Millennials lead the integration of technology and design: NKBA Report

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) recent Kitchen Tech & Millennials Report, “advances in-home technology is changing the way designers think about kitchen design and the expectations of their client base,” said Tricia Zach, Head of Research, National Kitchen & Bath Association, Hackettstown, NJ.
“We are looking to provide designers a better way to understand and communicate with millennial clients, and help provide appropriate technology products that match them with their lifestyles.”

The “Kitchen Technology & Millennials” report discovered that this group, ranging from 26 to 41-years of age, is an increasing percentage of the remodeling and home-buying client base compared with Gen X and Boomers.

They may have less-expensive projects now, but they are gaining economic strength and rising in their careers, so their disposable income is growing. Further, this is the first generation of “digital natives” who understand how to use technology to make their lives easier, more convenient and efficient.

And — another big plus that differentiates them from some of their elders — they have no fear of technology. They firmly believe that tech is essential in kitchen design, says the report. The study found that kitchen designers must level up on design-plus-technology to remain relevant with this consumer base.

“What is still somewhat surprising is that designers still seem to be in the early phase of introducing technology into their clients’ designs.” The report states that only thirty per cent of designers surveyed said they have integrated technology into kitchen projects, while fewer than 10 per cent said they regularly use a Technology Integrator.

All the experts agreed, however, that the design process must start smart and bring a tech integrator into the early stages of the project to plan for adequate infrastructure, electrical work, and network security.

While boomers continue to be a large part of designers’ customer base, the demographics are shifting toward a younger audience that is increasingly driving future trends. While gen X remains the biggest age group, with 49 per cent of the design projects customized for them, designers note a 6 per cent increase in work on behalf of millennials.

This has resulted in a shift in how designers do business. Millennial clients expect virtual meetings; in fact, designers are increasingly able to provide design support virtually expanding the footprint of the business. Millennials are almost 10 per cent more likely to want to do the entire project virtually.

The study recommends five key ways for designers to build a path to success:

  • Build your team. Use expertise for each component: Design, Building and Integration.
  • Equip yourself. Use and install technology in your own home and work; build awareness and become fluent in the language and discipline of technology.
  • Bring tech in at the beginning. Understand client needs from the start, and see where tech can make the process smoother.
  • Be flexible. Think security first, then integrate and adapt tech best practices into the process.
  • Build-in shelf life. Consider longevity in each aspect of design, and think in terms of the ability to update easily.