kbbreview Andrew Davies talks communication ahead of Kitchen Conference

kbbreview Kitchen Conference-2013

The kitchen industry needs to radically adapt the way it communicates to consumers if it wants to get back to growth. Managing editor and kbbreview Kitchen Conference host Andrew Davies on the underlying theme of this year’s event…

For a while now, with my tongue only slightly in my cheek, I have been threatening to start a ‘Ditch The Fax’ campaign in kbbreview. So much so that many here in this office are getting very bored of me talking about it.

It seems to me that, in 2013, when so many of us are carrying around very sophisticated computers in our pockets, it is quite a depressing state of affairs that this industry is still not just using faxes but is extremely reliant on them.

Anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from some of the major distributors suggests that anywhere between 50-80% of orders are coming via the fax. This is despite these suppliers having pretty refined online systems that allow retailers to manage their accounts and track their orders.

The fax issue, while a bugbear of mine, is really just illustrative of a wider issue within this industry. There is, I believe, a general unwillingness to embrace new processes and techniques that, in theory, can only help the way retailers run their businesses.

Why? I think a certain amount of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ plays a major part, and I also think there’s probably a residual mistrust in technology and its ability to do the job.

But this really isn’t a technology issue; it’s a communication issue.

The attitude demonstrated by the fax is at total odds with how the modern consumer is used to communicating when they interact with retailers, colleagues, friends and family. If you’re selling products to the consumer, especially those that invariably need an ongoing dialogue through a long design process, then you need to communicate with them in the way they want.

And, perhaps more crucially, you need to engage them when they’re doing their initial research in the most effective way.

This is one of the underlying themes for this year’s kbbreview Kitchen Conference – new ways of talking to consumers and drawing them into your brand – and to me it all comes down to the perfect phrase used by one major CEO who uses it to settle any debates at board meetings “What does Mrs Jones want?”

The days are gone, I’m afraid to say, when you can operate a business using processes designed to be the most convenient and easiest things for you, now it has to all be about anticipating what the consumer wants and giving it to them and forming relationships using the avenues they choose.

That means combining print advertising with websites, social media, events and face-to-face customer service in a slick way that puts them in charge. To me, that’s what multi-channel retailing really is, not necessarily being able to make purchases through your website, but combining everything into one big open-armed welcome to any consumer doing their research.

For example, let’s look at some great examples from companies that we’re using as case studies at the kbbreview Kitchen Conference.

PWS’s Second Nature Kitchens has a great consumer-facing website that firstly does the job of addressing the questions of any consumers who come their way:

  • What kind of kitchens do they do?
  • What will it cost? (A very rare thing to have on the website for independent retailers but absolutely crucial)
  • Where can I get them from?

But then it goes further, there’s a whole library of real kitchens in real homes, a brilliantly simple animation explaining just why you should buy from an independent.

And there’s a really clever ‘Moodboard’ tool that means users stick around the site and start piecing their kitchen together. PWS are doing half the retailer’s job for them in the most positive possible way.

Then over to Neff, who’s ‘Bake It Yourself’ campaign is a brilliant example of cashing in on an existing trend – home baking – and turning focus from the functions of the products to – shock horror – what people actually use them for. The campaign combines events, showrooms, social media, and community and consumers themselves provide much of the content. It’s been fantastically successful and turns Neff into a brand that many have an ongoing relationship with and will be forefront in their minds when they come to buy a kitchen.

Ok, PWS and Neff have budgets that your average retailer can’t compete with, but both these initiatives are designed to get consumers into the showrooms so everyone wins.

Both these schemes are all about service, expertise and relationship, not about price and that is a fantastic counterpoint to the marketing techniques of the big multiples which only shout about price.

That shouting has been drowning out most other messages from the kitchen industry for too long and it’s time that changed…

The kbbreview Kitchen Conference takes place on September 12th at Warwick Arts Centre. You can see the full programme, details of all the speakers and book your place by going to www.kbbreview.com/kitcon