Study Pinpoints Four Distinct Consumer Segments

ADRIAN, MI — Four distinctly different types of homeowners are prevalent in the kitchen market – each with different lifestyles, attitudes, needs, buying patterns and perceptions about the role their kitchen plays in their life.

That’s the key finding of a major new research study conducted by Merillat Industries, the Adrian, MI-based cabinet manufacturer, which released the results of the study – entitled “Kitchen 4mula” – last month. The study involved 1,252 online interviews conducted nationwide.

“Kitchen 4mula” is the third in an ongoing study aimed at gathering valuable insights into how kitchen/bath professionals and builders can better design kitchens and, at the same time, sell more homes and upgrades. The first two phases of the study – Model Behavior I and Model Behavior II – examined how people act, think and shop in a model home, Merillat officials said.

“The purpose behind Kitchen 4mula is to help builders and kitchen and bath dealers better understand what consumers are looking for in their kitchens so they can create better living spaces,” observed Karen Strauss, president of Merillat, a unit of Masco Corp. “The research uncovered helpful insights into how builders and dealers can improve their sales and consumer satisfaction ratings with design solutions tailored to each of the four consumer segments.”

Strauss noted that the different lifestyles of the four homeowner segments identified by Merillat call for “a unique and individualized approach to design and selling.

“More importantly by understanding in which segment a prospective customer fits, a builder or kitchen and bath professional will have a competitive advantage when designing and selling homes to meet their needs,” she said.

According to the results of the study, the following four homeowner segments can be identified:

“Luxury Leaders.” This homeowner segment is generally affluent and has a large home that is generously appointed with special features such as an office, morning room, media room and wine cellar or serving area. It is the oldest of the four identified segments, and has the highest income. It is also highly educated, and enjoys trying different things, such as the latest products and fashions.

“For this segment, it’s all about prestige,” Merillat said. “The kitchen is the ‘star’ of their home. They have high-end features and the finest appliances, cabinets, flooring and countertops. Social status is important to Luxury Leaders, and they use their kitchen for entertaining and consider it a showplace.”

“Domestic Dwellers.” The Domestic Dweller segment lives in a comfortable home that is nice but not ostentatious. They are traditional and enjoy quiet evenings at home and outings with the family.

For this segment, the kitchen is the place to care for and nurture their family. They use their kitchen the most of any of the four consumer segments, and consider it the center of their home. They use it for a wide range of activities, including homework, paying bills and reading. They prefer a more conventional mainstream décor for their kitchen, and prefer low-maintenance products that can withstand constant use.

“Busy Bees.” This segment is made up of busy families. Both mom and dad work, leaving them little free time. Busy Bees are similar to Domestic Dwellers in many ways. However, Busy Bees are slightly younger and have a higher income.

“While homeowners in this segment are very busy, they spend a great deal of time in their kitchens,” Merillat reported, noting that most of that time is during the weekends. “They will eat out and get take out to fit their busy schedules. Because of their hectic lifestyle, their kitchen is often disorganized and cluttered, yet they may not realize how cluttered the space is. Busy Bees use their kitchen for crafts, hobbies, house chores, homework, but they rarely use it for entertaining. More than the other homeowner segments, they are looking for products that can improve efficiency.

“Offering them storage accessories and organizational solutions to help streamline their lives will go a long way to win this segment over,” Merillat added.

“Career Builders.” Career Builders are most likely first-time homebuyers. They are well-educated, and spend a lot of time working, trying to move up the corporate ladder. They bought their home primarily as an investment, so they carefully chose the house for resale ability. The location, price point and curb appeal were the primary factors in their decision to buy. This segment is the youngest and they have lower incomes than the other homeowners.

“For homeowners in this segment, kitchens are not important and they feel no emotional connection to the room,” Merillat observed. “They don’t spend a lot of time in their kitchen, but when they do, they are most likely surfing the Web or working. Key to this segment is the island, as it serves as an important landing zone at the end of the workday. It’s where they place the newspaper, mail, their laptop, cell phone and PDA.”

Merillat said that, as a result of the study, it has developed a “Segment ID” tool that can be used to determine in which segment a prospective customer fits, further aiding the sales process.

“This tool will help a builder or dealer create a kitchen that appeals to the prospective customer’s specific segment by quickly identifying distinct segment groups, better packaging options and upgrades that appeal to specific segments, strengthening satisfaction ratings, and improving personal selling,” Strauss concluded.