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SHARON STEMEN

Manager, New Business Development

E sstemen@hartinc.com

T 419.893.9600 Ext. 161

F 419.893.9070

BRITTANY FULTON

Human Resources Leader

E bfulton@hartinc.com

T 419.893.9600 Ext. 147

F 419.893.9070

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Transformation or Obsolescence: Keeping Your Brand Relevant in the Evolving Home Products Category

Casey Null – Senior Strategist

A recent report shows millennials are on the verge of surpassing baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation, and the change is already playing a critical role in the fate of the American economy. The home products category is beginning to realize the impact of the new generation’s consumer-first mindset as it catalyzes great change in the way people think and shop for their homes. Technology brands are entering the category at an astounding pace while direct-to-consumer businesses disrupt traditional retail models by cutting out the middlemen. Transformations like these have given rise to a new level of competition as brands old and new vie for a share of consumers’ minds and wallets.

While the category has long been a comfortable home to a great number of legacy brands, many now find themselves in a precarious position: evolve or become obsolete. Today’s consumers are in control and they’re looking for more than products. The strategies and metrics that ruled the category in decades past won’t cut it with customers who are shopping around the clock and sharing their home improvement experiences with followers online. So Hart developed a few recommendations for aging brands that wish to not only stay relevant, but thrive in the category’s transformation.

Embrace a larger purpose.

A recent study indexed 150 brands according to how American’s identified their purpose and the extent to which that purpose motivated consumer advocacy. What they found was a stark difference in the brands ranked highest by younger and older generations. The results indicate younger generations are far more likely to support and purchase from brands that stand for something larger than the products they sell.

Method, a manufacturer of ecologically sound cleaning products, is a great example of this phenomenon in the home products category. The company’s mission is simple: To make the world a cleaner, greener, more colorful place. And that value doesn’t stop at the products they sell. Method invests considerable time and money into giving back to communities through eco-focused service projects. The brand continues to grow with no signs of slowing down, success largely attributed to their growing base of millennial customers who value the environment and expect the brands they advocate to do the same.

Leverage digital to the fullest extent.

While brick-and-mortar shopping isn’t quite dead yet, the rise and impact of technology in the home products category has greatly diminished its role in the customer journey. Brands can no longer delineate between design ideation and shopping because they’ve become integrated in today’s omnichannel customer experience. And some home products brands are capitalizing on this transformation by cutting out the retailer altogether.

Clare, a direct-to-consumer paint manufacturer, speaks directly to the millennial audience with their mission to: Make paint shopping easier and more inspiring. They aren’t just selling paint – they’re challenging the status quo, transforming the paint shopping experience by bringing it to the consumer’s fingertips and fueling ideation through the creation of digital content. Customers can use tools via the brand’s app or website to calculate the amount of paint they’ll need, receive personalized recommendations for color and have swatches delivered to help them decide which colors work best in their homes. Embracing digital and disrupting traditional retail models, Clare eliminated the consumer pain points of an uninspired and outdated experience, upending a $155 billion industry in the process.

Seek out customer feedback proactively.

The importance of customer feedback in today’s consumer-first economy can’t be understated. Adweek reports a whopping 93% of millennials use blogs and reviews before making purchases and 77% trust the reviews they read on company websites. And dissatisfied customers tend to share their feelings with others, which means a poor customer experience can escalate to a big problem for a brand in no time.

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Being proactive starts with listening everywhere all the time. The Home Depot exemplifies this with their always-on approach to customer service in the social space. But they don’t stop there – the company’s website includes an ever-present link for customers to give immediate feedback from any page or to instantly chat live with a customer service representative. Millennials, now a significant portion of today’s home products market, expect to be heard, and their feedback can be critical to a brand’s long-term health. Making your brand available for communication on their time and through their preferred channels is imperative, and The Home Depot is doing it right.

While we hope to have inspired ideas on how your brand can evolve and remain relevant within the home products category, we understand this transformation is no small task. Hart would welcome the opportunity to work with you to ensure your branding, marketing and communications are successfully engaging key audiences and driving tangible, sustainable results.

To discuss this topic and others that impact your brand, contact:

Sharon Stemen
sstemen@hartinc.com
Manager, New Business Development
419.893.9600 Ext. 161