Technology has had a dramatic impact on the kitchen and bath industry for the past several decades in terms of product function. People often visit showrooms to view the latest and greatest that manufacturers have to offer with regard to technological advancements in appliances, plumbing fixtures and functional components.
But what about the showrooms themselves – and the companies that operate them? For years, designers relied on their drawing skills to create kitchen designs, and salespeople turned to catalogs and literature to find product information to relay to customers. The advent of computer-aided design and online catalogs and ordering systems streamlined operations, and left dealers and designers wondering about what technological tools were on the horizon.
Well, many of those tools have arrived, and kitchen and bath dealers have been quick to not only embrace them, but implement them, in their showrooms. Software to handle contracts, order placement and accounting are current mainstays, with back-up systems and remote access gaining in importance.
But technology in the showroom has gone a step further. CAD drawings are now available in 3D, and in some instances have moved from the small to the big screen. Online assistance on the Web now ranges from simple directions to full electronic access. And, high-tech appliances wow customers in fully operational displays.
The benefit of these advances in technology is two-fold for kitchen and bath showrooms that implement them: easier and more efficient business operations, and access to a whole new customer base.
‘Virtual Vignette’ Presentation Screen Brings Client Designs to Life
At JP Kitchen Design Studio in Oconomowoc, WI, “We understand that the world of technology is converging upon traditional kitchen design, and we try to show practical ways of embracing that technology and using it to better the lives of our clients, not control and frustrate them,” comments Sean Jacobs, co-owner and surfaces specialist.
Jacobs notes that the cornerstone of the firm’s success is its “Virtual Vignette,” a 10' projection screen that brings client designs to life, in life-size detail, before they become reality. The “Virtual Vignette” is powered by a Media Center multi-media computer that contains dozens of digital pictures of past projects, showing both before and after photos, Jacobs adds. “The before and after shots act as our digital resumé, and usually seal the deal,” he remarks.
A library of industry photos that shows different styles and trends is also part of the offering. “The number of selections to make for a kitchen remodel can be overwhelming, but this makes the selection process faster, more precise and more fun,” notes Laurie Peirick, the company’s co-owner.
“We’re able to make changes on the fly and in front of the client relatively quickly,” she explains. Customers have commented that this service was instrumental in their choice of companies. “Customers can interact with us…and we can share ideas and feed off of each other.”
And clients can even roll up their sleeves and get involved in the design process. “The clever part of the Virtual Vignette is that we project onto a dry-erase marker board, which gives our clients the ability to draw their ideas and share their vision over the top of our projected ideas,” explains Jacobs. “It’s very interactive, and it gives our clients a sense of control that they have input in this process.”
JP Kitchen Design Studio continues to implement new technological offerings, and now has the ability to e-mail clients a digital slide show of their finished project. “We include before and after shots, and even include a musical background with their photos,” comments Jacobs. “We use a Web site called Smilebox, and we encourage our clients to forward the slide show to their friends, family and co-workers. [It’s great for clients,] and it also acts as a great promotional vehicle for us.”