As a challenging year draws to a close, sorting through the shifts and uncertainties of 2020 is enough to make anyone feel discouraged. Fortunately, a review of the past 10 months shows that the kitchen and bath industry is doing well despite the challenges facing the economy at large. More than this, the outlook for 2021 is positive.
To take advantage of the positives, there are a few things showrooms can do to strengthen relationships with clients. Knowing the state of the industry, what people are looking for and how to get it to them is the start of a plan that will make 2021 a great year.
Old spaces get a new look
Though a decline in home renovation was expected at the outset of the pandemic, it appears that families sheltering at home have discovered a renewed desire to upgrade the spaces they live in. In fact, a home isn’t just a space to live in anymore- it’s become a home office, schoolroom, spa, gym and entertainment center.
People are finding new uses for old spaces, especially in households with more people than ever at home. The number of 18 to 29 year-olds living at home jumped dramatically at the start of the pandemic and is at its highest since the Great Depression. If that’s not a reason to remodel and refresh, what it?
Several industry surveys have shown that almost a quarter of households are looking at remodeling in the coming months, driven by the need for more functional spaces. It’s not the only reason, though: many want to refresh outdated features or update the design.
For the kitchen and bath industry, the signs are positive. Kitchens remain a major focal point for renovation, especially since 1 in 10 people are using their kitchen as a workspace. With this in mind, designers are looking for ways to make kitchens more communal and multifunctional. Also, with 55% of people cooking and eating at home, kitchen appliances and fixtures are in demand.
DIY is on the rise
It’s important to note that many are choosing DIY solutions, which is an excellent way for decorative plumbing showrooms to become a valued remodeling partner. There was a 40% increase in DIY projects in the first half of the year; homeowners feel safer completing projects on their own and not bringing strangers into the home, not to mention DIY can be easier on the finances. It wasn’t always a choice, however- professionals like contractors, designers, and plumbers are in short supply and have long waiting lists.
It is expected that these smaller DIY projects will lead to more significant remodels. Staying close with DIY clients can pay off in the future. With the amount of technology at our fingertips, offering remote installation or design assistance is an ideal way to catch the DIY crowd and cultivate long-term relationships.
Reach out to clients
It’s certain in these times that people are more mindful about their spending. They are purchasing less expensive products. They’re researching before buying. Supply chain disruptions have led people to explore different options when they can’t find what they want- meaning they are open to trying new brands and stores.
The reality can vary state by state, city by city, and can be completely different in showrooms serving urban versus rural clients. Reaching out to clients is the only way to get that information for yourself. It can be as simple as sending out a survey via email, asking where your clients are in their home updating or renovating journeys. Find out what products are on the top of their minds; for example, Houzz and other leading industry publications note that consumers are demanding touchless technology in their kitchens, bathrooms and mudrooms.
Be present online
Another thing consumers are looking for right now is a strong online presence from their local stores. It’s been said many times over the past few months, but an omnichannel experience is critical right now. Keep in mind this is more of an opportunity than anything else; people are staying home more than they have in years, in the exact place the products you sell are ultimately going to be used. Use your website and social media to encourage clients to get those home improvement projects done and assure them you have exactly what they need to achieve those goals.
Know your online offering inside out so you can actually help people research better instead of just sending them to a website and letting them get lost in the options. By optimizing the online presence especially for the pre-shopping research phase, showrooms get in on the first stage of the buying journey. When a client searches for a product and the first website up is their local showroom, it demonstrates authority, inspires confidence and leads them to the showroom when they are ready to make their final decision.
Create a pick-up experience
In the physical store, there’s no reason not to create a great experience even if clients are just stopping by to pick something up. A table with a bottle of hand sanitizer and a payment terminal leaves a lot to be desired. Considering this may be the situation for a while to come, why not create a truly special pick-up area? A fully branded counter can be attached to a reception area or put somewhere else in the showroom offers clients a place to speak to someone about their newly-purchase products.
Even though many people are shopping more or less as usual, there are still many people who are not comfortable in-store. This might be the case for months or years to come, so a separate pick-up/consultation area could be a good medium-term investment.
From one point of view, changing the way you sell or market to clients based on trends (especially such new ones) can lead to unsustainable sales practices. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that some ‘trends’ may actually be long-term solutions that will improve customer service and sales long after the pandemic is over.