Champing at the bit

04 Sep, 13

Philippa Turrell says CAD is no longer an opt-out for accomplished kitchen and bathroom designers and retailers

While the talk of software per se may not set the heart a flutter (bytes, file extensions, coding anyone?), it’s the capabilities which make CAD a must in kitchen and bathroom retailing. Put quite simply, CAD and associated business management programs helps designers and retailers sell! Cheryl de Val of DeVal Bathrooms says: “Virtual Worlds CAD has more than tripled our turnover, since we started using it 18 months ago, by increasing our average design, supply and install price by an average of £4k”.

CAD is a great leveller. A proficient independent kitchen or bathroom designer or retailer can deliver an equally professional presentation as a national DIY brand with big budgets. In fact, it could be argued they may deliver a more expert presentation, given their product knowledge and design skills.

Most of all CAD delivers upon consumer expectations. Thanks to the efficiency of online retailers such as Amazon, speed of service, delivery and accuracy is the very least of what they expect. And clever internet configurators, which help customers personalise all manner of purchases from cars through to greeting cards, revealing a realistic end result are the norm. This is exactly what CAD delivers.

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Speed boosts sales

“In today’s marketplace, speed of response to a customer enquiry – and the speed at which you can deliver that crucial design are critical to the success of your business,” says director of ArtiCAD Theresa Turner. She continues: “Consumers just don’t want to wait. They are used to instant responses and they expect the kbb industry not to be any different.” And it is this delivery of a quality design service, at speed, which will help ensure independent designers and retailers don’t lose out on sales.  20-20 Technologies has rewritten its CAD software, creating Fusion FX, to make the package easier and quicker to use. National sales manager Simon Purves points out: “Kitchen, bathroom and bedroom design can be quite a laboursome process and it’s about trying to make it as easy for our customers to get where they need to be with the design process, [quickly] because everyone is under pressure for time. And it’s who is going to get to the customer first?”


Personalised and engaged

By speeding up the design process, it could allow independent designers and retailers to be more creative in their kitchen and bathroom schemes. Using manufacturer specific products, but in a scheme which is accessorised and personalised to the customer can draw them in. Simon Purves explains: “When I was a kid, every front room had a pile of holiday brochures and you’d get your picture of the pool and the picture of breakfast and you’d book your holiday based on that. People don’t do that anymore – they are taking each piece of it –What’s the hotel like? What’s the view like? Is there a building site next to it? And [when buying] a kitchen is the same thing. It’s the TripAdvisor of kitchens because it answers all the questions that they want to see.” And if consumers are asking questions, then they are already engaged in the buying process.

Certainly Stephen Goldsmith at TJ Bathrooms has found that CAD realism has helped sales conversions. He says: “This year alone, I would say 80% of people that ask for a Virtual design go on to have their work completed by our team.”

Equally, the speed at which alterations can be made may mean it can be completed in front of the customer – further engaging them in the design decisions.  Theresa Turner of ArtiCAD adds: “By being able to make changes quickly and easily, and again in front of the customer if required, you won’t lose the interest of the client en route to closing the sale.” She continues: “The more the customer can see how the new room will work, the more they can recognise that it is really theirs, the more confident they feel in placing an order.”


Avoiding costly mistakes

But CAD is much more than a pretty picture for customers. It can also aid designers and retailers in their accuracy, both in specification and for fitting. Theresa Turner adds: “Lack of accuracy not only causes severe loss of face – particularly if errors in the original design only manifest themselves at the stage when the fitters are trying, against the clock, to install the new room – but they can also be extremely costly.”

Sales and marketing director at Virtual Worlds from Logicom, Mike Vinten explains that similarly to many CAD packages on the market, his can verify product selection. He says the CAD software can “ensure only compatible products are specified” He continues:  “For instance, a pre-determined selection of WCs, seats and cisterns will automatically connect together, and so avoid specification errors.”  

CAD software with automatically generated lists can even be tied up with business management programmes to link to finance, ordering or manufacturing systems. It ensures an even greater accuracy across the entire process and indeed business. In fact Teresa Turner boasts “It can revolutionise an enterprise.”


CAD is must-have

It certainly appears that CAD may no longer be an opt-out for kitchen and bathroom designers and retailers. With manufacturers looking to enhance file sharing between retail and consumer and even consumer to consumer, and Apps on the horizon to further help consumers through the design journey. Patrick Green of M’n’G Designs says: Both the ‘Cloud’ and tablets are going to continue to increase in importance for both businesses generally. Together these will give an ever increasing emphasis on flexibility and immediacy. So, a customer may be able to do the preliminary survey, the designer then producing proposals that combine the customers’ requirements and dreams with the designer’s flair and technical skills without having to even physically meet.” But, he adds: “However, the personal touch will still be vital and a kitchen is still a physical entity that is best assessed in reality rather than virtually.”

In fact, the only downside of CAD, could be its initial cost to an independent kitchen or bathroom retail business. But Teresa Turner is firm in her approach, when she concludes: “I’d argue that if a system is proven to deliver sufficient benefits and value to your business, yet costs just a fraction of one of your design installations, buying it should be a no-brainer.”