As the world gradually moves from pandemic to endemic, consumers are prioritizing wellness, but they also value time, space, experience and responsibility said the IHA Market Watch authors at a keynote session this morning at The Inspired Home Show 2023.
The session incorporated data from the just-released 2023 HomePage News Consumer Outlook Survey and the 2023 IHA Occasions Report, as well as a sneak peek at the 2023 IHA Market Watch Report, which will be released in late March/early April.
Following record sales while the pandemic led many people to spend so much time at home, “This industry is at a unique inflection point where it needs to speak a little louder and where it needs to try to win share,” said Peter Giannetti, editor-in-chief of HomePage News, who moderated the discussion. “It can do so by understanding the consumer and driving innovation in product, marketing and merchandising.”
Giannetti was joined by IHA Market Watch authors Leana Salamah, IHA vice president, marketing; Tom Mirabile, principal of Springboard Futures; and Joe Derochowski, vice president and home industry advisor for The NPD Group.
Reflecting on IHA’s consumer-centric approach of the last few years, “The emphasis in the coming year should be not so much on what we can create, but why we should create it,” said Salamah. “We should be asking ‘What need is it solving?’ or ‘What viewpoint is it delivering on?’”
“Positioning is also a huge piece of responding to consumer values,” she added. “It doesn’t have to just be about new products. Sometimes taking something that already exists and repositioning it or thinking about how it fits into some of these pillars can be just as effective as wholesale new product development.”
The five pillars or driving forces that were the focus of the IHA Market Watch Survey 2023 were: time, space, experience, wellness and social responsibility.
Wellness emerged as the overwhelming top pillar or driving force for consumers this year. When asked which was most important to them at home, 47% said wellness. That was followed by time (19%), experience (14%), space (11%) and responsibility (9%).
Respondents ranked mental wellness as slightly more important than physical wellness, as they did in 2022. Salamah said wellness actually encompasses all the Market Watch pillars and that the “really critical” importance of wellness has come through in a number of recent IHA consumer surveys.
When it comes to time, consumers who are most driven by time concerns are those 25-44 years old. This tends to be the age group that is juggling busy work schedules, kids’ activities and possibly caring for aging parents.
“There are so many challenges right now related to time that are ripe for smart home innovation,” said Derochowski.
In fact, the Market Watch survey showed higher intent to buy smart home products in 2023 compared to last year. Respondents said they would be most interested in smart products that had auto-cleaning features (52%), followed by detecting or ordering parts (51%), coordinating meal elements (49%), detecting ingredients or suggesting recipes (49%) and counting calories or macros (47%).
When it comes to space, those who value it the most are 35-44 years old and have an income level of $50,000 or less. This leaves significant opportunities for storage and organization products, as well as affordable and versatile home décor, said Derochowski.
Consumers (especially younger ones) are open to renting home and housewares products, which may be a way for them to try new things and express themselves in different ways while not conflicting with their space challenges. “They want access, not ownership,” said Mirabile.
As for experience, the home and housewares industry also has a lot to offer consumers who value experience but may not be spending as much discretionary income in 2023. Thirty-five percent of consumers plan to entertain at home more in the coming year, according to the Occasions survey.
Data so far in 2023 supports that trend as sales of products such as beer and cocktail items, fondue sets, popcorn makers, slow cookers and pie servers are especially strong, said Derochowski.
Consumers say their biggest challenges related to entertaining are post-event clean-up, preparing everything to be ready at the same time and general meal prep, according to the Occasions survey.
Responsibility continues to be important to consumers when it comes to home, though the Market Watch survey found it to be most important to consumers 55 years and older.
Salamah said this was a little surprising, given the attention that younger generations tend to give to environmental concerns. When they dug a little deeper into responses from young people, she found that price differences or lack of convenience may cause them to rate responsibility issues lower. “I think that begs the question, ‘How do we remove barriers to entry for them?’” she said.
The panel agreed that home and housewares products could address more than one of the five pillars or driving values discussed in the session. “Think of it as a checklist,” said Mirabile. “The more pillars you can check off on any given item, the more you’re going to sell.”