As I meet with kitchen and bath designers and business owners, I find that nearly every conversation zeroes in on the same issue: “What’s motivating my customers?” We discuss the needs, wants, experiences and style preferences that customers bring to the showroom today and explore questions like “How can we expect our customers to change?” And: “What will we need to do to stay successful with our customers, even if it calls for significant changes in our showroom?”
Understanding your customer is the starting point for all you’ll plan and do for your business. It will be your guide as you determine to whom you’ll sell, and how, in your evolving showroom.
I’ve recently used a shorthand term for this concern: “decoding your customer.” Even if you can only improve your grasp of your customer, you’ll be doing a lot to help sustain and grow your business.
Here are some of the major cultural and lifestyle shifts influencing the new kinds of customers you may be meeting on your showroom floor.
YOUR CREATIVE CUSTOMER
Today’s kitchen isn’t merely functional – it’s an in-home culinary studio where the owners and their guests go to create. Cooking is expression, especially among younger homeowners, some three-quarters of whom identify creativity as a personal trait. All elements of the kitchen’s design – from cabinets, shelving, appliances and flooring to lighting and accessories – help set the stage for creativity.
This should be reflected in your showroom’s model kitchens, too. Your customers will eagerly look ahead to their creative time in the kitchen as they shop your store for the right styles and products.
Creative Showroom Tip: Pay attention to the food preparation areas of your displays, as the desire for two sinks for the two-cook kitchen is on the rise. Even when homeowners use a Blue Apron-style service, the delivered meal will still require some prep.
YOUR CONNECTED CUSTOMER
An average household today has six connected devices. Some actually have 15 or more. That’s why you can count on technology and connectivity to rank high on your customer’s “must-have” kitchen list.
Think of all we now do online in the kitchen: check recipes, pay bills, stream movies, check the score of the game, FaceTime with family and friends. So you’ll need to design not just for traditional kitchen functions, but for all devices required.
This calls for ample charging and storage, yet with minimal disruption to the kitchen’s normal flow. Demonstrating technology smoothly integrated in your showroom displays can be key to winning today’s tech-minded customer.
Connected Showroom Tip: Spotlight the latest high-tech advances with the power hooked up and ready to show. The auto-open wastebasket, just for one, is a customer favorite. Giving customers a hands-on feel for the most advanced features makes it easier to sell these upgrades.
YOU HIGH AMENITIES CUSTOMER
The trend for homeowners is to value experiences over things. They’re now looking for an experience environment inside their home. A spa tub can turn the bath into a serene, resort-like refuge. Wine cabinets and coolers lend a gourmet aesthetic to the kitchen.
The right kitchen layout and island should allow a group to socialize while cooking. It’s the feelings these features bring that matter most. Do your showroom displays feature the kinds of high-end amenities expected by today’s experience buyers?
High Amenities Showroom Tip: Show the accessories in your showroom; don’t just talk about them. Think about demonstrating how a well-equipped second kitchen can host gatherings in the high-amenities home.
‘JUST FOR ME’ CUSTOMER
You can expect your showroom’s customer today to want a personalized kitchen or bath design. They’re less likely to be concerned about resale, and more likely focused on satisfying their immediate lifestyle needs. For example, a weekend chef will require more fresh food storage in the kitchen, while a holiday entertainer will want more storage for wine and serving pieces. What’s necessary today is entirely in the eye of your customer.
“Just For Me” Showroom Tip: Lay out your kitchen displays for purposeful attention to food preparation, storage and everyday interactions – from zone to zone of the kitchen space. Show how something as specific as a uniquely styled ventilation hood can encourage your customer to see the kitchen design as “just for me.”
YOUR MULTI-GENERATIONAL CUSTOMER
According to the National Board of Realtors, roughly 15% of home sales are intended to house multiple generations. About a third of today’s Gen Y homebuyers plan to rent out space to family and friends.
When multiple generations and households live under one roof, the kitchen rises in importance. More meals, involving a wider variety of foods, are prepared and eaten at home. When you can specifically relate to the multi-generational customer in your showroom, you’ll convey that you’re in tune with their needs and interests.
Multi-Generational Showroom Tip: I’m sure you’ve experienced the boom in single-serving coffee machines. Consider having a display to demonstrate how new cabinetry features allow convenient access and storage of the appliance and its supplies. You can even use the brewer to serve customers as a welcoming touch.
YOUR WHOLE HOUSE CUSTOMER
More homeowners today want the kitchen to blend seamlessly with the home’s dining and living areas. Can your showroom demonstrate your “whole home” design know-how beyond just the kitchen and bath? Could you show, for example, a Great Room kitchen with a dining room table doubling as a worktable near the island?
Whole Home Showroom Tip: The possibilities for your whole home showroom are endless. Still, with limited display space, this may not be your highest priority. Alternative: Show your whole home designs in an online idea book. Whatever works best within the realities of your business, the key is to enable your customers to visualize these design concepts.
Your showroom can’t always be at the cutting edge of every home design trend. Yet you can be always looking ahead – and always ready to adapt.
Whatever new challenges the future may bring, your ongoing success will depend on keeping your finger firmly applied to your customer’s pulse. The insights you gain by decoding your customer today will help shape your showroom decisions for tomorrow. ▪