According to the National Association of Realtors, 2016 was the strongest year for the housing market since the beginning of the financial crisis. A healthy housing market is a positive thing for all businesses, but it's especially beneficial for the two big home improvement stores in the U.S., The Home Depot and Lowe's.
During times of strong housing growth, contractors and building professionals typically drive a majority of the sales, and this was the case in 2016. The same Realtor report forecasted the beginning of a housing market slowdown for 2017.
So the question is: what are these home improvement retailers doing in order to ensure continued growth as the market slows?
A Focus on the Customer
The Home Depot and Lowe's have been steadily shifting their focus towards improving the customer experience to engage more consumers.
And while these retailers are popular destinations for DIYers in search of materials and advice, Mintel research shows that 66% of adults have either basic or no DIY skills at all. Furthermore, 48% "rarely or never do" DIY projects.
This lack of DIY confidence often results in consumers delaying projects or deciding to hire a professional contractor instead. To counteract this, The Home Depot has made significant changes to its website, which now combines mobile and desktop properties to provide an improved digital and in-store experience for consumers. This move wasn't an accident, as The Home Depot most likely knows that 20% of DIYers use a website for help on home improvement and maintenance projects.
In addition to their website, The Home Depot has expanded its offerings of online how-to videos for DIY projects, which will aid the 33% of DIYers who claim to find instructional videos useful when tackling their home improvement and maintenance projects. The key to these videos is to offer a quick overview of the project from start to finish and highlight important details such as the suggested DIY skill level, project completion time, and project materials.
Not to be outdone, Lowe's has installed in-store displays, which offer shoppers helpful resources on Smart home technologies. These displays promote Smart home products as 'whole house' projects for DIY installation vs. individual projects.
What Home Improvement Store Brands Can Do
As the home centers become more consumer-centric, so should brands that rely on Home Depot and Lowe's for distribution. Here are three areas to focus:
- Understand your audience. What drives the consideration for a DIY project (whether they end up doing it themselves or not)? Is it to repair something that is broken, to improve the look of their home, or to increase its resale value? You must understand the various mindsets of your audience before you can begin to create meaningful content with which they can engage.
- Leverage mobile-friendly content. Think of the last time you were working on a project in your house or garage and you needed to find out how to do something. Chances are you grabbed your phone and performed a quick Google or YouTube search. Understand that your audience will be doing the same thing, so keep your how-to content appropriate for the medium: short videos that show close up details, with on-screen text to highlight key points. And rethink the in-store display to make it more engaging and tied to the mobile experience.
- Don't forget to inspire and encourage. If 66% of adults have little to no DIY skills and 48% "rarely or never do" DIY projects, it's not enough to just teach them how to do the project. Your content needs to encourage them that they can do it. Once you have inspirational content, make sure it shows up in places where consumers tend to do their planning such as home improvement websites, social media (e.g. Pinterest), or in-store displays. This will make your customer's project seem more approachable and your brand more consumer-friendly than your competitors.