It's Time, Now, to Change Your World
They're here! Home Depot's EXPO, The Great Indoors, WalMart, K-Mart, Priceline.com, KitchenDesign online, etc. Major home center chains and mega-stores have literally everything the home improvement consumer wants, from high design to "on-the-shelf" products. They even have the kitchen sink the $2,000 kitchen sink!
One of the things that strikes me most about all the places where a quality kitchen and bath can be purchased today is the depth of "everything." The customer can obtain design, cabinets, counters, flooring, plumbing, electric, exotic, stock, custom, almost anywhere, in one place. There is no more shopping from "place to place."
Perhaps most intriguing is the breadth of creativity shown
across all channels of distribution in the industry. The customer
can go anywhere to buy a good project. The lines are blurry between
retail, distribution, manufacturing, dealers and independents. The
customer is, indeed, well served.
Stated another way: One-stop shopping is quickly becoming the primary way customers want to buy their kitchen and bath projects.
One-stop shopping is a major reinventing of the total experience of purchasing kitchens, baths, interior design and remodeling be it in a brick-and-mortar store or in cyber-space. The size or price of the project doesn't matter. People are desperately searching for ways to get what they what, when they want it (which definitely is now!), and as simply as possible.
The old process of visiting a kitchen dealer, then driving to an independent wall-finishing showroom, a tile showroom, a flooring company, and other related suppliers is dying a quick death. It's being replaced with literally "everything" under one roof for as seamless a buying experience as possible.
Today's kitchen and bath consumer wants the job done as simply as possible. No more taking six months to do a job. No more driving around from stranger to stranger, seeking product, service and installation. These days, consumers want it all, with one person or company in control and responsible . . . and they want it seamlessly, effortlessly, and now!
Let's look at a few examples:
- It's no longer uncommon for home buyers to walk into a custom
model home, tell the agent they want "everything" and set the
move-in date a few days in advance. On the way out, they casually,
but firmly, ask if the dishes and furnishings in the model can be
purchased and set into their new home. Of course, the home is not
really custom. Like semi-custom cabinets, it just looks custom
after the designer's touch is added.
- Builders are having lumberyards quote the materials, place the
order, deliver and install the product. Partnering with the vendor
is now standard. If you sell insulation, you install insulation. No
longer do you drop roofing off on the job site; you take it to the
roof and install it while you're there. Kitchen people, because of
the sophistication of design and product, have been doing this
partnering with builders for a long time. Now, all vendors are
being asked to discover ways to do this. A builder is now a project
manager, rather than a hammer-swinging construction guy.
- Look at your business. Semi-custom has replaced custom, and the customer is happy. The designer is supreme, even over brand names. The customer wants you to do it all, from one place, under one contract, with no pain to them.
Sadly, most kitchen and bath dealers operate alone and that's not a good place to be these days. The buyer is heading in the fast lane to one-stop shoppping. And, the kitchen and bath industry, for the most part, doesn't have a clue.
Currently, one-stop shopping is only available at The EXPO, The Great Indoors and major design centers. These outlets have moved in this direction because they're smart, they have money and they can pay to create the future. They know the industry is changing.
You be smart, too! Understand that the trend to one-stop shopping one way or the other will change your future. Wonderful things are happening in the world of residential interiors. The consumer is buying ideas and options that are grand, glorious, and have mega-depth. They want to buy it all, at one place, in the shortest time possible, with as little "pain" as possible.
I think the best opportunity for independent kitchen/bath dealers to be the steamroller and not the highway is to form a local alliance. Create a congruous group of labor, vendors, artisans and others who agree to partner with each other harmoniously. The objective: Do what the one-stop shopping leaders do, without investing millions of dollars in mega floor space, hundreds of employees, etc.
The establishment of these kinds of alliances is easier than you think. The trade professionals necessary to execute a project join forces to create perfect, seamless service for the customer. Each vendor covers the project from a different perspective. Together, they form a network that covers "everything" under one contract, managed by one person or firm.
Leading the consumer charge to one-stop shopping will not be easy. People will have to stand-up and stick their proverbial necks out. You'll have to make waves. But it's been done before. There are many people who moved the kitchen and bath industry into the forefront of the residential construction market.
Now, it's your turn.
To begin thinking intelligently about reinventing the kitchen and bath industry's delivery system, you need to understand your customers and what's important to them. How can you serve them without competing in average product, mass production and killer low-margin pricing? How can you provide the benefits of one-stop shopping, even if not under one roof?
First, adapt the term "strategic alliance" as your war cry.
A. Find complementary businesses whose customers need your products, services, labor, etc.
B. Develop relationships with those individuals who have direct client contact.
C. Search out who and what their customers need and what you can help them provide.
D. Set goals with your partner to help them increase their business via the alliance.
E. Begin, keep focused on and discover how the alliance can bring the powerful benefits of one-stop shopping to the customer and, quite frankly, to the pockets of the alliance members.