retail peers, stimulus packages?
I would say all three have been big supporters of us during this time. We have received calls and emails from our local customers, even customers located all over the United States. It’s been wonderful to have them reach out to us. Our retail peers have been great to help support each other. Cheyenne’s downtown business community is a close group and we are all willing to help each other regardless of what is going on.
I would say banking with a local small bank has been a good thing because they understand the economic environment better than a national bank. That being said, my local bank has been in contact with all of their customers making sure that we were in the loop with everything that the government was doing. I was glued to my email for days making sure I didn’t miss a message. We got all of our information in on time and were very fortunate to secure some funding to help ease the economic stress.
Cheyenne’s downtown business community is a close group and we are all willing to help each other regardless of what is going on.
Have there been any silver linings to your experience during this time?
I have to admit I have to talk to myself daily to make sure that I am finding the silver lining in all of this. For the business it has been having the time to take care of projects around the store that we needed to get done. We want to make sure that when the store reopens to the public, it is a fresh look to the customers. I am thankful for technology too! The technology has been great to allow business to still be conducted remotely, and I am able to work from home. Personally, the silver lining has been more family time. I am really enjoying that!
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.