With the home improvement outlook looking healthier than ever, you shouldn’t be hard pressed to find customers looking for your business. Tailoring your brand marketing to meet customer expectations, however, is another story. Each client is unique, of course, but there are some preferences that divide customers from one another, particularly when it comes to age.
In the home improvement market, there are some distinct differences between the generations in advertising format preference, buying power, and the types of projects each gravitates to. Here’s a summary of the most critical characteristics for your home remodeling business.
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Courting the Aging Baby Boomer
Boomers are one of the major demographics driving home improvement. For one, most are homeowners—in 2016, nearly 80% of persons aged 65 and up owned a home. For another, they’re rapidly aging and retiring—by some estimates, around 10,000 boomers retire every day). And that means their focus is on the home.
Accessibility improvements high on boomers’ list of desired improvements. This generation has decided not to spend its golden years in assisted living or senior communities. Instead, they’re keeping their homes and “aging in place.” In fact, according to an AARP survey, some 87% of adults over 65 hoped to stay in their homes long term. But aging in place requires modifications to the home, particularly as regular activity and movement becomes challenging as homeowners age. Therefore, many clients will be asking for remodels that include accessibility accommodations such as wider doorways, ramps and new toilets and tubs.
The financial outlook for boomers is good. As far as finances, boomers have a lot more expendable cash than other generations—surveys show they hold around 70% of the disposable income in the US. Because of this, they tend to prefer luxury projects, materials and products. And that can mean higher-dollar improvements overall.
The boomer decision-making process. However, they’re also not likely to make any split-second decisions. This generation rightly views home improvements as major commitments, and so need to be nurtured carefully through all stages of the lead cycle.
Technology adoption is higher than expected. Boomers tend to prefer a personable, custom experience with great customer service. But they’re more willing than you might think to use technology. Roughly 34 million of Facebook’s 200 million users are 55 or over. Among older adults with smartphones, 76% say they use the internet several times a day, while 70% log into social media sites at least once daily, according to one Pew Research study. Therefore, you shouldn’t shy away from social media marketing and advertising geared toward this demographic, as well as high-tech touches like online appointment setting, digital portfolios and the like.
Wooing the Forgotten Generation, Gen X
Boomers may be driving the home improvement market, but Gen X is close on their heels. This age group owns fewer homes than the generation before them, but they’re more likely to remodel. According to consumer studies, in 2016, 72% started a home improvement project, compared to 56% of boomers.
Generation responsible. Like their predecessors, Gen Xers take remodels seriously and aren’t likely to pull the trigger too quickly. They tend to do their homework before a project and don’t need to be guided through every decision. However, they’re also more fiscally cautious than boomers—understandable, given that they have less disposable income than their parents. However, don’t let that fact sway you away from this group. Marketing surveys have found that the average Gen Xer has roughly $1,300 in disposable income a month, and 96% report that they have some earnings left after paying for necessities and debts. They have money to spend. They just need to be shown the value of what they’re purchasing first.
Email is king for Gen X. The way to Gen Xers’ hearts is through email. Unlike the millennials after them, Gen Xers actually read email; 82% say they check their email every day. Consumers in their 40s and 50s vastly prefer emailing to other forms of communication like texting and instant messaging, and so are likely to react positively to newsletters and email campaigns.
Old-school marketing works well, too. In an unlikely twist, Gen Xers seem to respond to traditional marketing formats as well, particularly mailings. This generation checks its physical mail as diligently as its email—86% say they bring in the mail every night. That fact becomes even more remarkable when you consider that 68% regularly use coupons they get in the mail. A well-timed offer sent through direct mail could have a lot of traction with your Gen X customers.
Hyping the Millennial Homeowning Vision
Long the fixation of media moguls and advertisers alike, millennials have largely gone overlooked by the home improvement industry. Some of that is understandable: until recently, most millennials were too young to enter the homebuying market. That’s not the case anymore, however. Millennials may not be snapping up homes like their predecessors (the housing crash put an end to that). But they’re still buying. According to Zillow, millennials pumped over $514 billion into the housing market in 2017. Eight-five percent expect to own a home at some point in their lives. Experts readily point out that millennials are delaying their decision to buy, not terminating it. So there’s no reason to ignore this group.
Millennial buying power. Up until recently, wages remained mostly stagnant, which restricted millennials’ ability to make purchases for the home. Last year, the US Census reported that household incomes had risen for the first time since 2007, signaling that the economy had finally bounced back. However, the average millennial salary remains low, driving this group towards low-cost housing options, including the classic “fixer upper.” Many of these fixer-uppers will need repairs and improvements; in fact, 75% of millennial homeowners engaged in a home improvement project in the past year. That means there should be plenty of business in store for the remodeling sector, particularly as millennials accumulate more income.
Variety is the spice of millennial life. Nursed on social media and used to Instagramming their lives, millennials are naturally attracted to spaces that express their personality. Marketers at home improvement stores say that millennial shoppers now expect a huge variety of colors, textures and varieties for each type of product, meaning that the more you can offer them customization and a wide range of options, the better.
It’s all about your reviews. Millennials may value their individuality, but they’re not likely to make a purchase without checking with a few friends first. This generation loves reviews of all kind; 68% say they usually don’t make a major purchase without asking friends. They’re also more likely to research products and services heavily on the internet before buying. So good ratings on community reviewing sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook will go a long way to win over this demographic.
Energy efficiency improvements go the distance with this generation. One could write a whole book on the preferences of millennials (and indeed, many volumes on the subject exist). However, one characteristic that we have our eye on is their tendency toward making home efficiency improvements. Upgrades like solar energy, smart technologies, electric car charging ports and LED lighting are likely to make more headway with this group. But your company’s ecological footprint counts for a lot too. Millennials are much more likely to buy from companies with a squeaky-clean reputation for energy use and environmental improvements. Being able to speak to your company’s impact in these areas will set you apart from the competition for millennial dollars.
All in all, things are looking up for home improvement professionals. And that means good things are on the horizon, no matter your ideal customer.