How Building Materials Brands Can Do Better For New Homeowners (From Two First-Time Homeowners)

Ernest, senior copywriter, and Aly, graphic designer, have some tips and trends (and maybe a few gripes) to share from their experiences in completing new home projects. From sustainability to product selection and more, they’ll take you through some of the things that building materials brands can do to speak to a new, younger generation of homeowners.

sustainability matters

Aly:

When I fell in love with my home (a 1918 Craftsman four-square behemoth), I knew that I would have several lifetimes’ worth of repairs, hack jobs, DIYs, slap-dash patches and so much more to address. So, when I do start to replace or fix anything, I’m super interested in using a quality product or service that also won’t harm me or the planet. For me, I know that using safe building materials in my home will help conserve energy and save money in the long run.

If you’re a brand that offers sustainable product options in your catalog or touts the sustainable installation benefits in your messaging, it’s a no-brainer for me. If you check those boxes, I’ll be much more interested in purchasing from you.

PROS, CONS AND PRODUCT DESELECTION

Ernest:

When I bought my 1904 charmer, I was delighted to dive in and start repairing the previous homeowners’ hideous renovation (Really? Carpet over my original hardwood floors?). But I quickly realized ... I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’ve never owned my own weed whacker, let alone a circular saw. I barely know how to choose the right grit of sandpaper. I think I’m over my data limit from Face Timing my dad (bless his heart) so many times from the hardware aisle. My lawn is only like 20’ x 20’. Do I need the 20 HP gas-powered behemoth, or can I get away with the cute little trimmer that comes in electric green? I depend on you to provide clear, concise selection and deselection. I want to understand the pros and cons of my decision because every product can’t be perfect for everything … can it?

If you don’t, I’ll probably just give up and buy the cheapest thing I can find on Facebook Marketplace. Please help. You are my dad’s only hope of getting anything done on his weekends off.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW: EDUCATING BEFORE (AND AFTER) THE PURCHASE

Aly:

If you told me a year ago that I would be spending my 25th birthday endlessly scrolling the internet, frantically trying to become an overnight expert on repairing old porches, I may have thought twice about taking on my home improvement journey. Where do I start, and how do I know what constitutes “starting” correctly anyway?

A webpage dedicated just to the features of a product doesn’t work on its own. I want context. I want to know about the product as it exists in the real world. I want to know which problems that product will solve, and what experts in the field think of its merits. Ultimately, I want insight.

This begs for an omnichannel process: you can offer expertise through helpful written content, or perhaps enlist influencers to promote their use of your product and how it’s helped their projects. And you should definitely ensure you are keeping your in-person sales teams and tools up to date so that they can be most effective in showing customers the value of your product.

Also, don’t let the process stop after I buy your product–ongoing education and check-ins can help solidify your brand loyalty, introduce your customers to new products, and potentially aid in garnering repeat purchases. With big-ticket items, ongoing education ensures a customer is fully satisfied and can even boost word-of-mouth referrals.

If you make the effort to keep in contact with me post-purchase, you might inflate my ego a bit–but I’ll be much more likely to boast about you and your product to anyone who will listen.

INVEST IN VISUALIZATION TECHNOLOGY AND BUILD PARTNERSHIPS

Ernest:

As a new homeowner, I don’t have much experience with renovations. And maybe this is just me, but I like to see how different parts and pieces of a room will come together before I pull the trigger. Many brands seem a little gun-shy about showcasing other brands’ products with their own. Part of this involves getting better assets of your products. Another important part is thinking outside of your category and establishing partnerships that will help you stay ahead on new trends.

Here are a few things I would optimally love to see on your visualizer app: scan and measure my space, help me choose from a variety of products (not just yours) and place them in my space. I also want to be able to track my budgets, gather my inspiration, enter some approximate timelines and enter budgets, export shopping lists, and even make a list of professionals available near me (for when I inevitably get overwhelmed at the idea of rebuilding the wall I just demolished).

If you can make it easy for me to plan and visualize as many elements of my room as possible (from flooring to wall colors, countertops, fixtures and even furniture) with different brands, you’ll win in my book.

CATER TO DIY-ERS

Aly:

Want to guess the number of times I mindlessly scroll TikTok or Instagram, see someone DIY an incredible project for their home, save the project in my “I Want To Do This!” folder, and then butcher my way through a half-baked attempt? (Hint: it’s somewhere between once a day and every five minutes.)

Even if I may have drilled a hole into the top of my coffee table accidentally, one silver lining to my chaotic DIY adventures has been learning more about the process and products that work best for me. I chalk that up entirely to web searches. For the vast majority of today’s do-it-yourselfers, the web is the first stop in any project. Many DIYers start their project research online, on sites like YouTube or Pinterest. They’re looking for how much it’ll cost, customer reviews, and how-to videos. And these DIYers typically initiate a project after seeing online content—particularly on their phones.

To have a stake in the DIY game, building materials marketing and online marketing must account for a customer mindset that values strong content as much as (or more) than brand names. Savvy building materials companies are getting wise and investing in mobile-first content marketing. How-to videos and webinars, engaging customer review forums, and audience-submitted ideas are replacing traditional advertising campaigns.

go direct to consumers

Ernest:

Look, maybe I’m just being a grump (I skipped my coffee today). But if I’m already on your site, then why shouldn’t I be able to buy from there too? I don’t want to have to call 20 different stores on your locator tool to figure out who actually stocks the specific screw I want or run to every big box store in town just to track down that perfect light fixture that I love. And don’t even get me started on dealer sites. Why do three different companies have three different names for your product?

As a DIYer, there’s not much that’s more frustrating for me than ordering one part and receiving a completely different one. Maybe there are some people out there who don’t mind it. Maybe they like adventure. Maybe they live for that gnawing sense of anxiety as they wonder, “Will I ever be able to get this project done?” But that ain’t me, Chief.

key takeaways

For building materials brands, understanding the unique needs and problems of millennial homeowners will be your key to future success. Many of us simply don’t have the time (or the patience) to deeply research projects and choose between hundreds of products. We’re generally obsessed with sustainability. We get our project inspiration—and even product recommendations—from many different platforms, but especially from social media. We want streamlined resources that will help us make fast, informed decisions and plan projects with as little headache as possible. We want you to care as much about environmental and social issues as we do. If you can deliver on that, you’ll have a customer for life.

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