Success Today Means Getting to Know What Makes Diverse Clients Tick

In a market grown ever-more fragmented, knowing what makes your client tick may be more critical than ever to the success of design firms and product suppliers alike.

The reason, quite simply, is because kitchen consumers have become more diverse, more educated, more demanding and more definitive about their likes and dislikes – regardless of age, lifestyle, family size and household composition. They expect their kitchens to be designed specifically to their needs and preferences, regardless of what those hot buttons are.

And make no mistake: client ages, lifestyles and family compositions – along with hot buttons – run the gamut today. In fact, never has the market spanned so broad a range of kitchen remodeling clients as today. Never have client needs and hot buttons been so diverse. Never has the need been greater for designers and product suppliers to get into their clients’ heads and respond with such an expansive array of products, projects and services.

Evidence of that resonates in this month’s issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News, specifically in the portfolio of kitchen projects designed for clients ranging from a mid-30s couple with two young children to a single woman in her 80s (see story, Page 46). It’s similarly reflected in a recent study by the Charlotte, NC-based Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), the newly named strategic research partner of KBDN.

According to RICKI, it’s resoundingly clear that different generations think differently about kitchens. Their remodeling plans are different; so are their attitudes, buying patterns and style/feature/finish preferences for key products. Different generations also place different levels of importance on various components of a kitchen, such as cabinets, countertops, sinks and various appliances.

For example, the RICKI study concludes, of the four major generational groups:

Gen Y, an 80-million-strong population cohort aged 18 to 29, tends to lean heavily toward modern kitchen styling, and uses food, cooking or other kitchen-related mobile apps significantly more than other generations.

Gen X, aged 30 to 44 and estimated at 61 million people, seeks modern-styled kitchens that are wired for a computer, and prefers stainless-steel appliances more than any other generation.

Baby Boomers, at ages 45 to 64, and 76 million people strong, are significantly more likely to eat at home compared to both younger and older population cohorts, and exhibit significant differences between younger members of the generation (ages 45-54) and older ones (ages 55-64).

Matures, aged 65 and older, have a design aesthetic that’s more traditional than that of younger generations, and their favorite feature of their kitchen is their dishwasher.

The implications of these findings ought to be crystal clear.

While there are distinct similarities across generations of consumers – for example, granite is the preferred countertop material across all cohorts, and there are similarities when it comes to product color and finish preferences – there are significant differences as well.

Kitchen designers, marketing professionals and others need to understand the thinking that’s unique to each generation of consumers, and must target their designs, products, services and marketing efforts at whatever generation they serve…likely all of them.

In other words, in today’s diverse market – as always – getting inside your client’s head is the surest path to success.