Online shoppingSo, the big boxes haven’t figured out how to retail online… I mean, their sites are a mess, their searches bring you more trash than treasure, and they certainly don’t innovate when it comes to e-commerce.

Some of you might think that our industry is too complex to tame for the internet. After all, it relies on your design expertise to put together a proper kitchen, right? Wrong. We’re one innovation removed from the commoditization of the kitchen and bath space.

Who will break the paradigm?

Ikea is actually closest to breaking the mold, since they combine a strong retail presence with a DIY attitude. After all, HGTV and the like have made the replacement of a kitchen into an easily attainable project.

The problem with Ikea’s model is that they break the commodity into too many sub-assemblies. Ever buy cabinetry from Ikea? Your list will be long on the showroom side; from interior shelves to doors to drawer parts to hardware.  You’ll likely over or under buy some part of the project. Most rationalize their savings against their aggravation.

No, the answer is the assembled box in an easy-to-navigate selling process.

Where will the design expertise come from?

One word: showrooming.  Consider the eyeglass industry as a parallel. You really need a prescription to get the proper eyeglass fit. That being the case, how did I buy my last two pair of prescription eyeglasses online for less than one pair at an eye center? Easy peasy – by showrooming.

By taking the technical part of the project on myself (going to the eye center, getting an exam and walking out with a prescription), I made a DIY project out of something that requires a good deal of expertise and education. And the selling company, Warby Parker, made it easy (and fun) for me to navigate what was always thought to be a complex business.

Enter Amazon

One could argue that design is the most complicated part of our industry. While it’s true that a good design is critical, we see more and more tools delivered every day that make the process easier and easier.

Need to dimension a room with an iPad? There’s an app for that. In fact, your favorite design software now has a way for a picture to be converted into a floor plan. On a rip and replace, we’re a few advances away from an electronic layout. In fact, rules-based software can tell you when something won’t work in a design, making the process even closer to market.

It’s not about design

We would argue that its product configuration that is the final frontier. Nomenclature is different from company to company; rules about which cabinets can be modified and which ones can’t sometimes are confusing within a line, let alone across lines. And, if you want to do one design and see it in every style, finish and species within a line, fugetaboutit. (We can’t believe that the fragmented cabinet industry hasn’t demanded this already!)

No. It’s the beast called configuration that keeps a retail giant like Amazon out of your business – not design. And, in reality, that’s not a stretch from a technology perspective.  If Amazon asked a manufacturer to make this happen, you can bet your design credentials that it would happen overnight.

Of course, we would hate to be right on this; but believe that the market is one step away from an order online model.