Online shoppers still have home goods and projects on their plates, so category-wide buying and taking advantage of omnichannel conveniences remain strong.
Home is certainly a category that saw some swings during the pandemic and beyond. It’s likely that many shoppers bought home goods online for the first time while seasoned shoppers purchased widely across this category. Our 2022 Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights home goods survey of 1,113 online shoppers speaks to where shoppers stand today. After several years of many of us living and working at home and the volatility of this category, I will incorporate some of the year-over-year numbers to provide perspective.
Online shoppers appreciate the convenience of buying more home goods online. 25% of online shoppers purchased at least half of their home goods online in the past year. Year over year, online shoppers bought a much lower percentage of their home goods online, and it is reflected in the online purchasing penetration (2022 vs. 2021).
> 50%: 25% vs. 41%
< 50%: 75% vs. 59%
Home décor and furniture needs decline post-pandemic
Reflecting on these numbers leads me to believe overall category needs have likely declined after robust purchasing during the pandemic. While the pandemic pushed all shoppers to increasingly purchase home goods online, shoppers may now be retreating back to physical stores. The tactile nature of home goods means shoppers still see a role for the store post-pandemic.
Individuals’ varied home activities likely drive category consumption. Interest in home projects/DIY and category-wide purchasing remains strong, and activities online shoppers cited include general home upgrades (44%) and DIY projects (42%). On a tangential note, the kicking off of projects now that the pandemic has wound down (10%) and moving (9%) also foster researching and purchasing in the category.
Home-related activities also meant online research, with 27% of respondents looking for ways to enhance their homes. 19% even perused social media to generate ideas.
Year over year, researching also was more limited as many shoppers had already done their homework (27% vs. 44%). Also, online shoppers decreased budgets and projects commensurate with needs. Given the pandemic frenzy around these activities, current behavior has tempered:
Home upgrades: 44% vs. 37%
DIY: 42% vs. 47%
Of course, saving money is top of mind for many. 37% reported taking advantage of promotions on products of interest.
Cross-category purchasing is prevalent in the home category. The following garnered online buyers’ attention:
Outdoor space items: 30%
New furniture: 27%
Appliance replacement: 24%
Work-from-home (WFH) office needs: 14%
Shoppers continue to invest in their homes with more limited focus, so we are seeing subsequent shifts in behavior. One where a big year-over-year difference (2022 vs. 2021) was seen was work-from-home office needs (14% vs. 21%). One can only surmise that most people had set up these spaces during the initial year of the pandemic with needs declining over time.
What features shoppers consider when shopping for their homes online
Pricing reviews and information that facilitate product comparison top the list of important home goods buying features. Shoppers appreciate strong product information along with merchandising and tools that guide purchase behavior. That manifests itself in a desire for pricing access (68%) and ratings/reviews (62%), which should be both integrated and well-populated. Retailers must give online home goods shoppers strong visual depictions of products for optimal decision-making. Shoppers deemed important the ability to zoom in on an image (47%) and shopper-generated photos (25%). Educational content is critical to delivering an exemplary shopping experience, and most favored was the ability to compare products (55%).
Showcasing products including recommendations inspires shoppers. 36% find these important when shopping for home goods. More traditional merchandising tactics can also resonate among online buyers including featuring new products (32%), top sellers (24%) and trending products (17%).
Delivery information deserves prominent placement given continuing supply chain woes. Here, 40% of online buyers find accurate delivery windows important in category buying.
Educational tools have an important role to play. 34% of survey respondents see how-to guides as important, and video comes in at 23%. Digital buyers spend significant time researching, and this content — if compelling — can guide buying behavior. Taking it one step further, shoppers are increasingly interested in tools that elevate the home goods experience. That includes augmented reality at 17%, room design at 15%, and styling profilers at 10%.
As more shoppers test these capabilities, one can expect to see incremental growth. It’s interesting that when looking at year-over-year findings, these tools seem to have grown in importance.
Educational Tools (2022 vs. 2021)
Ability to compare products: 55% vs. 61%
How-to guides: 34% vs. 22%
Videos: 23% vs. 14%
Augmented reality: 17% vs. 8%
Room design tools: 15% vs. 7%
Styling profilers: 10% vs. 4%
Like most categories online, Amazon leads the list of sites shopped for home goods. Mass merchants Walmart and Target follow.
Slowdown in home projects impacts online spending
Post-pandemic, DIY projects still prevail, though they may be limited and smaller in scope. Despite the fact that many projects were completed during the pandemic, 39% of our survey respondents are still in DIY mode. Additionally, with work from home now standard fare for many of us, only 10% suggest further upgrades are likely. Overall, only 11% are using more professionals.
Our research suggests that both the number and scope of projects post-pandemic tend to be smaller and more limited. From a size perspective, 23% indicate their projects are smaller, versus 17% who have larger plans in place. Scope-wise, the findings appear to be similar, with 23% smaller and 18% larger.
Supply chain challenges remain, with 38% of online shoppers waiting longer to get items they order. Additionally, 19% had to switch retailers due to out-of-stocks, so we are not out of the woods yet.
Online shoppers embrace add-on services
Many home goods shoppers need services. Those can range from assembly to design, all in hopes of efficiently managing their projects. Almost half of online shoppers are likely to take advantage of these add-on services alongside their home goods shopping. Retailers have opportunities to secure incremental revenue. Strategically positioning such services provides a valuable add-on for these buyers.
Online furniture and décor experiences are multifaceted
Shoppers can have a range of experiences when buying home goods online, so a thorough review of these consumer findings should help direct retailers in their investment strategies. Mobile research and purchasing is prevalent, with 46% indicating it is part of their past experiences. Thus, monitoring one’s mobile user experience (UX) is critical given this heightened usage.
Content drives purchasing, necessitating that home goods retailers invest to both educate and inspire shoppers. It starts with the 37% who have watched video and includes perusing Pinterest or other social media (24%). Those who watch TV/home and garden shows (23%) and lastly those who read blogs in this category (13%) also factor in.
While tools and services see lower penetration, they serve to support shoppers looking to embrace what’s new in the category. Findings among those surveyed suggest that 12% have customized furniture, 11% used augmented reality tools and 9% tried 3D room planners. Year-over-year usage was on an upward trajectory as noted below (2022 vs. 2021):
Customized furniture: 12% vs. 8%
Augmented reality: 11% vs. 6%
3D room planners: 9% vs. 4%
Though many indicated they are interested in using home services, not even 10% actually had such experiences over the past six months. It was significant that all these services had higher experience levels.
Appointment for home services: 9% vs. 6%
Used Home Advisor/Task Rabbit services: 7% vs. 4%
Booked assembly online: 6% vs. 2%
In-store appointment: 5% vs. 1%
Virtual appointment: 4% vs. 1%
Product availability and store pickup are both a factor when buying for the home
The store is an integral part of home goods shopping, making it essential that product locators, accurate inventory, BOPIS and curbside options be in place. 43% of respondents check for product availability at local stores, and it may now be part of deciding whether or not to visit a store. For retailers, the good news is that 23% did, in fact, visit a retailer as part of their shopping journey. From there, an evaluation comes into play: pickup or delivery? Post-pandemic, many shoppers continue to use these store-based conveniences to complete their home goods purchases, with 32% taking advantage of BOPIS and 25% enjoying the curbside option.
The focus on inventory diminishes along with omnichannel activity, though delivery issues remain. Omnichannel did see some year-over-year declines as perhaps shoppers wanted to take advantage of physical stores. This category is tactile by nature, after all.
Check for product availability at local stores: 43% vs. 56%
BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store): 32% vs. 40%
Curbside: 25% vs. 30%
Out-of-stocks: 41% vs. 46%
Stock, late deliveries, cancellations and logistics are all concerns for online shoppers given lingering supply chain challenges. Unfortunately, 41% encountered out-of-stocks when shopping online. 25% experienced late deliveries, and 16% even had their orders canceled. Increasingly, more online shoppers are seeking same-day delivery options and in this category, 18% embraced such a convenience.
Shoppers continue to test incremental services. Here, 11% used haul-away services, while 5% had signed on for white glove services.
When asked to think about their future spend in the home goods category, four in 10 online shoppers anticipate spending less on home goods in 2022. From a top-line perspective, 42% expect their spending to be on par with last year. Only 17% expect to spend more, and unfortunately 41% will spend less, which will certainly have bottom-line implications.
Competition for the home goods shopper will be fierce for the remainder of 2022. With projects limited and shopper spending relatively flat, it will be up to the retailers to inspire, inform and service shoppers to capture and keep their business in the months ahead.
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