How We Fell Back in Love with Our Homes & the Resulting Changes in Consumer Behaviour

In these unprecedented times, people have been forced to isolate themselves at home. Such imposition has dismantled people’s everyday life who, in some countries, are still spending the majority of their time recluse in their home. As also reported by Rob Bridgman, founder and head of growth at Snug: “Lockdown has forced many of us to spend much more time in our homes than we ordinarily would. Our homes have suddenly become our workplace, gym and even school. Moreover, while many of us have rediscovered the joys of our home, it also made us realise its limitations. In cities especially, it is difficult to know where the office ends and the classroom begins”. As also highlighted by Bridgman, during lockdown, our homes have assumed a different role in our lives, a new meaning. Following this, scholars have argued that people might be more likely to reconfigure their living quarters.

According to renowned architect and interior designer Rooshad Shroff, due to the massive impact of the lockdown, people might feel the necessity for a spatial reconfiguration in order to organise a space suitable both for work and leisure (Rodgers, 2020). As stated by Bridgman, “there has most definitely been an increase in the need for adaptability. Living and working under the same roof is a challenge”.  In the current time, people are facing a period of great concreteness and homes need to be practical. Due to this reason, Snug has introduced their Rebel Corner Sofa, modular and entirely adaptable whilst also being practical for growing families or renters. Moreover, the brand has introduced the new 2- Seater for those tight on space but not willing to sacrifice practicality or style. At the moment, small but stylish pieces of furniture are in great demand, highlighting a new preference for practical objects.

As also argued by Carlo Urbinati, President of Foscarini, a popular Italian lighting company, “today the house has found a new centrality and there will be space for objects that have a function and that solve a problem” (Guzzini, 2020). Moreover, Rakhee Bedi Kumar, founding principal at Rakhee Shobhit Design Associates (RSDA), mentioned that rearranging the personal home can be a way to ensure that all necessities are housed in an ideal utilitarian and functional space but above all, can be a way to break the monotony (Alves, 2020).  In addition to breaking the monotony, applying even simple home decor changes can positively impact the individual. For instance, reorganising the accessories can change the perception of spaces and enhance a sense of vibrancy, energy and comfort (Alves, 2020). Moreover, as suggested by Disha Bhavasar and Shivani Ajmera, Co-Founders at Quirk Studio, reorganising and applying changes to the personal homes can generate a sense of control (Alves, 2020).

In the previous months, governments have forced on their countries a new reality, a new lifestyle, in order to decrease the possibility of contagion. Social distancing and isolation are clear examples of a policy enacted to protect the citizens from the coronavirus pandemic. However, such policy has led individuals to a loss of control over their choices, freedom and more generally their lives. The sense of control is a human cognitive need and a loss of it can be detrimental for people’s well-being (Evans & Lepore, 1992). However, as previously mentioned, people might regain some sort of control by enacting changes over their houses. In this context, it has been already documented the importance of experiencing a sense of control over one’s environment to the organism’s physical and emotional health (Mineka & Kelly, 1989 cited by Danko et al., 1990). In fact, the physical environment can have a mediating role over the individual and possible negative feelings such as anxiety or stress. A good interior design might help foster health and wellness (Danko et al., 1990).

As the current time can be described as a possible trigger to stress and anxiety, focusing on interior design might be a good way to release such feelings. In these stressful times, one way to do add positivity in the personal space, could be the addition of greenery (Alves, 2020). Prior to the pandemic and the lockdown, a new trend was already arising within the context of homeware and furniture, the so-called Biophilia. Such term indicates the human instinct to interact and connect with nature and translates into people’s willingness to add greenery and houseplants in their personal homes (Richard, 2019). As argued by Oliver Heath, biophilic design consultant at Heath Design, people turn to nature and use plants and greenery to create a sense of peace indoors (Danziger, 2019). Therefore, creating a calm and tranquil space at home can help to reduce stress.

The turn to nature and the willingness to create a sense of peace through it, has been manifested in these months by an astonishing increase of plants being purchased online. For instance, Eliza Bank, founder of The Sill, has reported “a tremendous spike in online sales, especially for blooming plants”. According to her, such increase is due to the fact that “people need something to tend to, to nurture” (Hardwick, 2020). People cannot be outdoors and therefore, they try to bring nature inside.  Such willingness is confirmed by the increase of plants’ sales or also, as visible in the UK, by the rise of searches for garden furniture (Carfi, 2020).

The trend of biophilic design was already visible before COVID-19 and during the lockdown has only increased its followers. It can be argued, therefore, that Biophilia and the turn to nature, will likely be a trend to last. Such argument is advanced due to the new consciousness towards nature but also towards a healthier lifestyle. In fact, it has been shown that a “close relationship” with nature can bring various health benefits such as a decrease of mental health issues (Humski, 2020).

The biophilic design has also been shown to stimulate an emotional attachment to personal homes. According to this, as the need to be connected with nature is satisfied, the people become connected to the place where such need is fulfilled (Humski, 2020). Such idea is just one of the arguments that can be utilised to justify a possible change with our homes and their meaning.

However, even without this argument, it can be suggested that a new relationship with our homes has arisen. People have spent the past months recluse in their homes as their homes where the only safe place where they could be. Homes have always been synonym of safety, but this word has taken a deeper meaning in this period. Due to this, now people are more willing to take care of their homes, to design them and above all, to do so first-hand. From the choice of furniture to crafting or proper renovation of the spaces, people are more willing to do these works on their own. For instance, as reported by the co-founder and director of Dowsing & Reynolds, Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, “people are becoming more confident in fitting fixtures themselves. they are having a go at fitting ceiling lights, plug sockets, taps…products that for quite a few would seem a little daunting to fit previously”. 

 It seems that consumers have become more confident with their abilities and such development might be the result of our homes’ new meaning or of people’s willingness to feel in control again, to be able to do something they want without any help. Nevertheless, it is visible that people are now prioritising certain goods over others and that the buying behaviour has undergone a transformation.

The habits have been dismantled and consumers have developed new expectations and different needs and desires. Among these, there is a new reality and a new relationship with homes that have become the safe haven we want to take care of. As a consequence, homeware and furniture brands need to be prepared for the future and satisfy the new consumers’ need in order to flourish. Brands need to support their customers even more and provide all the necessary help so that they are empowered to take care of their homes, centres of their wellbeing. This sentiment is shared by Ally Dowsing-Reynolds as she states: “as a brand we have to ensure to support consumers in giving them clear instructions on how to fit [products] safely and easily”.

This new found meaning and newly formed habits that strengthened the relationships people have with their homes is already resulting in new consumer behaviours and we believe this will continue to entangle as we move forward to the new world. The new roles of the house, the emotional and psychological benefits people didn’t even realise they can achieve from working on their homes or just spending more mindful time in them, the newly rediscovered love for nature and appreciation for its importance in our wellbeing… All these and more have affected what customers want from brands. Sustainability, personalisation, curation, co-creation, DIY advice, holistic wellbeing focus, safety are becoming even more crucial for any consumer brand strategies, especially for homeware and furniture market.

How are you tracking what your customers want from you? How are you constantly adapting your value proposition, especially the added value on top of the basic features of your products? How are you evolving your customer experience? How are you reshaping the role of your channels (I think we all finally understand that stores are not for sales)? How are you involving your customers in this whole change process?

Brainstorm with your team on the above questions and drop us a comment on how you are doing. We would love to hear your innovations and growth stories. Want us to help you and your team with that process? We would be delighted to propel your brand to new highs.

 

References:

Alves, G. (2020). Beat Lockdown Blues: Re-Organise Your Home (If You Have the Time). Retrieved from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/beat-lockdown-blues-re-organise-your-home-if-you-have-the-time/stuck-indoors/slideshow/75243457.cms

Carfi, C. (2020). 10 ECommerce Trends In 2020 From The First Month Of COVID Lockdown. Retrieved from: https://blog.duda.co/ecommerce-trends-2020-covid-19

Danko, S., Eshelman, P., & Hedge, A. (1990). A Taxonomy of Health, Safety, and Welfare Implications of Interior Design Decisions. Journal of Interior Design Education and Research, 16(2), 19-30.

Danziger, P. (2019). 6 Global Consumer Trends for 2019 and Brands Out in Front of Them. Retrieved from: https://www.furninfo.com/Furniture%20Industry%20News/10096

Evans, G.W., & Lepore, S.J. (1992). Conceptual and analytic issues in crowding research. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 12, 163-173.

Guzzini, G. (2020). COVID-19 Will Change Forever the Industry of Furniture, According to Entrepreneurs. Retrieved from: https://www.domusweb.it/en/speciali/domusfordesign/2020/the-things-that-covid-19-will-change-forever-according-to-entrepreneurs-in-the-furnishing-world.html

Hardwick, A. (2020). People are mass-purchasing plants during quarantine. Retrieved from: https://nypost.com/2020/04/15/people-are-mass-purchasing-plants-during-quarantine/

Humski, S. (2020). 2020 Design Trend in Focus: Biophilia. Retrieved from: https://expresslivinghomes.com.au/build/2020-design-trend-in-focus-biophilia/

Richard, (2019). The Definitive 2020 Guide to Home Interiors Trends In 101 Points. Retrieved from:  https://www.wooden-furniture-store.co.uk/furniture-blog/interior-design-trends-2020/

Rodgers, B. (2020). Will the Concept of Home Change After The COVID-19 Lockdown? Retrieved from: https://www.grazia.co.in/lifestyle/will-the-concept-of-home-change-after-the-covid-19-lockdown-4631-2.html

Image from: @AnnieSpratt

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