Keeping Green Relevant: 3 Things We Can Learn from Slumping Hybrid Car Sales

ALL SIGNS POINT TO continued homeowner interest in homes that are greener, more energy efficient and resilient. Studies over the past year indicate homeowners are willing to, and in fact pay even more than intended, for green products and green homes. Spending on green building is projected to reach $145B in 2015. Builders and remodelers are becoming increasingly more effective in messaging and marketing their brands to potential buyers. So, to keep the momentum going, we should also keep an eye on what’s going on in other greening industries, like hybrid cars, and learn how to adjust to potential speed bumps going into 2015.

In recent reports from the auto industry, sales of hybrid vehicles began to ease in 2014, and are struggling to keep pace with that industry’s growth, according to Edmunds.com. And since those initial reports, sales of SUV’s are taking off. For instance, in November 2014, sales for Cadillac’s Escalade were up almost 75% versus the same month last year. So, hybrid technology continues to improve. Power source alternatives are proliferating. Manufacturers are pouring millions into marketing. Now, sales are slowing. May be there’s a lesson, or three, here. What can green builders learn?

1) More Than Lower Fuel Costs

Certainly, the fact that gas prices have fallen dramatically over the past year has probably helped change perspective of the short-memory consumer. Likewise, lower cost of energy has also had an impact on homeowner attitudes. But, there are likely some other market-related trends playing a role in the sudden shift, trends today’s green builders should think about too.

2) Keeping Green “New”

For one, consumers are becoming more and more influenced by “new”. Over recent years, builders and building products manufacturers have done a good job of marketing their new approaches to energy efficiency and simplifying the message so homeowners can make a direct relationship between the materials and equipment being used in the home’s construction and the benefits to comfort and savings. Taking a lesson from the automotive segment though, builders need to be sure that they are keeping their message fresh and updated. For example, potential buyers who are researching green homes online are going to be far less engaged with information from a press release dated 2012, versus 2015. Additionally, be sure your message is in sync with the buyer segment you are trying to attract. As for building products manufacturers, you need to be sure they are evolving their message support in ways that builders can adapt it easily in to benefits that appeal to their buyers.

3) Embrace Innovation That Supports Your Goals

Another important learning is related to adoption of innovation. On the hybrid front, all-electric (EV) vehicles began to take center stage in the automotive segment. While great strides have been made in the performance and reliability of EV’s, it almost seems like the push of the new technology cluttered the selection process and maybe more consumers just decided the decision between hybrid and EV technologies and their trade-offs were too complex and confusing. So they just opted for a traditional gas vehicle that is now more fuel efficient and less expensive.

This hypothesis does not suggest green builders take their foot off the innovation adoption pedal. It does suggest that you pay close attention to how new products or techniques fit within your company’s building philosophy and how you go to market. With innovations coming to the market at a faster and faster clip, it is easy to get distracted. Whatever new innovations you adopt, think about not only how they translate to your core messaging to buyers in the context of the benefit to them and be sure you are not creating a more complex message that might ultimately create confusion on the part of your client.

Keeping Momentum Building

As the housing market continues to strengthen and more stringent codes require all builders to deliver more energy efficient homes. Promising 0pportunity remains for green builders and those that supply them. Be sure to keep your sites on your mission, and learn from other groups like automotive, to sustain the momentum that green building has created thus far.

Originally posted on Green Builder on January 6, 2015.

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