Computer Aided Design has played a key part in kitchen and bathroom design for many years now. Whilst to a trained designer, a floorplan can be enough to be able to really visualise a room layout, the same cannot always be said for the client. Being able to see – and even move around within – a proposed design takes much of the uncertainty away for the potential purchaser, giving them the chance to have meaningful input into the design of a purchase that is going to form an integral part of their homes for many years to come.
So what are the CAD features that are helping K&B designers add value both to their business and the service they can offer to their customers – and how important has CAD become as a tool in the sales process? Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds, says: “CAD technology has been adding value to K&B businesses around the UK for years, and the latest developments in 4D CAD are taking this to even greater extremes. Fundamentally, 4D CAD technology alleviates the fear factor associated with making a big-ticket purchase – allowing them to go inside the design and walk around, before a single brick or tile has been laid.
“This allows the designer to express their ideas in a simple and precise way, and prevents the customer from becoming confused by a 3D plan or flat render – meaning they know exactly what they’re signing up for, preventing buyer remorse.
“It also makes it easier for customers to fall in love with the proposed room, helping conversion rates in the process. Some retailers have reported conversion rates of up to 80 per cent following the introduction of 4D CAD technology.”
Theresa Turner, marketing director at ArtiCAD, says: “CAD delivers stunning visualisations, specific to the individual room space and incorporating every detail of the style and design aspirations of the customer – and, of course, changes can be made quickly and easily, with the customer’s active involvement. Accurate plans, including all plumbing requirements, are standard, and when linked to pricing software highly detailed quotations are produced in minutes. New online tools, in the case of ArtiCAD such as Styler and Planner, encourage customers to try out different design options and speed up the sales process. Our 360º panoramic viewer (Pan360º) provides panoramic views of proposed rooms, often viewed using smartphone headsets, bringing a whole new level of reality to CAD design, increasing customer confidence and helping to close the sale.”
Craig Rothwell, managing director at 20-20 Technologies, adds: “We are constantly gathering feedback and insights from our customers about enhancements they would like to see. This can either be when we are face-to-face with them in their showrooms or via our hotline. This feedback is vital as it helps our R&D team see the product from the end-user’s perspective. It helps them to develop new versions of the design software that are even more user-friendly and intuitive. The software becomes at one with the needs of independent designers and retailers.
“We also have our finger on the pulse with the rest of the market and, of course, beyond that globally. As technology develops, our developers make enhancements to the software to reflect technology innovations such as our life-like 360º views now available via smartphones and tablets in the showroom or even the householders own home.”
Consumers’ expectations about the types of visuals they can expect are higher than ever. In the age of the smartphone and tablet they have become used to being able to pull up high-resolution photos, imagery and video, wherever they are.
Virtual World’s Maclean adds: “They are also now much more selective thanks to a greater level of choice, and as a result are keener than ever to be involved in the design process. CAD technology, presents a great opportunity to showcase different product options, the impact it will have on the space and how it will appear in the finished room.”
Turner of ArtiCAD adds: “Consumer expectations are high – and getting ever higher. Not surprisingly they are influenced by the quality of graphics they see every day on their screens – and they increasingly expect the same quality for their kitchen design. Lighting, accessories, actual views from their windows, artwork, detailed textures, accurate colours – all of these need to be included whenever possible. And if the design is presented ‘in their own space’ with the Pan 360º viewer (which is compatible with smartphones and tablets). This, together with online tools such as Styler and Planner, give the consumer a truly hands-on experience, which involves them in the design process, draws them into the decision making and significantly strengthens the relationship between designer and customer.”
ArtiCAD recently announced its acquisition of Smart Systems which will deliver enhanced pricing capabilities integrated within the design software – a development which it says has been eagerly awaited by many customers. Turner says: “We are launching version 21 of ArtiCAD-Pro later this year with an improved interface, new bathroom graphics and German catalogues for kitchens. Virtual reality – already making its mark in the KBB sector – will, we believe, increase dramatically in popularity, with pricing for this technology becoming ever more attractive.
“Our new CGI service provides clients with stunning high quality images of their designs using the ArtiCAD-Pro software, which can be used for brochures and other marketing materials, including large scale versions for exhibitions, product launches and sales events.”
Maclean of Virtual World adds: “CAD technology is constantly evolving, and we expect this to continue over the coming months and years. We expect 4D packages in particular to experience rapid development – with greater immersion achieved through better graphics packages and increased functionality which ensures the customer is best placed to make an informed decision on their new kitchen or bathroom.”
So the future for CAD software appears to be one of further refinement, with greater detail, more product catalogue integration, and other ways of enhancing the customer experience. “As with all technology, the pace of change is very rapid and the development of rendering is moving fast,” says 2020’s Rothwell. “Already the graphical output is stunning, but it will get better and better. 360º views using a smartphone or tablet, plus the added immersive dimension of Google Cardboard, offer a brand new experience for retailer’s customers giving them the opportunity to really experience their new bathroom or kitchen before they but it. And cloud-based solutions, incorporating product catalogues, make it even easier for designers and retailers to realise their customer’s dream kitchen or bathroom space.
“Sharing the whole design experience on social media is also adding a whole new dimension to the design process and this is definitely an area that is going to develop quickly.”