This is the era of the empowered customer whose buying journey is more autonomous than ever before.
This is the era of the empowered customer whose buying journey is more autonomous than ever before, whether it is hailing taxis, booking holidays or even banking. As an integral part of the purchase process they expect friction-free brand experiences on the channels and devices that are right for them, well before they engage with a sales representative.
Just a few years ago, sales representatives and design professionals controlled access to kitchen catalogues and layouts. Customers relied entirely on these professionals and store associates to discover and learn about products and different possible layouts. They needed to pre-schedule appointments to get a feel for how their dream kitchens would look, and repeat the whole process at multiple stores to do any comparison shopping.
This has changed at a bewildering pace and today’s consumers are more informed than ever before. Customers have access to the latest trends in design and layout thanks to Pinterest, Houzz and more. They are comparing different retailers’ products and designs, arming themselves with advice and tips from fellow shoppers before buying, and demanding more efficient, value added experiences from sales representatives.
Meeting and even exceeding these expectations is possible, but not using the control-oriented strategies that kitchen retailers sometimes deploy even today. Kitchen retailers need to update their approach to design and embrace customer empowerment to optimize both the consumer experience and the purchase process.
Using 3D planning to empower shoppers
3D kitchen design is one area where DIY-minded, tech-savvy customers are taking the power into their hands. Today’s solutions are more powerful and extremely easy to use, providing an app-like experience requiring no CAD experience whatsoever. These solutions allow customers to design rooms based on their own specifications, integrating entire catalogs, catering to ‘wonky’ room shapes, complying with local regulations, and giving consumers the power to design a kitchen that suits all their needs. What’s more, they allow perfect photo-realistic renders of the finished design. These designs are literally sale- and installation-ready.
And customers are increasingly turning to these types of solutions to create their own designs – everything from the basic concept to final render. They then often take these designs in-store to serve as a starting point for their conversations with in-store design experts.
While some consumers might use their design as a starting point only and rely on design experts to guide them the rest of the way, for others, the 3D design solution will take then along 90% of their planning journey. They might only need the design expert to check the technical aspects and validate their designs, for example, prior to final purchase.
This trend has created a small, but extremely significant shift, in the role of the in-store sales rep or kitchen design consultant.
Traditionally, consumers would simply provide dimensions and a dream. The kitchen design professional, often with years of expertise and qualification, would then develop designs and discuss a range of ideas and options: a process involving upwards of two hours. The process, naturally, was inefficient, involving prior appointments, long waiting times and sales cycles, and limited creativity due to time pressure to close the sale.
The consumer-facing 3D planning solution has replaced much of this initial work needed for a consultation and has the potential to dramatically streamline and improve the process, elevating in-store representatives to value-added experts who take designs from good to great, and serve as expert sale closers.
Here are just some of the business benefits of integrating a consumer-driven 3D design solution into the kitchen retail customer offering.
- Better customer qualification: Customers are emotionally engaged when they use 3D design solutions. They want to see it succeed and to see their creation come alive. Hence, they are much more likely to be serious shoppers who are at an advanced stage of the purchase cycle. As a result, time spent in helping these customers fine-tune their designs is much more likely to yield a sale.
- Accelerate the sales cycle: A 3D design solution allows users to develop designs they are most comfortable with, and then allows in-store design consultations to be focused on optimizing the design, creating an accurate blueprint and closing the sale. Kitchen designers need to spend less time with each customer, meaning they can handle more customers within a day.
- Reduce errors: Modern 3D design solutions such as that offered by HomebyMe incorporate hundreds of business rules that auto-correct kitchen designs even as they are being created: for example, flagging when a door does not have enough clearance. As a result, errors are caught early and resolved before their impact magnifies.
- Develop iterative designs: 3D planning solutions allows both design consultant and customers to start from a preset design. They can then work together to refine the spec as many times as they like. The customer can either do this from home, or the consultant can amend it through the user account. Changes can be made instantly on the design solution.
- Reduce store returns: Delighted customers means fewer store returns or complaints. 3D design planning solutions enable customers to experience the kitchen as though they were standing in it, from any aspect or angle. Professional, photo-quality renderings, complete with shadows and shade, also provide the final ‘as finished’ look, setting the expectations of what will be delivered.
In short, an investment in 3D design solutions is a win-win for retailer and consultant alike. Today’s customers are highly empowered because of the technology and the resources available to them on the internet, setting the bar higher for kitchen brands. But the reality is that empowered customers are efficient customers. Rather than losing control of the design process, a consumer-driven 3D design solution will quickly lead to more sales, a happier customer and a more profitable retail experience.
To further explore on how a 3D planning solution supports the design experience, visit our website built specifically to serve kitchen retailers where you can organize a demonstration of the platform with a member of our team of experts.