COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the home improvement & furniture market; both in the redirection of demand online and in the changing shopping behaviours shaping the industry.

As consumers are forced to stay inside, this has made them prioritise their home over other things, opening up opportunities for retailers – particularly at the lighter end of the market and those offering gardening equipment and home office furniture. This is supported by the latest Comscore figures, which show a marked 57% increase in visits to home furnishing websites and apps as the pandemic outbreak began.

This changing landscape and the redirection of demand will, unsurprisingly, favour well-equipped, multi-channel, and online-only retailers. Tech-forward retailers; especially those taking advantage of integrated, augmented and virtual reality technologies; will also see a lot of benefits in the current circumstances. This is not to say that in-store shopping is losing its charm, of course, the store remains a crucial step in the purchasing journey as many continue to seek the physical assurance of visiting in-person – particularly in big-ticket purchases. However, when it comes to browsing, the dominance of online is clear.

This is due to the fact that many consumers prefer the ease of researching retailers online prior to purchasing, with price and range comparison across a whole host of retailers happening in little to no time. Furthermore, this is often an easy transition from the inspiration stage, as consumers go online for design and colour ideas, before moving onto browsing furniture ranges.

With this in mind, it is easy to see that e-commerce has become a crucial tool in the success of home improvement retailers. Those who look to meet consumer demand, when and where it arises, will be the ones to dominate the market in the upcoming years.

In this article, we have gathered the key trends shaping the home improvement & furniture industry this year and we have provided recommendations as to how you can best respond to them in your marketing activity.

Key Trends in 2020

Saving money is the focus

In time of uncertainty, the importance of price is often paramount. According to a Mintel survey, 79% of furniture shoppers prioritise price above all else when choosing between different retailers. This focus is not just on final price though, it is closely related to product quality; driving the need for value-for-money and the prevalence of both promotional offers and credit options in the furniture market.

With cost saving being the focus, this means that homeowners are likely to be strategic with their funds in the upcoming year, opting for smaller-scale projects with high impact. As a result, we can expect an uptick in projects tied to cost savings; including energy-efficient lighting, home insulation, and improved roofing.

How to respond

This is perhaps the best time to adjust the focus of your content marketing strategy to favour pieces on improving your home on a budget, and offering relevant tips to help homeowners save money without compromising on quality.

Providing guidance on affordable home improvement can be done in a variety of ways; such as by writing blog posts on the topic, sharing relevant case studies, or offering inspiration on social media channels like Pinterest and Instagram.

Discounts and special offers can also prove successful, however, you should use this tactic very sparingly as regular discounts can also have a negative effect on your business depending on how well-structured, timely, and drastic they are. So, if you're thinking about implementing one, it's important you have a firm grasp on the concept and understand the perks and pitfalls of the practice.

DIY is on the rise

Extended periods inside have pushed DIY up the agenda, leading to a home improvement boom. With advanced technology and video tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, DIY projects are more accessible than ever, empowering homeowners to renovate and remodel their homes by themselves.

According to a report by The Drum, the main reasons homeowners undertake household projects on their own is because, firstly, it is cheaper (65%) and, secondly, because it provides them with a sense of accomplishment (37%) – particularly amongst older age groups.

Millennials (25-34-year olds), on the other hand, hold a slightly different perspective, with 25% claiming it to be something nice to do with their partner and also because it is more sustainable/better for the environment (16% ).

A couple paining walls by themselves

Research shows that while DIY shopping is predominantly done in-store, homeowners tend to search online for hints and tips for DIY, as well as for inspiration for their projects. YouTube is the top source of information, particularly for those aged 35-44, while Google comes in second and it is most frequently used by younger age groups.

How to respond

Making sure that your online services are set up to provide advice, “how to” tutorials, DIY best practices, and safety tips on tools and materials; will give customers more confidence to purchase from your brand, regardless of whether it is online or in-store.

Just look at the following blog post from Trade Plumbing – a company selling plumbing parts and accessories. They have created a DIY guide on how to fit a new radiator. In the post, you can find a breakdown of the steps in an easy-to-follow way, supported by pictures and links back to the accessories mentioned in the copy. This provides users with the opportunity to add the linked items to their basket, without the risk of perceiving the company as too salesy or pushy.

Thanks to an effective SEO strategy, this article ranks on the first page of Google, exposing their brand to thousands of unique visitors who can easily turn into potential customers.

Trade Plumbing DIY Blog

Mobile use is on the up

As the rate of smartphone ownership continues to outstrip that of computers and tablets, this opens up opportunities for home retailers to engage users on their smartphones and particularly on social media. This is supported by Mintel figures illustrating that browsing for furniture and decor inspiration on smartphones continues to grow; increasing from 34% of users in 2019 to 38% in 2020.

Home improvement, decor & furniture inspiration on Pinterest

The main limitation to purchasing furniture and home accessories via smartphones has to do with price lines – 47% of consumers agree that it is risky to purchase big-ticket (e.g. £250+) furniture on a mobile phone. This cautious behaviour is prevalent amongst older age groups, highlighting the need for retailers to do more to increase confidence in this area.

How to respond

The exponential growth of smartphone browsing and purchasing behaviour indicates the increasing urgency for home retailers to integrate both in-store and online to ensure a seamless purchasing journey across these channels, particularly in-store via mobile apps. In addition, there is a clear need for retailers to ensure that they engage with older users, where current smartphone ownership is high but purchasing on this device is low.

One great example of engaging smartphone users is Wayfair’s enhanced app, released in November 2019. The purpose of the app is to make it easier for consumers to do on-the-go shopping for furniture. The app offers a seamless mobile shopping experience that is uniquely tailored to shoppers’ individual needs. Through the power of augmented reality, the refreshed app enables customers to visualise how products will look and fit in their own home ahead of purchase wherever they are.

Wayfair AR app for home improvement

Sustainability becomes a priority

The COVID-19 pandemic represents the first existential threat in many years and, as such, has had a profound impact on peoples’ values and priorities. Shifting consumer behaviour has resulted in environmental concerns moving up the agenda. This, in turn, has triggered an emphasis on sustainability, where interest peaks among young consumers but remains well-distributed across the demographic groups.

In fact, 49% of consumers agree that growing environmental concerns have made them more conscious of purchasing furniture. Furthermore, 12% of consumers prioritise how environmentally friendly a retailer is when deciding where to shop for furniture.

How to respond

As this emphasis increases, this could open up a number of avenues of growth for home improvement retailers, offering a new way to market products and services. For instance, 67% of consumers would like to see more sustainability initiatives, such as upcycling classes or the recycling of old furniture, in-store. Home improvement retailers must harness this interest by increasing the number of sustainability initiatives they run in-store as well as the choice of environmentally friendly product ranges.

Although the overall picture during the pandemic is one of reduced consumer confidence, many people have used their extra time at home to undertake home improvements and finish household projects that they had been postposing. Data shows that ecommerce has played a crucial role in preserving and strengthening the home improvement industry during the outbreak; with consumers relying on the Internet for research, inspiration, and purchasing of furniture and other home accessories.

This rapid development of home e-commerce is likely to continue to grow, highlighting the need for retailers to respond with an effective multi-channel marketing strategy aimed at capturing the demand.

How effective is your strategy? Our team can help you respond to the changing consumer preferences and trends in your industry due to the COVID-19 crisis through impactful digital marketing strategies. For more information, please contact our team through the form below!

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