Young consumers want “in-house” design services

There’s an interesting tidbit in recent Consumer Insights Now research. (Well, there are many interesting tidbits, and I’ll get to more of them in a minute.)

But the one I’ve been thinking about is this: A significant percentage of younger consumers think it’s important that home furnishings stores offer in-house design services.

Fully half of younger millennials (ages 28-35) say it’s something they’d like offered, as do 45% of Gen Z consumers (ages 18-27) and 43% of older millennials (ages 36-43). Even 40% of Gen Xers (ages 44-59) like the idea of retailers offering in-house design. By contrast, only 24% of the eldest consumers (ages 60-74) think in-house design is important, according to the latest CIN research, which looked at the buying plans and habits of 1,818 U.S. adult consumers across the United States. The research was sponsored by consumer financial services company Synchrony.

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Younger consumers, in general, are somewhat less likely than older ones to shop in-store for home furnishings but this is one way, I think, that retailers could attract and serve more of them.

The appeal of in-house design services

Why would younger consumers seek in-house design services? There may be a few reasons.

First, that time of life — ages 18-43 — is full of the sort of life changes that prompt big furniture purchases: graduations, marriages, the birth of children and the new apartments and homes that accompany them. And change, even good change, can be a little scary. Advice and expertise about furniture purchases and placement can be reassuring when making big decisions.

Second, younger consumers are busy. As I noted, they’re building careers, committing to relationships, starting families. They may not have time to devote to creating the home interiors that will give them a place to recharge and foster their futures.

Third, these are consumers who grew up in the age of interior influencers and celebrity designers, watching them transform everything from multimillion dollar homes to studio apartments. They’ve seen, whether on HGTV, Instagram or TikTok, what a designer can do to remake a space. Interior design is neither a new idea for them nor something they see as only for the ultra-wealthy.

In-house design fits well in a service-oriented retail environment, which is required when competing with the ease and convenience of online shopping. It starts with well-trained and well-educated retail sales associates and includes white-glove delivery, no-hassle returns and special services like custom upholstery.

If you’re a retailer, is it time for you to add or expand your in-house design services? These younger consumers interested in in-house design could also be good customers for interior designers who have brick-and-mortar showrooms. Are your marketing efforts geared toward them?

I said this is just one intriguing tidbit from the CIN research. Here are some other insights into consumers’ overall furniture buying habits and preferences, relevant whether you are a full-line retailer, specialty store or interior designer with a showroom.

* Brick-and-mortar still draws them in. Three out of four consumers still prefer to shop in-store for home furnishings, in particular big-ticket items where comfort and feel are important (think sofas and mattresses). Not surprisingly, older consumers are more likely to head to brick-and-mortar stores but even 70% of Gen Zers and 69% of younger millennials said they expected to buy furniture in-store. The percentages are around 80% for browsers, households with incomes over $100,000 and consumers with excellent credit, making them key targets for advertising and marketing messages.

* Target those who say they are ‘just looking.’ Nearly half of consumers classify themselves as “browsers” who spend time looking online or in brick-and-mortar stores, checking out new products and styles. One respondent put it this way: “I spend time walking through stores/looking online to see what’s available. I might or might not make a purchase.”

To reach those consumers, you need to give them reasons to return again and again to your store or e-commerce site. That means marketing (social media, digital ads, email/text messages, etc.) touting the arrival of new items, outlining trends and showing intriguing product vignettes.

But you also need to get those consumers to buy, with well-placed incentives along their shopping journey. Even though they don’t consider themselves bargain hunters, a well-time deal, a special gift or “be the first to own” message can entice browsers to buy.

See Also

* Don’t fear showrooming. More than four in 10 shoppers admit that they “showroom,” meaning that they visit a store to see products in-person and then purchase later online.

One CIN survey respondent explained: “I go in-store to try out the furniture and see if it is something that fits my needs. I then purchase online for a better deal and free shipping.”

If shoppers buy from another seller, I think it’s rude and even a bit unethical. But there’s nothing wrong with shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, thinking about your options and then visiting that same retailer’s website to order.

Sales associates can even encourage this once it’s clear that a shopper isn’t quite ready to buy by reminding them of the ease of ordering from your e-commerce site and other services you may offer, like free delivery whether they buy online or in-store.

Some keys to turning showrooming from a threat to an asset include creating an omnichannel experience that makes shopping in-store and online seamless, and offering competitive pricing across channels.

I encourage you to delve deeper into the CIN research to see what tidbits catch your eye —and spark new ideas for your retail or design business.

For more: Consumer Insights Now research is conducted twice a year for Design News Now and its sister publications, Home News Now, Casual News Now and Bedding News Now. Industry veteran Dana French leads the CIN research project, which was sponsored this spring by Synchrony, a consumer financial services company.Released in six parts this spring, the extensive research series also explores how consumers approach in-store and online shopping, what they value most in several product categories, how the economy is impacting their home furnishings purchases, how they plan to pay for purchases and more. Check out all the results here.

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