Delivering What Consumers Want

Consumers are sending a steady stream of important cues to kitchen and bath designers, and leveraging the message contained within those cues could spell the difference between mediocrity and success in today’s competitive market.
That much is inherent from the findings of a compelling new survey that delved into consumer lifestyles, kitchen product preferences and purchasing patterns. The survey, which polled some 10,000 American consumers – more than 800 of whom remodeled their kitchens – offers a range of interesting insights into what consumers want from their remodeled kitchens, as well as from the design professionals with whom they work (see Consumer Buying Trends).

Among the key findings of the survey, for example, are the following:

  • Consumer budgets may be far more elastic than conventional wisdom suggests. The survey revealed, in fact, that more than three in 10 kitchen remodeling consumers said they’d spend more money on a kitchen remodel if they had to do it over again, while only less than one in 10 said they’d spend less.
  • Of those consumers who reported they’d spend more money, the key things they said they’d do differently are upgrading the cabinets and increasing the size of the kitchen. When asked which products they’d be willing to “splurge” on if they were remodeling their kitchen, the top products mentioned were cabinets, ranges/ovens/cooktops, countertops, refrigerators and flooring.
  • Surveyed homeowners described their “ideal” kitchen as “comfortable,” “open,” “warm,” “light,” “happy,” “calming” and “homey.” Intertwined within those descriptions was the notion of the kitchen being the focal point for family and friends – for socializing and bonding; for sharing memorable experiences; for evoking welcome emotions; for building warm and lasting memories.
  • Interviewed homeowners described their old kitchen as “boring,” “dark” and “confining.” Adjectives such as “cluttered” were also used often. The notion of a kitchen space being, above all else, organized emerged as being of paramount importance.
  • Mid-market and high-end remodeling consumers relate to their kitchens differently. Mid-market consumers see their kitchens as more functional in nature. In contrast, high-end consumers are more likely to see their kitchens as centers of entertainment and describe their ideal kitchen as “gourmet.”
  • Kitchen remodeling projects admittedly produce “surprises” for homeowners. The most frequently mentioned by surveyed consumers are how long the project took to complete and how much it cost.

These results should prove substantive enough for savvy kitchen design professionals to go to school on.

For one thing, they contain nearly all the key hot buttons (for example, “comfortable,” “warm,” “light,” “happy,” “calming” and “homey”) that kitchen designers should communicate in their sales and marketing messages – words that address not just the features and benefits of a remodeled kitchen, but the experiential nature of those projects. In other words, how their remodeled kitchen will make people feel.

The results also suggest the possibility of kitchen professionals being able to upsell projects by laying out options that customers may not have initially considered, while suggesting that customers may be shortchanging themselves, to their ultimate regret, if they don’t at least think about those upgrades.

Lastly, the survey’s findings suggest the need for design professionals to communicate clearly with their customers in an effort to minimize, or eliminate, the unpleasant “surprises” that apparently leave a poor taste in the mouths of so many consumers.

The bottom line is this: Consumers are communicating loud and clear about exactly what they’re seeking in both their remodeled kitchens and the specialists who design and sell those kitchens. It’s up to the retail and design trade to listen to what those consumers are saying, and then respond with projects that address their customers’ most pressing needs.