It was the first day of Spring on Saturday, March 20th. And after a year of restrictions and lockdowns and social constraints, the backyard or balcony is going to take on new importance this summer as a safe place to relax, to enjoy the company of friends and family that we haven’t seen for so long.
The Danes call it ‘friluftsliv. It means open air living, whatever the weather. It calls for firepits, cosy throws, pillows and waterproof seating, or sun awnings, patio misting kits and fans for warmer locations. It calls for a good external power supply and lighting for the backyard. Also internet access, with wifi boosters and Bluetooth speakers that are waterproof and robust.
Before the pandemic, much of this equipment would have been browsed and bought in the store. Now, shoppers are just as likely to buy online. Consumers spent $861billion online with US retailers in 2020, an increase of 44% from 2019 according to analysis from Digital Commerce 360, and online accounted for 21.3% of total retail sales compared with 15.8% for 2019. That shift is here to stay.
However, backyard furnishings, equipment and accessories are the sort of thing that people might hold off buying when they can’t first see the goods in store. Real-time social proof messages 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 $700 smoker from Home Depot) online.
Americans took to gardening big time during the pandemic. Better Homes & Gardens says the country went from 42 million gardeners to 63 million in the past year and research suggests 80% of these newcomers are going to stick with it. Growing food is hugely popular – 67% of adults are growing or plan to grow edible plants, and edible-garden influencers have seen up to 400% growth on their channels. Birdwatching has also caught on during the pandemic, driving record sales of wild bird seed, feeders and birdhouses. It’s the perfect socially distanced activity for all the family. If you’re new to gardening, or birdlife, then social proof can guide you through aisles of unfamiliar products (‘this is a bestseller’), offer information (’14 left in stock) and generally help you make informed choices.
And if you have to carry on working from home, why not work from the backyard? Whether it is literally a shed, or an upmarket purpose-designed structure, there’s an uptick in the number of Americans investing in permanent home offices for the backyard. 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 decision that people will research in advance. Real-time social proof messages that aggregate data from Bazaarvoice or similar customer review platforms (‘95% of customers gave this product five stars’) help to assure shoppers about the product and the online transaction.