Last week, at the 2023 HIRI Summit, keynote speaker Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz, shared four key focus areas of consumer behavior that retailers can focus on to be sure they are meeting their customers’ needs. Read highlights from the presentation here and click here to learn more about the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI).
The Impact of the Pandemic on Consumer Behavior
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, consumers buying habits and preferences shifted dramatically within the home improvement space. Whether they were focused on DIY projects they previously didn’t have time for or they needed to make room in their homes for several remote workers and students, the industry saw a significant boon.
While echoes of that initial impact remain, now three and a half years removed from the heyday of home improvement retail spending, consumers and their priorities have changed. The following areas are opportunities for independent home retailers to consider when deciding on product mix, project training and future planning.
- Changing Demographics
Over the last several years, there has been steady growth in multigenerational households, and the result, according to Houzz search-term data, is a significant uptick in ADUs, or auxiliary dwelling units. In the 2023 Houzz Emerging Summer Trends Report, searches for the phrase “garage conversion” were up over 2,200% from last year, and garage apartment was up 52%. In addition to aging-in-place as an opportunity, luxury pet products is also a space for retailers to consider growth. Searches for “laundry room with dog wash” were up nearly 850% over last year.
- Pursuit of Experiences
Many consumers spent the last several years putting money into their homes, and there may not be as many projects remaining, or they’re choosing to spend more time away from home. Instead, consumers are spending money on travel, but that doesn’t mean bringing the “experience” closer to home isn’t top of mind. Searches for “basement family room” were up 791% over last year, suggesting consumers may still want to create additional gathering spaces and entertainment areas in their homes.
- Anxiety Antidotes
As consumers grapple with high inflation and growing cost of living, tying experience and relaxation into the home together may be a solution. According to Hausman, this comes through in top search terms for projects like home saunas or spa-inspired upgrades. The top five searches that grew year-over-year on the home improvement platform are: home gym with sauna; bathroom with sauna; outdoor sauna; zen bedroom; and spa-like bathroom.
- Selective Splurging
Finally, one way consumers are attempting to counter inflation and rising prices is by “trading down” or choosing lower-priced or private-label products more frequently than they would have in previous years. Searches that include the word “small” have grown over the last year, including for projects such as “small screened-in porch”, “small swimming pool”. These types of searches indicate that homeowners may still want these amenities, but they’re planning for something smaller than they initially considered.
Hausman encourages retailers to be aware of these shifts in consumer behavior and be sure you truly understand your customers’ values and what their priorities are. She also says retailers need to be ready to help their customers splurge when they are looking to make an investment.