A breath of fresh air – How Brits are intending to make the most of outdoor space this summer

For summer 2021, it’s goodbye ‘hygge’ and hello ‘friluftsliv’ – the Danish concept of open air living. It’s about embracing the outdoors, and not just when the sun shines. Ideal for the British climate then. 

Whatever the weather, our gardens and outdoor spaces are going to matter more than ever this summer. If we can’t hang out with our friends in the house, then we’ll hang out with them in the garden. We’re going to want to replicate the comfort and cosiness of indoor to gardens, patios and balconies. 

According to Barclaycard, although consumer spending declined 7% in 2020, spending at home improvement and DIY stores surged. B&Q says this enthusiasm is set to continue, with four in ten of us now even more motivated to do up our homes and gardens as a result of lockdown. And of course, we’ll be shopping online. The Barclaycard Consumer Confidence Survey for January 2021 reveals spending online in January increased by 10.3% year-on-year to take a record 58% share of overall spend. That shift is here to stay. 

Desirable items include firepits (Etsy saw a 232% increase in searches for firepits last spring), comfortable weatherproof furniture, throws and cushions, awnings, parasols and gazebos. Decking and seating areas help to create outdoor rooms. Hot tubs were one of the most popular purchases for the 2020 lockdown, when visits to the hot tub page on Argos’ website increased by 1,872%. The outdoor room will also require power and lighting. And let’s face it, no-one can realistically contemplate entertaining or relaxing outside without internet access. So let’s add wifi boosters and Bluetooth speakers to the shopping list.

However, garden furnishings, equipment and accessories are the sort of thing that people might hesitate to buy without seeing the goods first in store. Real-time social proof messages can help overcome this reluctance. Messages can reassure (‘Excellent choice – 32 people have bought this today’) and offer independent evidence that other people are also happy to buy big ticket items (like this £799 Pavilion Gazebo from The Range) online and provide aggregated customer reviews that 97% of customers have rated an item ‘value for money’ or quality.

Millions of people have discovered the joys of gardening over the past year. The Royal Horticultural Society has seen an explosion in traffic to its website, including a 500% rise from people aged 18 to 24. Brits have spent an average of £105 each brightening up their gardens since the start of lockdown in 2020, according to American Express. 

There’s huge interest in growing fruit and vegetables, something achievable with even small spaces and small budgets. Additionally, we’re keen on more natural garden spaces, using sustainable materials and planting for pollinators. If you’re new to gardening, then social proof can guide you through unfamiliar aisles (‘this is a bestseller’), offer information (’14 left in stock’) and help you make more informed choices.

And if you have to work from home, why not work from the garden? Whether it is literally a shed, or an upmarket purpose-designed structure, Brits are investing in permanent work-from-home offices for the garden. Look for #shedworking, #shedquarters on Instagram or Pinterest. Garden rooms can also double up as gyms, studios or storage. But it’s a high consideration purchase that people will research in advance. Social proof messages that aggregate data from Bazaarvoice or a similar service (‘95% of customers gave this product five stars’) can help to create assurance around the product and online transaction. 

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the DIY and garden boom. Research from Paymentsense shows that the industry is one of the worst for serial refunding, with businesses paying out up to an average of £399 a month. (At least that’s not as bad as the £800 per month in returns experienced by the home and office furnishing sector.) Helping customers make informed decisions may be one way to help cut down the number of returns. 

A B&Q survey reveals that the pandemic has changed Brits’ attitudes towards their homes for good. Four in ten of us are now more motivated to improve our homes and gardens as a result of the lockdown. Social proof is a responsible way for retailers to help those consumers shop with confidence and buy items that will add to their enjoyment and comfort outside this summer.

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