Mikiya Kobayashi of Mikiya Kobayashi, Inc tells us about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Luckily me, my family and my staff are all fine and healthy, and we are all keeping ourselves busy and active, both with work and private life.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded or joined this company.
Mikiya Kobayashi: After graduating from Musashino Art University, Tokyo, in 2004, I soon joined FIELD FOUR DESIGN OFFICE, one of the biggest interior design firms in Japan. In 2006 I founded my studio in Tokyo and began designing for wood products companies. In 2018 I opened my second studio in Valencia to better connect with the increasing number of European clients and established the lifestyle brand IMPLEMENTS, with the desire to deliver products that enrich people’s lives.
How does your company market its product/services online?
Mikiya Kobayashi: First of all, last year we launched our new online store, which not only allows customers to purchase online but also showcases all our products, both original designs as well as selected ones, and it is also used as a platform to inform customers about all the news regarding the showroom and studio. We also started doing exhibitions at the showroom, focused on specific manufacturing areas of Japan or designers, where it is possible to purchase the showcased articles, and we are planning to do similar events more often with different topics, as this would bring to the showroom a wider variety of customers. Of course, we are putting a lot of effort into being present on social media, such as Instagram and so on, as these have become the strongest channels to introduce ourselves to the market. Last but not least, we have become the sponsor for some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes (I am myself practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), as we also wanted to reach people that are not directly related to furniture or interior design. We believe sports define the lifestyle of people as much as furniture or homeware do. Therefore we thought these two worlds, apparently far away, were actually more connected than we think. In fact, we could see an increase of followers on social media that come from different backgrounds, and we are happy about that.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Like anywhere else in the world, the Japanese economy has been strongly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily we have several projects going on, but we realized that the development time slowed down a bit as often factories didn’t have enough staff to keep the same pace as before. Also, a big difference is the reduction of face-to-face meetings and business trips, but this could be considered a good thing, as often less time and energy are needed in this way. Thanks to this, we could put more effort into digital content as well as on the new IMPLEMENTS store. A big downside of the pandemic was the impossibility of going to Europe and abroad in general, but things are getting better now. Therefore we are planning to put effort again into also expanding outside Japan.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Mikiya Kobayashi: We think it is important to have an active approach to online marketing rather than specific tools or software. Nowadays, we live in a very fast-paced world, where tons of information is shared every day. For this reason, it is important to be dynamic and able to adapt quickly. As we are still a small brand, we often need to take on new challenges to distinguish ourselves from the competitors.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mikiya Kobayashi: I don’t see other designers as competitors but as colleagues. Regarding our brand, we are still small compared to the main players in the furniture industry, but being compact gives us the possibility to deliver a tailored service both to private and contract clients. I believe our strong point is also to be the design studio behind most of the products we sell, as we see the whole process and we are able to learn and improve from our customers’ feedback.
Your final thoughts?
Mikiya Kobayashi: I think design has an impact on both social and individual aspects of life. Now that we can gradually talk of a post COVID era, people’s lives have changed, and so have their needs. I think as a designer, it is important to be sensitive to the constant change of our needs through the evolving lifestyle and be able to adapt and fulfill them through new ideas. Nevertheless, online marketing had even gained more importance than before, as we got used to spending more time indoors than before, with the consequence of spending more time online. Whether this is a good or bad thing, this is bringing new challenges we have to deal with.
online store: choices-implements.jp