“When we first put it in the showroom, customers would walk by it and look at it a little bit and keep walking,” Weintraub says. “They need to be invited to use it. It’s not something that is a standalone technology. A designer usually needs to assist the customers with it and explain how they can play with it and make alternative choices. Once they start to use it, you can see their eyes light up. They like to see a kitchen with this color tile or that color paint. They enjoy the process because it allows them to visualize what their final product will be.”
It’s up to us, as the professionals, to offer technology to our customers without overwhelming them. And be careful not to let the technology become a barrier between the customer and your design professional. Use it beneficially to supplement the sales effort.
Tina Blanchard, manager of Kurtis’ showroom in Livonia, MI, says the interactive system keeps the client in the showroom longer, while requiring less time from sales associates. The design kiosk has solved one of the industry’s biggest problems – the inability of a customer to visualize what the final product will look like.
“Technology has allowed us to get over that speed bump that most people have had for years,” Blanchard says. “Customers can now see the different looks and styles and see what the final product will be so we can close the sale quicker. It allows our sales team to do what they do best, which is to sell. We don’t have to show customers 30 different things. Nine times of out 10, even with the physical cabinet you are showing them, they are not buying that same style or that same color or configuration. This makes it easier to view the many options.”
Customers at One Man and a Hammer, a kitchen contractor and showroom in Mentor, OH, can work interactively with the company’s designer using the latest design software projected on a large flat screen.
“Our designer is able to show customers exactly how their project will look after completion before they order,” explains Bob Gallese, owner of the company. “Before their eyes, she is able to switch wall colors, cabinet styles or flooring designs.”
Some manufacturers today also offer iPad and iPhone apps that designers can take to in-home client consultations.
MAKE A STATEMENT
Aside from the advantages it brings to the client, Weintraub says using the latest technology makes a “positioning statement.”
“It sets the tone for who we want to be,” he says. “It shows people that we are the leader in technology, and that allows us to connect more powerfully with them.”
Recently Kurtis set up its manufacturer’s interactive design kiosk at a local home improvement show.
“It was extremely effective,” Weintraub says. “It spurred interest and showed people the direction we’re going in. We need to show the younger consumers that we are adapting to their lifestyle. While members of Generation Y are not a large percentage of my customers today, I would be foolish not to understand that they are going to be an increasing percentage of my clients in the decade to come, and I can’t wait 10 years to learn their technology and learn how to appeal to them. I need to start today.”
Among the latest technologies ready to make their way into the showroom are Quick Response (QR) codes. As the name implies, a scan of these two-dimensional barcodes with a SmartPhone takes the user immediately to a company or product Web site, Facebook page, email address or any other Internet location programmed into the code. The QR codes have recently begun to appear in advertisements, business cards and other printed media due to the growth in use of scan-capable mobile devices.
The use of QR codes in the showroom is a top priority at Kurtis Kitchens.
“That’s the next thing we’re looking into,” Weintraub says. “In the past, on every display you would open a cabinet door and find a listing of the manufacturer, the color, the door style, etc. I’m thinking of putting one of these QR codes on every display so the customer can scan it with a SmartPhone and immediately get all of the information they want and take it with them for a store reminder.”
Along with providing a wealth of information, Weintraub plans to strategically place QR codes inside the showroom that will take visitors to his Facebook page.