CHICAGO, IL — The use of cutting-edge technology for project design, client relations, management and marketing has become far more prevalent throughout the kitchen/bath design community since the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on showroom protocols, client access and other business operations.
Tied to this overarching trend, kitchen and bath design professionals are apparently utilizing – and spending more on – an ever-broadening array of technological tools, as companies attempt to upgrade websites, conduct online meetings, enhance digital presentations, offer virtual showroom tours, provide internet purchasing options and implement virtual and/or augmented reality. At the same time, dealers and designers report they’re facing a handful of challenges in implementing the seemingly unending flood of high-tech tools becoming available.
Those are among the key findings of a nationwide survey conducted on behalf of Kitchen & Bath Design News by its exclusive research partner, the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). The online survey involved a representative sampling of kitchen/bath dealers and designers, including those at firms that maintain a showroom as well as those who operate independently.
According to the survey’s findings, eight in ten dealers and designers polled currently use both a smart phone and a company website as the primary technology tools for their businesses. Design software, laptops, social media and Cloud-based storage are utilized by more than half the survey respondents. Other commonly used technology tools include business/design apps, online advertising, business management/ordering software and contact/email management software.
The KBDN survey also revealed that recipients’ top three technology-related activities revolve around conducting online meetings with clients and/or subcontractors, enhancing online communication to present designs or proposals, and using virtual and/or augmented reality to demonstrate design possibilities to clients. Moreover, a vast majority (between 59%-73%) of those surveyed say they are doing more of those things compared to pre-COVID – particularly when it comes to handling project drawings or designs – while a significant number say they anticipate adding those, along with other, technological capabilities in the future.
On average, surveyed designers and dealers report that they currently spend about 8% of their annual expense budget on various forms of technology, with 38% reporting that they are now spending more than they were prior to the global pandemic, and 56% saying they’re spending about the same. In contrast, only about 6% say they’re spending either “somewhat” or “much” less than prior to COVID-19.
When it comes to utilizing technology tools to market their business, surveyed designers and dealers said they primarily utilize their company’s website (82%), along with social media posts (53%). More than half of the surveyed design pros say they are now using LinkedIn ads, text/mobile ads and blogs/forums more than they were a year ago, though all of those tools are used relatively infrequently.