Here’s What’s on Deck at the Expo
Nashville – The 2017 Deck Expo kicked off in Nashville with the kind of activity that bodes well for the outdoor living category.
Big brands were plentiful at the Music City Center, as were new players hopeful to get their foot in the door of the deck business. But the bottom line for nearly every vendor exhibiting was connecting with remodeling and builder customers.
Beacon Roofing Supply, which operates 383 locations in the United States and Canada, had a mission to make sure its customers were aware of everything the company has to offer.
“We are here to make sure that our customers know that we are more than just roofing,” Gerry Ceurvorst, director of complementary sales – South Division. “We have plenty of significant business that is not roofing. We want our customers to think about the Beacon as the brand to go to for everything.”
Envision Decking, a division of Tamko Building Products, was on hand to reinforce its brand and identity. The composite decking line has introduced two new collections in 2017: the Inspiration Signature Collection and the Expression Simplicity Collection. Envision also featured their new website that recently launched, as well as the new Envision Registered Contractor Program.
MoistureShield unveiled its new Vision composite decking line, featuring a lifetime stain finish that is customizable. “Education is the big reason we are at Deck Expo,” said Larry Harnish, marketing manager with Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies. “We want to meet our end-users explain the characteristics of our products to them.”
Azek Building Products views the event as a chance for executives to rub elbows with contractors. “It’s important for us to meet with them and expose contractors to senior leadership,” Beth Mackey, Azek channel marketing director told HBSDealer. “We’re here to understand the needs of our customers.” The building products manufacturer also introduced its new FUSIONLoc hidden fastening system at Deck Expo.
Another theme almost all vendors had in common at the show is the opinion that business is solid. When it came to discussing remodeling climate that exists outside the show floor, there weren’t many complaints. Some industry experts are expecting remodeling sales to grow by 5% or better next year. Others were more optimistic — putting growth in the neighborhood of double-digits.
“It’s full bore, and it’s not slowing down,” Harnish said. “Business is good right now.”
Is your brand online-ready?
According to The NPD Group, the volume of home improvement products sold online is swiftly approaching $11 billion, a growth of 41% compared to last year. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are seeing double-digit, year-over-year growth in online sales. With emerging competitors in the category like Amazon, retailers are placing a much stronger emphasis on the online shopping experience. Because if they don’t, they’ll be left behind.
And while that rapid growth sounds encouraging, $11 billion is a very small portion of the $422 billion in total online retail sales Mintel estimates for 2017. And for both Home Depot and Lowe’s, online sales account for less than 10% of overall volume.
EMarketer recently tracked several product categories, as part of a larger overview, and the three related to the home — DIY/home improvements, household appliances and furniture/homeware — were among the lowest in preference to purchase online, second only to grocery items.
So, why do home improvement products lag behind other categories in online purchasing? Is it the DIYer’s one-project-at-a-time mindset, which suggests a homeowner buys everything they need for a project all at once (and at the moment they’re ready to begin)?
Or is it the physical experience of seeing, touching and exploring options in person, which limits risk since you’re experiencing a product first-hand? Or, when eMarketer reports 45% of Home Depot’s online orders are for in-store pickup, perhaps the order-to-door experience is just not quite there yet?
The NPD Group tracked several home improvement categories and found momentum for online purchasing is building. While overall online sales are not yet at the volume of many other product categories, year-over-year growth is robust
in every product category they analyzed — the lone exception being outdoor living.
A closer look at the report suggests consumers see a convenience factor in making online purchases of disposable replacement products like light bulbs and air filters. Similarly to buying books and movies online, products like light bulbs are an easier e-purchase as you can better pinpoint needs through an online search rather than navigating the cluttered lighting aisle.
Furthermore, these items aren’t usually destination triggers for a store visit, but rather micro moments that occur when the experience of a burnt-out bulb or realization the filter is due to be changed occurs at the time of discovery.
So, here are a few ways brands can jump-start the online buying adoption to optimize their business:
Pay attention to the smartphone experience
Mintel says desktop is still the dominant platform for online shopping, but mobile is closing the gap quickly, as mobile-based retail sales jumped by 94% from 2015 to 2017 and now account for more than 37% of all online purchases.
Apply the Google micro-moment mentality
Even for higher-end durable goods like washers and dryers, an online purchase may be a welcome experience. Think of the Gen X homeowner who is pressed for time. When he gets a call from his aging, widowed mother while at his child’s soccer game that her washer quit working, the “Guilty Son Complex” becomes magnified. But with the right online experience — from ordering through delivery — this problem can be solved completely on a smartphone. To apply this mentality, Google suggests three key steps:
- Be there. Have an online presence where consumers search for solutions — such as YouTube videos and troubleshooting websites along with a strong paid search and keyword strategy.
- Be useful. Offer a clear portfolio of washers online with apples-to-apples comparisons and easy-to-access ratings and reviews that make the selection process much easier online than in person. Some retailers even incentivize the online purchase over the in-store purchase to ensure they capture the sale while also encouraging online usage to build loyalty and data history.
- Be quick. Make the purchase process painless. Apply available manufacturer rebates, select delivery times and track orders all from the smartphone, so the next call from mom is one of praise and gratitude for helping her have clean clothes again.
Encourage more subscription-based programs
Think about auto-replenishment programs for light bulbs and air filters that offer convenience. And similarly to clothing subscription services like StitchFix, retailers could work with suppliers to develop seasonally themed home improvement subscription boxes, such as outdoor living samples during the peak gardening season.
NPD says consumers from age 25 to 44 already account for 50% of all e-commerce home improvement dollars spent. As millennials — who make up a large portion of this age group — continue to buy homes and invest in home improvement, the time is now for the category to deliver on the e-commerce experience this generation expects.
David Sladack is SVP and director of sales and marketing at Brunner. Visit brunnerworks.com.