As housing transactions return to steady growth for the first time since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the home improvement market is booming. According to Technavio, it’ll be worth USD13.9 billion by 2021, with online growth far outpacing that of physical stores. Report Buyer predicts online sales in the UK will grow 47.4% from 2017-2022, as opposed to 7.3% on offline channels. While NPD found than in the US, online sales rose 34% in 2017, with double digit growth across almost all category segments, which include everything from plumbing and hardware to outdoor living and décor.
But digital transformation within home improvement is still relatively young. The sector is only beginning to appreciate the ease eCommerce can bring to its consumers, and vice versa. In this blog, we examine this emerging online market, what’s driving it, who’s driving it, the brands and retailers blazing a trail in it, and how to capture more of it.
The Home Improvement Consumer
Home improvement consumers are a diverse bunch of varied age categories and income levels, with spending heavily influenced by life-changing events. For instance, they could be millennials buying their first home, Generation X-ers trading up as they grow their families, or down-sizing Baby Boomers.
What many of them share, however, is a growing fondness for DIY, not just to save costs, but also for fun. This DIY movement is facilitated by the internet and its wealth of ‘how-to’ content. And the more of this content people consume, the more they develop their skills, the more they achieve, the more confident they get, the more projects they take on, and the more products they buy.
Interestingly, this content is seeing a rise in women DIY-ers, with a report by digital marketing agency Venveo saying they comprise 50% of the growing DIY market.
Content That Converts
Clearly, content really is king when it comes to home improvement. Indeed, Venveo’s report also found that 84% of this sector’s consumers are looking for inspirational content year ‘round. Of this, video packs the strongest punch, with 88% of DIY-ers saying they watch ‘how-to’ videos, and 65% saying they’re more likely to buy from a brand delivering them.
YouTube performs particularly well here, hosting as it does many popular home improvement vlogs and channels. Not only this, but most of its home improvement traffic is organic, a rarity in this competitive space.
Engaging YouTube content is also conducive to ‘tab-switching’, which can have a really positive influence on purchasing decisions. Tab-switching sees consumers switching tabs between online stores and YouTube to see the products they’re thinking of buying in action, and/or to buy the product they see in action.
Brands can also use Where to Buy technology to make content ‘shoppable’. This covers not just video, but all digital content, from blogs to social posts. With just one click, the consumer is presented with a choice of retailers where they can buy that cordless power tool, or whatever product/s they desire.
Capturing The Millennials
While home improvement consumers cut across age categories, millennials are really driving growth. More of them are buying homes, and increasingly these homes are ‘fixer-uppers’ they want to work on themselves as much as possible.
Despite their best intentions, however, they lack the skills — a recent study by Poundland found one in three millennials struggle with basic household tasks, 60% can’t put up shelves, and 39% can’t decorate.
To capture the hearts and minds of these digitally savvy consumers, brands must engage them with creative content that teaches them the skills necessary to create their dream homes.
Seamlessly Blending The Online And Offline Experience
Millennials are further reshaping the home improvement sector by expecting a seamless retail experience both online and off. The strategy that delivers this is omnichannel (further reading in our previous omnichannel blog here), and an A+ example of a home improvement retailer delivering on this is Home Depot, whose ongoing digital transformation in to a seamless online/offline hybrid is proving highly successful, offering consumers online convenience for small ticket items like light bulbs, and showcasing big ticket items in-store.
Traffic and conversions are up for the retailer, with online sales growing 21% in Q4 2017, and now representing 6.7% of their total sales. However, don’t be fooled by these figures. Offline is still hugely relevant to Home Depot, with 46% of their online US orders being collected in-store, where consumers may be tempted to browse and make further impulse and/or complimentary purchases.
This is a testament to the power of omnichannel, and to the brains behind Home Depot, whose digital strategy has been bang on the money in terms of understanding the evolving needs and expectations of the modern consumer. Not only have they pushed omnichannel, but they’ve also invested in enhanced search and mobile functionality, increased check-out speed and expanded chat functionality (we’ve got more on Chatbots here), all of which go towards a stellar digital path to purchase.
The Amazon Factor
So successful is Home Depot that it’s sometimes seen as ‘Amazon proof’. But increasingly, no brand, retailer or industry can claim that. And while Amazon’s share of the home improvement sector is still relatively low, more of their millennial customers are buying and renovating their own homes as discussed above. And, given their loyalty to Amazon, it’s not too much of a stretch to predict them buying what they need for their homes on it.
As such, the brands that invest in Amazon as a sales channel will excel. And they can look to Black and Decker as an example. 14 of Amazon’s top-selling tools of 2017 were Black and Decker, with its DeWalt brand items ranking first in several categories including Power Tool Accessories, Woodworking and Power Drills.
And while other brands such as Stanley and Howard Leight also have category best sellers on Amazon, no other brand rules the roost like Black and Decker. While the fact it’s a well-established household name is likely a factor here, so too was its recognition of the importance of Amazon ahead of the competition.
ChannelSight Where to Buy technology is a simple and effective way of channeling consumers to Amazon and other online retailers. With its quick implementation and plug-and-play set-up, you can keep plotting your brand’s internet takeover while it powers up your conversion rates.
Just One More Thing…
Finally, while we’re on the subject of Amazon, something else to note is that many home improvement brands found success in 2017 by adding Alexa-integration in to their flagship products. Indeed, the three top-selling items in the space all had Alexa compatibility, namely the TP-link Smart Plug, the Ring Video Doorbell and the Nest Learning Thermostat. For a captivating if slightly terrifying account of this robot takeover and what it means for brands, take some time out with our CEO and Co-founder John Beckett here.
Global Brand Partner Consultant