According to figures released late last month, sales of new single-family homes reached the highest rate since October 2007. 2016 is shaping up to be the best year for housing in a decade. Not only are Americans buying more new homes, they are gearing up their plans for current ones. Home improvement spending is expected to reach $325 billion by early next year. It’s the highest level in a decade.
As Americans ramp up their investment into the home, opportunities abound for well-prepared marketers that are in tune with Americans’ evolving needs for the home space.
Millennials drive home plans
While home ownership saw the sharpest decline among young adults over the past decade, Millennials have started to enter into, and are poised to drive, the housing market. Data from GfK Consumer Life shows that about a quarter of Millennials bought their first homes in the past five years, making up nearly seven in ten first-time home buyers during this period. Nearly two-thirds plan to buy homes in the next 2-3 years, which is almost twice the amount from 2011. Older Millennials, born in the 80s, lead in practically all major home-related goals, from renovation and new purchases to appliances.
Polarized home sizes = Increasingly varied needs
Home sizes are growing more polarized. A new wave of tiny apartments below 500 square feet has emerged in large cities across the nation, helping drive down the average size of new apartments to a 10-year low. At the same time, single-family homes are getting super-sized, with the average square footage breaking new records.
Aside from financial factors such as economic polarization and soaring home prices in major cities, changing household structures – particularly the dual rise of single-person and multi-generational dwellings – are behind the divergence in home sizes. Widening differences in home and household realities pinpoint the increasingly varied needs and opportunities for home products. Are your product portfolios well aligned?
Household cleaning represents big opportunities
‘A clean house free of dust and clutter’ is considered the most fundamental to quality of life on a list of 16 aspects of home tracked by GfK Consumer Life, ranging from the number of rooms in the house to having the right furniture. It’s also one of the areas that consumers are the least satisfied with when evaluating their current home space.
With an accelerated pace of life, home cleaning often gets postponed and the ‘usual level of cleanliness’ has emerged as the fastest growing aspect of the home that consumers would like to improve upon. Today, keeping up with housework represents the top area that Americans admit difficulty with and want solutions for, ahead of managing money/investments, meal planning, and more.
As consumers seek out new ways to maintain a clean house with minimum investments of time and effort, the robotic cleaner category is poised to gain traction. More big names are entering into the field. Dyson, for instance, just launched its first robotic model in the US, combining its iconic powerful suction with the convenience of automation.
Smart homes: Consumers want tangible benefits, not information overload
Home safety and resource conservation have been the prime drivers of smart home adoption and may be even more fundamental motivators moving forward. Compared to current users of smart home products, who tend to be early adopters more enticed by novel technologies, those interested in future adoption gravitate even more towards the most relatable functional benefits – safety and resource conservation.
When it comes to resource conservation, automated optimization (beyond the Nest thermostat, the Rachio smart sprinkler serves as a good example) is much more desired than real-time tracking. Out of the eight smart home features measured by GfK Consumer Life, ‘optimizing energy usage with home products automatically adjusting to the most energy efficient time to perform tasks and/or turning off when not in use’ is by far the most appealing. On the other hand, allowing real-time energy tracking is second to last.
Be it or smart homes or wearables, our research shows that consumers recognize that data tracking alone does not necessarily benefit them. As the Internet of Things progresses and the pitfalls of aggravating information overload become more evident, expect consumer demand to further move beyond information gathering to tangible, results-oriented solutions.
With the economic recovery and Millennials starting their own households, Americans' focus and spending on homes are again on the rise. Fully capitalizing on booming opportunities in this space requires marketers to take a fresh look at their product and marketing strategies to ensure alignment with the shifting consumer landscape.
Veronica Chen is a Vice President at GfK Consumer Life. To share your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.