The kitchen and bathroom design industry became remote, almost overnight, during the pandemic influencing CAD and the services offered by suppliers. But will this now be for the long-term?
How and where designers created their bathroom and kitchen schemes changed overnight, during the pandemic.
As showrooms were forced to close, designers took to working remotely, having to embrace technology to share projects with clients rather than relying on traditional face-to-face meetings.
In fact, managing director at Virtual Worlds Nathan Maclean comments: “The biggest impact of COVID from our point of view is the very big increase in retailers and designers working remotely.
“We’ve been able to provide them with the support needed to progress their designs and remain in constant contact with their clients while face-to-face showroom visits haven’t been possible.”
It saw suppliers provide remote services, providing free of charge licences for software, as director of ArtiCAD Theresa Turner explains: “ArtiCAD offered free temporary licenses for homeworking; anyone wishing to install an ArtiCAD licence on a different machine could download as many temporary licences as they needed for all their designs. Free access was also provided to the Roomplanner weblead technology.”
And managing director of Compusoft Alex Ainge pointed out: “We launched a free remote working package for staff designing at home during the crisis, as well as free access to our Showcase 360 Software, which enables users to communication with, and share designs with, customers using a dedicated online portal.”
But they also looked beyond providing free access to existing design software. Suppliers sought to help customers find customers, cope with staff shortages, and train users who were furloughed with online webinars.
Compusoft introduced a free version of its online planner – Design@Web – which allows consumers to plan their own kitchen or bathroom and send designs to retailers.
While Virtual Worlds introduced a Design Hub, manned by its savvy staff, to help retailers who had staff shortages due to the pandemic.
But as we start to see green shoots, will these innovations just be an aberration as they world slowly returns to normal? Industry experts believe not, and state remote design is here to stay.
Alex Ainge of Compusoft comments: “We envisage that the way people work may be changed for the long term and we are adapting our offering to suit this potential ‘new normal’.”
It has introduced Winner Flex software, which allows kitchen retailers to design from anywhere and see sales and performance information in one place.
And ArtiCAD which is undertaking its “most far-reaching software development programme ever undertaken by the company”, is looking at online tools, design and pricing software, adding catalogues of products, plus virtual meetings included within its ArtiVR room design.
Interestingly, CAD could also grow in importance in ‘bricks and mortar’ showroom, creating a retail experience to encourage consumers away from online and back into the high street.
Nathan Maclean adds: “In a post-pandemic world showrooms are evolving into digital spaces, where the space constraints of physical displays are removed and consumers are invited to step into their new kitchen or bathroom in an immersive way.”
However kitchen and bathroom designers will want or have to work in 2021, they can be certain CAD suppliers have an ability to respond quickly, change effectively and help support independent showrooms.
Theresa Turner concludes: “CAD Systems and all the associated tool provide the sector with the opportunity to build on inherent flexibility and speed of response and deliver highly personalised responses to customers, delivered exactly when and how suits their individual needs – whether this is online, face-to-face or a mixture of both.
“The pandemic has accelerated the realisation that this blended approach to selling in the kbb sector can deliver huge benefits – to all.”