They also are familiar with sending and receiving colored pictures and images. This new, sophisticated consumer knows all about filling out online survey forms. It's really not much different from filling out the survey form with you in your showroom. To do it with you, however, they need to make an appointment. Doing it on-line can be done at their convenience.
Plans can be transmitted online. Drawings reviewed. Real time conversations can replace in-person meetings. Designer and client can both review plans at the same time in cyberspace. Quality color images can be sent via computer showing up-close door style edge treatments. Colors transmitted via the Internet are real enough to give clients a feel for what they would like.
Final construction authorization could be obtained by
overnighting a door or wood color sample for customer approval. Is
this being done today? You better believe it! Is this the future?
Only five years ago, most kitchen and bath dealers felt that you couldn't even provide consumers with custom plans done on a computer. For some reason, many of us felt that plans had to be hand drawn. Now, sophisticated consumers may wonder what's wrong with you if you're not using a CAD system. In fact, many customers are trying out at-home CAD programs before they even come into our showrooms. Wouldn't it be a natural extension for these techno savvy folks to want increased online shopping opportunities, as well? I think it's a no brainer.
No matter what I say, some of you are convinced that being "wired" is not an important part of your future. Consider, then, the expansion of the Home Expo chain of stores. There are over 200 of these stores planned for opening over the next few years. Furthermore, they're not alone. There are several other well-heeled groups forming that plan on going after the same market as Home Expo.
Whose clients are these big guys hoping to capture? Yours! Whose employees will they be looking to hire? Yours! Which manufacturers will they be seeking exclusive arrangements from? Yours! These guys look at us Mom & Pop businesses as a food group they want to eat us for lunch.
Is this a doomsday column? It doesn't have to be. I just want to make the point that profound industry changes are upon us. Our most serious competition may come from online vendors, or it could come from the various groups of heavyweights that plan on launching kitchen and bath superstores. No matter which way you see it, it's important to accept that it's going to happen. Otherwise, your biggest competitor will be the one you face in the mirror every morning. Either way, though, the greatest impact on our business will no longer come from the competitor across town. Its what's out on the horizon that matters most.
I am reminded of the famous fable where the town learns that there is a leak in the dike. Some folks ran for the hills. Others decided to do nothing and ignore the news. I'm sure there were folks who chose to simply put on their boots, thinking it might get a little damp. Eventually, one young man went and stuck his finger in the dike and stopped the leak. Very courageous but very short term!
As a Mom & Pop style kitchen and bath dealer, I swear I can hear the drip, drip, dripping of the leak in the dike. If you close your eyes and concentrate I'll bet you can hear it, too. Now what do you do? It's decision time.