Are your digital strategies meeting your customers’ needs? Steve Collinge discusses the latest trends affecting the kitchen and DIY market.

Earlier this year, we conducted a consumer survey in France, the UK, and the USA that revealed some extraordinary insights into how kitchen buying habits have changed since the pandemic. 

Amongst them is the full extent to which consumer expectations have moved online. 

The implications for kitchen retailers, brands, and manufacturers are significant. So, we sat down with Steve Collinge, home improvements and DIY industry expert and MD of the Insight Retail Group, to discuss the findings and how kitchen businesses should respond.

Q: Steve, buying habits have changed a lot recently due to the pandemic, but were you surprised by our survey results? It seems that online has become the number one channel even when shopping for kitchens.

A: The migration to e-commerce during the Covid-19 lockdowns has had a lasting impact. Fundamentally, consumers have learned how valuable and engaging the online experience can be for all their shopping needs, including their home improvement projects – and when you find an easier way of doing things, you don’t go back. 

Since the pandemic, more than a quarter of consumers (28%) have bought an item online that they wouldn’t have before.

So, what I found particularly surprising about the HomeByMe survey was the mismatch it revealed between what consumers now expect from their home or kitchen remodeling experience compared to the reality. Consumers now have high expectations regarding the online experiences offered by kitchen and DIY businesses, and results from the HomeByMe survey show these still need to be met. 

For example, when researching and planning their kitchen project, most consumers said they wanted to explore their options and get inspiration online before seeking assistance from an expert. Yet, in practice, almost a third (30%) still don’t know where to start when it comes to styles and products they like. The delivery times consumers expect are also wildly different from the reality: the industry average for delivering a kitchen is two months, but only 9% of respondents to the HomeByMe survey said they were prepared to wait that long.

Q:  In your opinion, why does such a mismatch still exist between consumer expectation and reality? 

A: The kitchen purchase journey has not changed in decades. In fact, it barely changed, even with the launch of the internet. It has relied almost entirely on consumers finding contact details for a local store, booking an appointment – normally by telephone or walking into the store – and returning two weeks later for a consultation. Consumers would repeat this step with several other retailers, and it was typical for the entire kitchen remodeling process to take a minimum of three months, sometimes 12 months or longer.

What’s clear from the HomeByMe survey results is that consumers are no longer content with that. They have become accustomed to the speed and convenience offered to them elsewhere – and they are looking to fast-track their way through the kitchen sales cycle too. While there’s no doubt that kitchen and DIY businesses have improved their online offering in the past few years, the kitchen purchase journey has remained the same in many ways, often still centering around in-store consultation. 

To accelerate the sales cycle and meet the needs of consumers today, the model needs to fundamentally change. 

3 in 4 consumers (73%) prefer to plan their kitchen project online in their own time.

Q: What does the new kitchen buying journey look like, and what strategies must kitchen businesses adapt to meet consumer expectations today?

Kitchen businesses need to offer digital experiences that involve their customers at every stage of the design and purchase journey – from providing new ways to get inspired, researching products, brands, and retailers, planning their new kitchen, and completing the purchase. To speed up the sales cycle, the entire journey needs to be possible online, giving consumers the power to shop for their kitchen how and when they want to. 

Digital tools must guide consumers seamlessly from one stage to the next. Consumers do not want to spend time using an online planning solution only to go through the whole process again with a sales professional. I know many consumers also find it frustrating when they cannot find costs online – even if the website provides a design tool, customers often need to go into a store to get an accurate quote. 

The two most enjoyable steps of the kitchen remodeling process for consumers are seeing a 3D design of what their new kitchen will look like for the first time (48%) and creating their own kitchen design to match their space and vision (46%). 

Allowing consumers to start that process online with an omnichannel 3D kitchen planner, and being transparent about everything from the cost of the project to the timeline, is what’s required. The store still plays an important role during the process and, particularly, further down the line. The key is to introduce digital solutions that will continue to guide consumers through every step. 

Download the full report for more expert insight into the latest consumer buying preferences affecting kitchen and DIY businesses.

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