Do you track the home improvement industry? If you do, but didn’t make it to the Home Improvement Research Institute’s HIRI Summit last month, you can still benefit from the top takeaways shared by thought leaders presenting there.
The nonprofit trade organization is made up of global building products manufacturers, large chain retailers and allied entities in the supply chain and media. Here are five of the top trends they discussed, along with insights on what they might mean for you.
1. Luxury projects are slowing
“Discretionary luxury remodeling is slowing, with the five product categories facing most severe headwinds: High end cabinets, cladding, flooring, roofing and dimensional lumber,” observed Todd Tomalak with John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
This can provide opportunities for emerging quality value brands in the kitchen and bath remodeling spheres, where clients have more access to consumer-facing information. For example, features like soft close doors and drawers, sizing customization, and organizing accessories, once limited to semi-custom and custom cabinetry, are becoming more widely available in more affordable brands.
If you’re recommending or specifying products for clients, this is a potential sweet spot. If you’re in the market to improve your home, or helping real estate clients improve theirs, this is an opportunity to get a custom look at a more realistic price.
2. Buyers are looking for help
“For home improvement, the shopper’s journey is not just ‘where do I find this?’ but more importantly ‘how do I do this?’ making the role of the associate critical,” shared Amy Anthony with Lowe’s.
As Millennials have emerged as leading DIYers, they’ve become information hungry. It’s why you’ll find a large selection of home improvement how to videos on retailers’ and manufacturers’ sites for those who may want to research before they shop, as well as reinforce what they heard in the store aisle.
If you’re doing your own home improvements, there’s a wealth of great information online to help you complete a project, and approach an associate more knowledgeably. With store aisles being notoriously crowded on the weekends, this is a way to get the answers you need to complete your projects more successfully.
3. Mobile sales are growing
“Shopping and purchasing via mobile device is growing rapidly and must be a main strategy at retail,” declared Brendan Baby from The Home Depot.
Shoppers want the convenience of learning about products on the go, buying them with a few clicks, then not having to wait for delivery and possibly postponing their project until the next weekend. Show them how to improve their properties online, make it easy to buy what they need from their phones (without having to pull out their wallets, through a digital payment system), and then let them pick up their purchases an hour later in their neighborhood store.
If retailers really want buyers, they need to make it easy to get help online or by phone if someone runs into installation challenges during the project. This might mean enhancing chat team’s skills, or highlighting products on mobile sites from manufacturers that offer weekend help. Buyers love companies that make shopping and life easier.
4. Watching the next generation
“Gen Z is a DIFFERENT generation than Millennials. They look like no other youth generation before. They value pragmatism and security as they embark on changing the world,” observed Therese Caruso with the Zeno Group.
Since this is also an entirely digital native population, a company’s first communications with Gen Z members are likely to be through a website, mobile app or social media channel. Researchers differ on how they define the years in which this generation was born, but the youngest are still in elementary school. It’s the early and mid-20 somethings who are the emerging home products buyers – in many cases making small, reversable changes to their first apartments.
It’s not surprising that they’d value pragmatism, given how much hype is thrown at them online. Scams and identity theft concerns also likely drive their interest in security. There are many discussions happening today about digital privacy and data rights that need to be considered in the context of someone’s home and health. Gen Z will be taking note of all of them.
5. Emphasize health over savings
“When you talk about sustainability as it relates to home improvement purchases, savings is not an effective message. Try to tie the benefit to health, and give Americans prescriptive steps to take to make it happen,” recommends Suzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group.
This isn’t as surprising as it might seem. While sustainability and savings have become expected with programs like Energy Star, Water Sense and ever-stricter building codes mandating conservation, wellness is fresh in people’s minds. People are taking an active interest in their health and well-being – especially Millennials – and have shown that they’ll spend more for products that deliver health and fitness benefits.
What’s fairly recent is linking health with remodeling products. Most people think about smoking, exercise, stress and diet when they talk about making improvements to their well-being, not remodeling their kitchen or bath. Wellness design is a fast-growing discipline within the residential sphere and its practitioners are showing homeowners and renters how their living spaces can enhance their well-being.
Wellness-focused changes can include paint, flooring or cabinetry with non-toxic materials, touchless faucets that reduce germ spread, circadian lighting that improves sleep, water and air purification systems, bidet style toilets for enhanced hygiene, and many others. This is proving to be a healthy message for the home remodeling industry’s bottom line, as well.