New research has identified where installers fit in the bathroom buying process and their significance may surprise you. Here’s everything you need to know about the study and why you shouldn’t ignore the results…
OK, so it’s probably not news to you that installers have an influence over consumers in their purchasing journey. Everyone understands they are a key link in the chain.
However, new research from the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA), has shed light on just how strong that link is by highlighting the power they have over the consumer when it comes to making bathroom purchases. And, without giving too much away, it’s pretty significant.
The ‘Understanding the Installer’ study – gathering opinion from around 700 installation professionals – was commissioned by the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) with the collaboration and support of its members, in partnership with Eureka Research.
So what triggered the study into installers and their influence on the consumer? The BMA’s research manager, Jane Blakeborough, explains how and why it came about: “Back in 2022 myself – as Trend Monitor – and the BMA conducted some consumer research, building on a body of consumer research going back to 2013. What we found with the latest research was just how influential the installer was through the purchasing journey for a complete bathroom – with consumers using them all the way from advice through to them having great influence over their choice
“So, we wanted to investigate this further by hearing the installers’ side of the story and what they felt their influence was, why they recommend products and retailers, the kind of advice they give, how they engage with manufacturers, what makes them try out new products etc.
Who is your typical
UK bathroom installer?
The survey revealed that the average UK bathroom installer…
• Spends over half their time installing new bathroom projects alongside other plumbing jobs.
• Completes 13 full bathroom refurbishment projects per year.
• Is aged 50 years.
• Supplies products to two-thirds of their customers as well as fitting them.
• Plays a key role in design and advice.
• Has a significant influence over product choice.
• Has good relationships with independents and sends homeowners to retailers they know will provide a good service.
“What this survey really highlights is the power of the installer not just on the fitting side but through the entire purchasing chain. A layman might just think that the installer is the link that completes the chain, but this research proves their influence goes actually right back to the choice stage.”
Finding installation work
The study revealed that while UK bathroom installers find business from a number of different sources – including retailers and merchants, other trades and online directories – the vast majority comes directly from homeowners.
Analysis of the results shows that almost half of all bathroom installation jobs (48%) come direct from homeowners. This figure alone highlights just how significant the installer is to the consumer.
The good news for retailers is that recommendation from a local bathroom retail outlet is another major lead source for installers. The findings revealed that over a fifth (22%) of jobs come from homeowners via recommendations from showrooms, illustrating the continued importance of this channel to installers The study also revealed that this figure can increase to 65% of jobs for those installers with a reciprocal arrangement between themselves and the retailer, with the installer recommending the outlet to homeowners to purchase bathroom products.
Designing the bathroom
It’s fair to say that we all knew that installers had some level of influence over product choice, but perhaps the most significant finding of the installer study was the level of influence they have over the design and planning of a complete bathroom.
A quarter of installers said that they design all of the complete bathrooms they install, with 70% saying they design at least half of the complete bathrooms they install. Only 3% said they don’t get involved with the design of any of the bathrooms they install.
What this obviously doesn’t give us is how each individual installer defines design. However, it clearly indicates the role installers play in a significant number of bathroom projects.
Supply and fit
The survey showed that the average installer was asked to supply and fit around two- thirds of the bathrooms they are working on. And, when they were asked to fit, they are mainly (31%) buying from the national merchants.
Although Independent merchants (20%) and independent retailers (15%) also factored highly in their choice of outlet, what these figures highlight is that there is a big proportion of installers not going to independent
Another interesting point the survey highlights is that just 13% of installers said that online is their preferred channel overall. Eleven per cent said they will buy from an online-only specialist, but only 1% say they prefer a general online e-tailer such as Amazon. For those that do buy from e-commerce sites instead of a bricks-and-mortar outlet, unsurprisingly price came out as the deciding factor.
The results of the study also flagged that there are a range of different factors influencing the installer’s choice of retailer. However, the social interaction that retailers provide came out top with ‘a good relationship with staff and sociability’ highlighted as the main reason installers chose a particular retail outlet over another (53%).
Viewpoint: Damian Walters, CEO, The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI)
“We’ve witnessed the bathroom installer playing a pivotal influencer role with consumers for decades, with the consumers first port of call often being the installer, opposed to the retailer.
“We believe that this is largely due to changes in product choice in the bathroom space and as such, the requirement off the installers’ technical ability. Whether it’s digital showering, wet rooms or new surface trends, things have certainly changed in the bathroom sector – so why wouldn’t the expert installer be the first port of call.
“The study also explored the average profile of a bathroom installer, which again didn’t bring about any surprises, but it did highlight one of the challenges that BiKBBI have been concerned about for some time – in that it’s an ageing workforce, and that they have significant influence over product choice.
“Thankfully, the industry is awakening to the importance of the installer – we’re working with more and more manufacturers and retailers to share their message with installers. As an industry, we can innovate, manufacture, distribute, design and retail beautiful living environments – and we can spend billions in doing so, but without installers there to both facilitate the installation, or indeed influence the consumer, lord only knows where we’ll be.
“As an industry, we’d be foolish not to include installers within our strategic plans for the short-, medium- and long-term future.”
Without even breaking it down by category, what the report indicates is that installers are being sought out by homeowners for advice on products.
Showers came out as the area that installers are most likely to be asked for advice on, with 95% saying that their customers are ‘very likely’ or ‘quite likely’ to ask for advice on shower screens and trays. Closely followed by shower controls.
Brassware also came out as an area that installers get asked to advise on, with 90% saying that they are very likely to be asked by homeowners about taps.
They were asked less about shower toilets, wet room systems and wall hung furniture, but this is most likely due to market penetration of these categories being lower in the UK market.
Recommending a product
Digging deeper into this trend for homeowners turning to installers for product advice, the study also looked at the factors behind an installer’s decision to recommend one product over another. And the findings are really key for both manufacturers and retailers.
According to installers, consumers are asking for advice on finding products in their budget range – with 23% indicating that this was the area that consumers need most help with.
What’s really interesting for the sector is that the results showed that installers rarely recommend the cheapest products
and that they prefer to recommend a product that is good value for money.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, familiarity was a big influence with 33% of installers said that previous experience in fitting a product is the main reason an installer would recommend a product to a customer. And again, probably unsurprisingly as they are the final point of contact on a project and because time is money, 17% said that they would recommend a ‘fit and forget’ product to homeowners.
When it comes to trying new products, 44% said they would have the confidence to try a new product if it was recommended by a retailer, merchant or another tradesperson. With 41% saying they would have the confidence to try a new product if it is easy to install, so reliability was a strong factor here. Another key statistic for manufacturers here as 39% said they would have confidence to try a new product if
it was from a brand they
All of these points not only suggest that installers are more interested in keeping business nice and smooth and fitting good products that they know are reliable or from a familiar source, they also hammer home just how important it is for brands to engage with installers.
Recommending a retailer
What would make an installer recommend a retailer to a consumer? The survey showed that 33% of installers would recommend a retailer that has a good range of products to choose from, and ‘a great showroom’ came top of the list for 13% of those installers surveyed. Eleven percent said they would recommend a particular retailer if they stocked the brands they like to fit and 10% said they would recommend a retailer because they are local to them. Nothing too surprising here but, nonetheless, important factors to consider when getting your head round what motivates installer decisions.
Attitudes to water-efficient products
The disparity between the developments made by the industry and consumer interest in sustainability and water-saving is an ongoing discussion.
Although over a quarter (28%) of installers said they are regularly recommending water-efficient products to consumers, 13% said that there is no interest in this type of product, from them or their customers.
What this segment of the research makes abundantly clear is that there is still a huge amount of work to be done not only on educating the consumer about sustainable products, but that there are elements of the industry that also need educating.
Viewpoint: Mark Conacher, director, installation specialist, Liberty Fitting
“It turns out that installers are a pretty important part of the KBB industry. Who knew?
“This was a fascinating survey, and I recommend listening to the kbbreview podcast on this subject, as it truly brings all the various stats, facts and figures to life.
“What’s key for manufacturers is that those brands that engage with individual installers, helping them understand their products, will be the brands that will win. Fitters appreciate this kind of engagement.
“The biggest takeaway from this survey for me is just how important installers are.
“But then again, I always knew that.”
To find out more about the research listen to episode 9, season 6 of The kbbreview Podcast or go to
bathroom-association.org.uk for the report overview