Catherine Jones: “Banish the fear of AI”

Cyncly’s senior director for kitchen, bathroom and furniture solutions explains why embracing AI could do wonders to increase efficiency and enhance your designs

Catherine Jones, Cyncly’s senior director for kitchen, bathroom and furniture solutions

While adoption of AI is still in its early stages in the KBB sector, there is no doubting that a new wave of innovation is on the horizon. Much of the media commentary around generative AI focuses on its capabilities to create designs based on a set of inputs and consumer preferences. 

For many professionals, this raises the question of how the technology will affect parts of the design process that rely on human input and judgement. My belief is that it will absolutely change the way many designers work – and also present serious opportunities for the consumer, retailer and designer.

Rather than sticking to existing approaches because they’re familiar, it’s important to embrace AI rather than ignore it. Preparing for the future means designers can benefit from the way AI will affect three aspects of the customer journey: inspiration, design, and sales.

For inspiration, AI can help to increase engagement and better qualify customers. For design, AI can enable faster completion and lower cost by removing laborious/repetitive tasks. And for sales, AI can help retailers improve close rates.

Faced with mounting pressure to meet consumer needs and growing competition, retailers simply must increase the profitability of every project to remain successful. Key ways to do this include reducing errors, and increasing the capacity of every designer. AI has the potential to address all of these elements, while delivering a significantly better consumer experience.

There’s a very short engagement window for consumers who are shopping around for retailers, so leveraging AI to make their first impression with you more impactful can only be a good thing.

Software shortcuts

As many as 60% of consumers begin their journey to a new kitchen or bathroom online. AI enables consumers to visualise their ideas, quickly and simply. It can help retailers bridge the gap between online and instore experiences, making it personalised for every consumer.

Collaboration between the consumer and the design professional needs to start long before they walk through the door, building understanding and trust.  Likewise, the process of an exchange between an online and professional tool needs to be seamless; if a customer has invested time online, then the designer should have access to that valuable lead qualification when they meet, saving any sense of frustration or having to start afresh, allowing the designer to apply the real magic and bring it all to life. 

For designers, AI’s opportunities lie in how the technology can accelerate the design process. Every designer has the same 24 hours in a day, so leveraging consumer leads efficiently can help to build engagement. 

AI can help alleviate many of the labour intensive and repetitive tasks that designers experience daily. This could include an element of design automation, as a next step beyond today’s rules-based logic tools, to assist designers through completing a project. Reducing labour-intensive tasks, such as generating high quality renderings, can be automated to feature the best lighting and viewpoint selections. There’s the possibility of auto-decoration: applying a decorative theme in line with the consumer’s preferences without manual input. Once the design is complete, AI can provide a design validation step to ensure it’s error-free. In all these cases, AI is not about de-skilling what a designer does but removing roadblocks for them to operate more effectively.

The next stage of the customer journey is sales, which requires the ability to articulate and present a great design to the consumer. With AI, retailers have the ability to automatically generate a personalised sales pitch based on a combination of user and automated input. For example, if the designer wants to showcase a specific aspect of the design that meets the client’s stated needs, generative AI can instantly create a pitch deck around this feature. This saves designers’ time and ensures consistency of output.

In a similar vein, AI-powered solutions can help retailers offer upsell options toward higher-margin materials or finishes that align with a customer’s stated preferences, helping protect margins. 

AI is emerging as one of the great toolsets that will aid and enhance designers’ and retailers’ existing skillsets. 

The technology and software can be applied at each step of the customer journey to enhance their experience and, ultimately, make life for both the retailer and designer easier than ever before. Ultimately, we’ll judge the success of AI in the KBB space based on how well it helps retailers and designers deliver against ever-increasing consumer expectations.

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