Embracing the New Technology

by WOHe

There’s a powerful new weapon out there for kitchen and bath
dealers to tuck into their competitive arsenal right alongside
their design talent, product expertise, sales skills and ability to
profitably manage their business.

The new weapon, of course, is technology . . . and taking
advantage of its power has become the surest way to do battle in
the face of a breathtaking, full-fledged technological revolution
that’s currently changing work patterns throughout the design
community.

Technology is managing, virtually overnight, to literally
reinvent the way business is conducted in the kitchen and bath
industry. You can no longer ignore it. You can’t dismiss it. You
can’t hide from it. The only choice you’ve got, if you want to stay
in business, is to embrace it and leverage it in other words, learn
as much as you can about it, and then implement it, as quickly as
you can.

The encouraging news, as this month’s Kitchen & Bath Design
News survey (Page 48) points out, is that many of today’s kitchen
and bath dealers have already done just that. Most seem upbeat and
computer-savvy, even if they may still lag behind a bit when it
comes to such things as marketing their business on the
Internet.

But lagging behind even a bit may not be acceptable in a
business environment where staying on top of the technology curve
has become all but imperative.

And there’s a whole lot to stay on top of make no mistake about
it: CAD; voice recognition software that enables you to produce
spec sheets and other documents while you’re driving from your
showroom to a job site; pricing programs that allow you to prepare
instant estimates; EDI that automates the sales order process;
online manuals that enable you to communicate with staff,
subcontractors and clients, while managing projects online; digital
cameras that enable you to create more dynamic portfolios; contact
management and other programs that create incredible efficiencies;
power point presentations that enable you to demonstrate your
portfolio on the TV screen of a client.

And that’s just the beginning.

Cropping up regularly are any number of new Internet-related
business ventures aimed at the remodeling industry: Web sites that
serve as lead referral services; Web sites that offer consumers the
expertise of leading designers while giving those consumers a
chance to shop through visual product catalogs; programs that help
Internet shoppers create designs, weigh options and obtain
estimates; programs that enable consumers to visualize their new
kitchen or bath online, then interactively develop plans, e-mail
the plans back for refinement, and receive back a
professionally-done plan, plus a list of recommended products and
retail sources.

The growing impact of these forms of technology will no doubt
ultimately change the face of kitchen/bath retailing. Future retail
outlets will probably be smaller, and feature myriad in-store
computers and informational kiosks on the sales floor, allowing
customers to participate in a virtual reality shopping
tour.’

Computer-loaded “e-commerce” showrooms will have Internet access
that enables customers to make product choices more manageable.
Business will be transacted primarily via on-site computers that
tap into just-in-time inventory. And dealers will not use just
traditional mediums in order to relate to their clients. In fact,
even now between broadband, the Internet, and interactive CAD
visualization cutting-edge designers are on the cusp of providing
consumers with nothing short of a multi-media experience.
Are you a part of all this? Are you now in the process of carving
out a future for your business by getting a handle on the
technological tools that are right for you?

If not, you’ve got to get with the program. Not necessarily
because you want to, but because you must. And not tomorrow, but
today.

Investing in technology should no longer be considered optional
for design firms. The key is to think of it from now on as a
monthly cost of doing business.

Face it: “Getting wired” is rapidly becoming a new way of life
in the kitchen/bath industry as critical a ticket to survival as
anything in the kitchen and bath dealer’s competitive arsenal.

Dealers who embrace the new technology will wind up faring well
in today’s new economy. Those who don’t will wind up working for
someone who does.

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