Homeowners are looking for products that have it all with functionality and design at top of mind.
To quote the classic rock band, Queen, “I want it all; and I want it now.” This has become the mindset for homeowners looking to customize their homes. As we enter our second summer of the pandemic, there has been an increased interest in customizing our kitchens and bathrooms. People are still spending most of their time in their homes; although, the industry can’t expect this trend to remain forever. Vaccines are rolling out across the country and with more people getting their shots, travel will begin to increase again, and we will once again be able to safely leave our homes.
Products that feature touchless technology have seen a resurgence in popularity. Although this specific technology has been in the market now for some time, homeowners are looking to add this feature to more rooms within their homes.
This technology has been widely adopted within the kitchen market now for years but is starting to make its way into the bathroom. “Touchless was everywhere and everyone had it. But it was on the downfall until the end of 2019,” explains Melanie Schwery, national sales and marketing director for Belanger, which sells touchless faucets within the kitchen market. “We sold whatever we had left in the touchless faucet before the pandemic. Now, we have come out with three new models that are available in three finishes for touchless and it’s flying off the shelves.”
Touchless technology within the bathroom is evident in faucet technology but also can be found in the shower and toilet markets.
For example, consumers have moved far away from the old mentality when it comes to bidets. People no longer are as confused as Crocodile Dundee once was when he first laid eyes on one. This technology has grown. “These aren’t your old school bidets either where you have your toilet and bidet toilet beside it,” explains Marlon Thompson, senior marketing manager for American Standard (Lixil Canada). “With the influx of newcomers to Canada, a lot of people are already used to the concept of bidets and understand the technology and benefits they offer. It’s not a hard sell for these individuals; whereas, in other parts of North America, people are still skeptical about it.” Popularity in bidets increased across Canada at the beginning of the pandemic when there was a toilet paper shortage and stores were forced to limit how much toilet paper consumers could buy per person, or at times, per household.
Nowadays, this technology can be installed right into the toilet and can feature a heated seat or self-cleaning technology.
As touchless technology increased in popularity during the pandemic, manufacturers began to come out with more products to satisfy the market’s needs. Homeowners could now activate a kitchen faucet with the waving of their hands or by using their voice. “Homeowners can use their voice or the hands-free wave sensor to start or stop the water flow and dispense the desired temperature and amount, no matter how the faucet handle is set,” said Anny Ang, senior marketing manager of wholesale kitchen and bath at Moen. “This helps reduce touchpoints within the home, overall providing consumers with a product that will help dimmish the spread of germs.”
Since homeowners are spending much more time in the home, their expectations for products has become higher and they are more informed prior to making a decision about which product to buy in terms of functionality. “They want the luxury that they might have been able to find somewhere else, now in the home,” says Schwery. “Consumers go online and do the research on products and trends. They will then go to the contractor and say, “This is what I saw; what do you suggest?” Prior to the pandemic, a plumber could say, “I have this model or this model in the truck,” and people would just choose and move on. Nowadays, they know exactly the type of finish and functionality they are looking for out of the products they purchase.”
Since touchless technology has been top of mind for homeowners since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Moen, internet searches for terms like “touchless faucet” and “hands-free faucet” have been up nearly 200 per cent in pay-per-click campaigns. “Not surprising, since frequent and hygienic handwashing has been identified as one of the most important measures in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria,” explains Ang.
Homeowners do understand the fact that the equipment behind the wall is largely the driving force for how they are achieving the customizable end goal. However, design and appearance still play a large role in which product they have installed. It is the tangible appearance that comes into play in this regard, explains Thompson.
“I think that it’s definitely a balance. I think people don’t really want to trade off one for the other. At the end of the day, I think they want a product that looks beautiful, and they can customize it in terms of finish and layout.”
In terms of design, commonly the renovation market has seen trends that will be popular for a year or two and then disappear. However, black matte is here to stay. “Gold finish has become more popular within the past year,” explains Schwery. “It is mostly a combination of black and gold. I would say 2021 is more gold, whereas 2022 will be more copper/rose gold.” The black matte finish has grown in popularity over the past four and a half years with no sign of slowing down.
“Though touchless innovations and smart home tech may be top of mind for many, consumers still want beautiful looking fixtures for their homes,” said Ang. “Moen has also added new finish options like matte black and brushed gold to several of its more popular product lines, including collections with voice-activated and sensor-activated technologies, in order to give consumers, the style options they desire.”
For the contractor, the pandemic has increased the amount of training available for most, if not all, skilled trades. In the kitchen and bath renovation market, there has been an increased desire for training, especially when it comes to “how to install” videos specific to each manufacturer.
“You can’t go to a contractor and keep talking only about features and benefits forever,” says Schwery. “You are just going to lose their attention. What they want to know is how to install better, what products are going to save them time, what’s going to be more efficient, and its functionalities.”
Training has become easier to provide because of the shift towards online platforms. Contractors can even choose to listen to training in their cars, think podcasts.
Touchless technology appears to be here to stay for the kitchen and bathroom markets. They are relatively easy to retrofit for contractors and provide that customization that homeowners have been looking for. “Homeowners want to design their space to look and function in a way that meets their unique needs,” explains Ang.
The technology does look like it’ll be here for a while, but contractors should expect a decrease in homeowners’ interests in renovating homes once Canada begins to safely reopen. People will start to leave the home and travel will start to increase, explains Schwery. Plan accordingly.