We just got back from our semi-annual pilgrimage to High Point Market, the largest home furnishings show in the world. The day before we left, we received shocking data about the challenge of winning the attention of designers, who now see an average of only one rep per week—and that rep is typically a trusted advisor. Seventy-five percent of products specified come from tried-and-true companies, making it especially tough for a new company trying to break through. 

The Spring 2016 High Point Market was a festive event. New products were plentiful, new lines opened new possibilities, and the mood was inspiring. Optimism continues to reign. The bullish feelings definitely came through.

But appearances can be misleading. When we dug a little deeper into conversation—with heavy hitters and up-and-comers to the market—we heard the same thing: Everyone is looking for a way to up their game in this trendy, fickle environment.  

A new breed of showroom is emerging: More and more square footage shifted over to experiential environments. The glorified stock rooms were slow. Busy were those with a lifestyle focus, or that emulated rooms in the home, or both. In a showplace of over 2,000 exhibitors, getting buyers in the door is the name of the game.

Customer experience is a major focus: Manufacturers have been hit hard with the realization that Amazon and Zappo’s have created customer expectations that apply to them as well. Gone are the days when the B2B world gets some slack. Real-time, transparent information in the form of push notifications, faster delivery, lightning-quick issue resolution: these are all very real, very pressing issues for manufacturers. The need to design the infrastructure to meet these expectations is immediate.  

Create a robust online experience to stay relevant: Increased expectations online and a massive generation that relies almost solely on mobile devices for virtually everything have companies nervous. We heard small and large companies voice the need to get it right, but neither necessarily know the path forward. 

Our fearless prediction is that these trends will be the buzz at High Point Market for many shows to come. In a saturated market like retail, you’ve got be exceptional to be noticed—like Joanna Gaines.