The latest Showroom Usage Study conducted by the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) revealed two related trends that we need to pay close attention to: The showroom of tomorrow will be smaller, and it will utilize more technology and digital displays than the showroom of today.
At the convergence of those two trends is the rapidly expanding use of technology by your Gen Y consumer of tomorrow.
Kitchen and bath center owners like Wayne Weintraub, co-owner of Kurtis Kitchen and Bath Centers, a five-location operation headquartered near Detroit, are finding that technology not only helps them service the new wave of young, tech-savvy shoppers, but it also reduces the high overhead costs associated with large showrooms.
Weintraub says the use of technology lets him “show more with less space.
“Costs keep going up, the price of materials keeps going up and square footage prices keep going up,” he laments. “I can’t afford the showroom size I used to have.”
He continues, “By using technology and better planning, I’ll be able to accomplish what I do now in a showroom half the size. Technology allows me to show customers all of their options digitally, so instead of showing 30 kitchens, I can show 10 or 12 kitchens. And, with technology that lets me demonstrate all of the possible options available, I can actually show thousands of kitchens in a much smaller area.”
As I travel the country, I see that many showrooms are clean and attractive, but are technologically stuck in the 1990s. Large, high definition flat screen monitors – a staple of today’s visually oriented society – are not being sufficiently utilized to reach out to the young consumer. In fact, I’ve been surprised to see that some showrooms have actually restricted Wi-Fi access from use by shoppers. Be careful if you’re one of them. Some young consumers may be turned off and never come back.
If you aren’t making the best use of flat screens, notebook computers and interactive designing systems, today’s youngest generation of consumers, who are unlikely to be seen without the latest mobile device, may consider your showroom outdated and undesirable.
The RICKI Study, published in September of 2011, reveals Weintraub is far from alone among the showroom owners who plan to reduce floor space in the future. Presently, 31 percent of the survey’s respondents report having a showroom that is less than 1,500 square feet, and 64 percent say their showroom is less than 3,000 square feet. But among those who plan a new showroom within the next year, 63 percent say their future showrooms will be less than 1,500 square feet, and 93 percent say their new showroom will be less than 3,000 square feet.
Meanwhile, on the technology front, only 26 percent of the survey respondents reported using a high definition or plasma TV to showcase projects or showroom advertisements, and only 14 percent said they use a large projection screen for presentations.
When asked to predict changes in kitchen and bath showrooms over the next five years, 30 percent of the respondents cited “more technology/digital, interactive displays.” That was the most common answer.
IN THE SHOWROOM
Perhaps the most exciting new showroom technology is the interactive design kiosk introduced last summer by a major manufacturer. The system’s library is loaded with all of the company’s product offerings, allowing customers to design and experiment with an unlimited combination of door styles, countertops, wall colors and flooring.
Weintraub was among the first to install the system. He says the kiosk enhances his customers’ showroom visit – although some are a little apprehensive about the unfamiliar device.