Baffled by all the so-called ‘research’ that’s doing the rounds out there? Trend-Monitor's research director Jane Blakeborough pinpoints the trends that matter, and tells us what you need to consider when planning your future business strategy:
The market research industry is in melt-down. Never before have so many consumer surveys been commissioned, producing endless generic statistics about potential post-COVID consumer behaviours, attitudes and habits.
In reality, as a nation we are mid-COVID and still reeling in shock. Consequently, the responses we tend to tick in these surveys represent what we’d like our behaviours/attitudes/habits to be post-COVID, which may turn out not to resemble reality.
As a result, the stats generated by these surveys are great if you want PR headlines, but not so great if you are looking for reliable insights on which to base your future business strategy or new product development programme.
So how do you find the insights you need to plan for 2021 and beyond?
At Trend-Monitor, we generate insights for our clients by first looking at the broader picture before narrowing down to their target market – the UK householder. It’s all about putting things into context.
The broader picture understands what is happening beyond the KBB industry silo, beyond the monthly sales figures, beyond what the competition is doing. With the benefit of hindsight, we all now know that the home improvement sector not only fared better than most retail sectors, but actually benefitted from a lockdown that forced householders to face the shortcomings of their homes and address these using cash saved in other areas such as holidays and meals out.
So far, so good. We’ve been on a bit of a roll and we understand why. For what happens next we need the broader view. As an example, the various UK retail sales index and performance figures showed that August was better than predicted for most retail sectors. From September onwards, however, retail sales are expected to ‘stutter’ as we enter a period of transition and a series of new uncertainties.
To compound this, confidence trackers such as the YouGov Perceived National Improvement shows only 13% of the UK population thinks that the COVID-19 situation is improving (as at 29 Sept 2020) and the GfK Consumer Confidence Index is sitting at -25, albeit a 2 point improvement on August, but still 18 points lower than we were in February. And if we include consumer concerns surrounding Brexit, which are pushing their way back up the charts, we can see a very anxious and cautious nation.
But add in more context and it’s not all bad news. The Zoopla monthly House Price Index points to a buoyant housing market, with a pent-up demand within certain sectors expected to continue to boost the housing market, and potentially the home improvement market, well into 2021.
The index also shows how our housing requirements are changing, which brings us to the point where we can start narrowing down our view and seek out insights relating to post-COVID households, rather than the more generic consumer insights.
How we feel about our homes now will have the biggest impact on our household requirements in the future. This is where we can start to rely on survey data, because surveys that are structured to understand how we feel/behave right now are much more reliable than the ones that ask how we think we might feel/behave in the future. There has been some very good research done in this area that highlight some key trends for future homes. Here are our top three …
The Healthy Home
Our current health concerns extend to making sure that our homes are healthy environments to live in by improving air quality, reducing noise pollution, bringing in natural light, antimicrobial and antiviral surface protection, natural products and biophilia.
The Sustainable Home
We are taking small steps towards a sustainable lifestyle. There is a growing interest in products, innovations and apps that make it easy for households to save water and energy, cut down on food waste, recycle, replace single-use plastics and understand their carbon footprint.
The Flexible Home
This has been an emerging trend for some time now, and in 2020 it became a reality for many. The concept that one room has one function has changed as we were forced to use our rooms for lots of different activities. As a result, the popularity of open-plan is giving way to broken-plan, as privacy and personal space become priorities.
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