Keep calm and DIY

So what did you achieve in lockdown? Learn a new language? Taught yourself the ukulele? Ran a half marathon, round your garden? Probably, you did none of these. But you may well have gone in for a bit of DIY. Six weeks into lockdown, 85 per cent of UK residents said they’d already done some home improvement.

It’s been the perfect opportunity. People have had extra time on their hands, and when you’re at home all day it’s harder to ignore that dripping tap or tired flooring. According to Aviva a fifth of householders have tackled home maintenance issues during lockdown. And bit of DIY is good for your wellbeing: research shows three in four people enjoyed the mental boost they got from completing home improvements.

Classed as essential retailers, DIY and hardware shops were allowed to trade during the lockdown. Once they’d worked out how to protect staff and customers, most major retailers resumed in-store sales. By the end of April, B&Q had reopened all 288 of its outlets, and most of the other big name home improvement stores were open – the long queues of shoppers a clear sign of pent up demand. In May, Homebase even went ahead with the trial launch of its new concept ‘DECORATE by Homebase’ stores.  And to the relief of very many, IKEA opened again on 1 June. 

Not everyone wants to shop in person or is able to shop in person and that’s not going to change in the foreseeable future. A lot of demand has moved online and DIY retailers moved fast to strengthen ‘click and collect’ and other delivery options for online customers.  By May, B&Q was able to report a fourfold increase in internet sales since mid-March.

What are the most popular DIY activities? Back in March, Brits were already stockpiling emulsion along with loo roll and pasta and by May one third of us had done some repainting. Outdoor improvements have been popular – inspired perhaps by the virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show and weeks of glorious spring weather; Retail Times reports a 1,718 per cent increase in searches for garden power tools, such as robotic lawnmowers and pressure washers. Searches for ‘Build a pergola’ were up 950 per cent. After all, with all the “staycations” we’ll be taking in the future, lots of us will want to get our homes ready for hosting friends and family.

However, this appetite for DIY is not shared across the generations. Younger people are less likely to have the right skills. Faced with simple DIY jobs, many millennials panic. They might call in a professional but they’re more likely to call on their parents for help. As Ronseal puts it, they’re ditching DIY in favour of DDI – Dad’ll Do It. 

Home improvement specialists have always provided help and advice for their customers. DIY retail websites are packed with ‘how to’ videos, instructions and practical advice for experts and novices alike. Social proof messaging fits in well with this helpful, professional ethos. Like a virtual store associate, social proof messages help shoppers compare products, narrow down their choices and make the right purchase. It replicates the social interaction of the real-life store.

If you’re buying a big ticket or bulky item (circular saw? hot tub?) it’s reassuring to know that ‘52 people are looking at this right now’. If you’re a millennial investing in your first power tool, you’ll welcome some guidance: ‘good choice – 48 of these sold today’. Displaying aggregate reviews from BazaarVoice or similar – ‘95% of customers gave this product five stars’ – builds confidence in the item and the transaction. Social proof is also great for helping shoppers uncover that special something, to trigger that “exactly what I’m looking for” feeling, enabling retailers to move long tail items.

We might be living with restrictions on and off for some time to come. It’s essential that retailers continue to deliver the best possible online experience for their customers, many of whom will only recently have ventured into ecommerce. 

Older consumers especially will be less keen to visit the store in person. And at a time when making returns isn’t straightforward, it’s in everyone’s interests that shoppers make the right choice. That’s why Taggstar is offering new retail clients priority onboarding. It only takes days for our Professional Services Team to develop the right messages, test their effectiveness and put them to work helping home improvers everywhere make informed buying decisions.

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