Kitchen and bath design firms and suppliers can jump start their own recovery rather than simply wait for the housing market to return to a semblance of normalcy.
But in order to set those wheels in motion, they need to change the conversation they’re having with customers, and convey a message that truly resonates in today’s tepid, sputtering economy.
Sounds like a daunting task, right? Well…perhaps.
The good news is that it’s a goal that’s apparently quite achievable. Why? Because of the strong and enduring emotional connection most Americans have with their homes – and their continued desire to invest in their dwellings, even in the face of financial constraints.
It’s encouraging to discover the level at which homeownership continues to inspire interest and passion among most Americans. In fact, according to a major study commissioned by consumer shelter publisher Meredith Corp., the psych-ological power of home remains remarkably steadfast and strong, despite a housing market ravaged by equity losses and declining home values. Home remains the place most people prefer to spend time. It remains a source of aspiration, satisfaction and pride – an important life goal, a worthwhile investment. And it remains a market, researchers contend, that continues to offer products and services consumers value and want.
All of this spells excellent news for kitchen and bath marketers, provided they understand there’s a “new normal” for the home-improvement market – a market shaped, among other forces, by altered consumer buying patterns, different “hot buttons” and new forms of communication, including social media.
According to Meredith Corp., it’s critical for home-improvement marketers to reinvigorate their brands and reconnect with consumers by targeting the emotional bond that home-owners have with their homes, and focusing on initiatives that encourage those consumers to re-engage in home improvement projects.
Ad campaigns and sales strategies should focus on messages that emphasize the personal value of a house as a residence – rather than on its financial value as an item in an asset portfolio – and tap into the intangible benefits of home improvement: how it might enhance family time, evoke a special memory, enable people to achieve something they truly aspire to.
In addition to brand advertising, in-store activities are crucial, Meredith researchers say. So are face-to-face service and a distinct focus on social media. Design firms might also be well served to start small and work up. In other words, it may take a smaller project or two to lead consumers to a bigger project. Similarly, it might be wise to break big projects down into small, bite-sized pieces that are more affordable to consumers.
Consumers might be watching their spending, exercising vigilance and prioritizing. But they’re not going to stop buying. Not when it comes to their homes.
Marketers can’t afford to retrench even though the market isn’t what it was. They should recognize that the run-up to the recession was an aberration, a bubble fueled by unsustainable debt and over-indulgence. It will not recur anytime soon. Pining for the past blinds marketers to the possibilities ahead.
Consumers will still respond to suppliers and retailers who speak to them in a language they understand, with a message that reinforces the strong emotional bond they still have with their homes.