Words: Joe Raboine, Residential Business Manager, Belgard and Doug Lueck, President and Co-Founder, System Pavers
The recent global health pandemic and its stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures have impacted every industry and business in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the renovation and construction industries have experienced some decreases in project requests and business due to economic uncertainty, a decline in the real estate market, and an overall drop in construction requests. However, one niche area of the industry is seeing an increase in business and activity – outdoor living improvements.
Remote work and virtual meetings have increased across all industries since March as stay-at-home orders were put in place, most likely impacting the way we work and service customers forever. Companies have quickly adapted, integrating new technology into their daily operations to keep business moving. Though this work style may be new to some, a few companies in the home design space have been utilizing virtual tools to efficiently work with customers and clients for years. Hardscapes companies and outdoor designers have embraced virtual technology to deliver custom 3D and virtual reality renderings to contractors and homeowners, seeing the numerous benefits to this approach for both their own teams and their clients.
Benefits of Virtual Design
Contractors should take advantage of virtual design resources as they can have a positive impact on business. At the basic level, opting to use virtual design software instead of hand sketches saves time and reduces the number of meetings needed to finalize a design with a client. Hardscapes manufacturer Belgard offers virtual design services through its Belgard Design Studio, which boasts a 74% closure rate for the contractors that use the services. In addition, Belgard Design Studio offers virtual reality renderings, which can reduce the design and sketching process by 75%, giving the contractor more time to spend on other pieces of the business.
In addition, the virtual design process presents increased upsell opportunities as contractors can easily incorporate new design elements into the process to share new ideas, such as lighting or heat elements, with clients. Hardscapes contractors who use this service also report higher customer satisfaction compared to other design processes, as it reduces the risk of miscommunication regarding the design and streamlines the overall process.
Virtual Design in a Time of Virtual Communication
As workers in all industries have been required to adjust to a new normal of remote work and virtual meetings, contractors are taking notice of the resources available to them. Fortunately, many outdoor installation projects can still be completed while practicing safe distancing but all projects require some interaction between the client and contractor. Contractors are opting to use video calls to discuss projects with clients. In addition, virtual designs are an excellent option during this time instead of physical renderings to reduce contact.
System Pavers, a design and installation company in the outdoor remodel industry for the past 28 years, is a partner of Belgard and has been interacting and designing for the clients using virtual solutions for the past two years. They noted that virtual design requests have increased by more than 350% in recent months. As customers are more comfortable working virtually, the number of videos and virtual requests continue to rise.
Shifts in Business and Consumer Behavior
Both companies agree that the recent shift in our world has made contractors more aware of virtual design resources. Belgard notes that contractors have been more dependent than ever on using Belgard Design Studio. By utilizing the Belgard Design studio along with Belgard’s Contractor iOS app and Hover app, it is more efficient than ever before to submit and manage projects remotely.
Shifts in consumer behavior are also contributing to a shift in design requests and business within the industry. With most Americans spending more time at home, renovations and projects to improve their spaces are top of mind – “home improvement” and “home DIY” have seen a massive uptick in Google searches. As the future of travel is uncertain, many homeowners are seeing the value in creating a relaxing and functional outdoor space and are seeing their backyards more than ever as their own private outdoor escape.
Smart Projects, Smart Investments
Now is an ideal time to educate clients on the benefits of investing in an outdoor space. Clients can create an inviting outdoor living space to boost family interactions that also offers the potential to deliver a strong return on investment. This can be achieved through additions as simple as a 10’ x 10’ patio space, grilling space with pavers, or a fire pit paired with comfortable furniture. Fire pits with a gas burner and patio area can recoup as much as 67% on investment. Bigger improvements, such as outdoor kitchens, are reported as popular features for resale and can result in 71% recovered value. When it comes to upselling opportunities, lighting is an easy suggestion for contractors to make that can make a big impact on an outdoor space. Not only does outdoor lighting deter crime, it provides an undeniable ambiance in the yard. By upgrading lighting features around the property, homeowners are estimated to see an average of 50% return on investment.
Hardscapes and outdoor living design companies are eager and available to support contractors during these unique circumstances. Contractors should connect with their manufacturer’s representatives to learn more about offerings and considering connecting with new companies who boast expertise in virtual design offerings. Though this change in work style may be new to many, there are companies with years of experience that can make the transition to new technology as seamless as possible.