Digital and Mobile Path to Purchase for Home Improvement Consumers


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As the economy improves, home ownership increases, and inevitably, as do home improvement purchases. However, where professional contractors were once the sole source of sales, more often today those sales are the home improvement consumer that is DIY oriented. Considering the fact that it is an industry worth more than $300 billion and is also responsible for nearly 2% of the total U.S. economy, it can be easy for small businesses to forget that big box stores only represent less than 50% of sales. In fact, DIY sales for August 2015 alone totaled $27 billion. Furthermore, home improvement proved to be fairly resilient to the economic downturn, because those homeowners that would have traded up to higher investment homes instead have remained in the homes they currently own, and have renovated them. The DIY segment is especially on the uptrend.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss the home improvement shopper’s path to purchase and how you can ensure that your small business is optimized to take advantage of opportunities to capture DIY shoppers.

Understanding the Home Improvement Market

Because of the big changes in each generation’s income and when they enter the housing market, the home improvement shopper’s path to purchase looks more different than it ever has before. Granted, some things have not changed — for instance, most remodeling activity occurs in metro areas, but sector growth has been slow in the MidWest, while it is especially high in coastal metros. This higher spending also reflects a larger share of large-scale, high-cost projects, while lower spending areas tend to see multiple, smaller, low-price projects.

The key here is to understand that many of your customers are likely to be interested in smaller-scale, extremely targeted projects. After all, while one third of the pre-recession market was focused on the top 1% of spenders, they only represent less than a quarter now. That means there’s opportunity for growth in certain niche areas, such as retrofitting existing homes and rentals with more efficient, cost-effective options or with accessibility products for older generations that prefer aging in place.

Who are the DIY Customers?

The demographics of DIYers have changed over the years. Where, once, the majority was made up of men, now it is nearly even between both genders. Don’t assume that the women are just the crafty type with loaded Pinterest boards. They are willing, and have gotten their hands dirty doing serious work beyond just decor. About 40% of Americans have at least considered starting a DIY project, and more than 50% of DIYers are from the Millennial and Gen-X generations.

It’s also important to note that you should never assume any particular set of products won’t appeal to DIY shoppers — according to Google, 47% of DIY home improvement projects were done because the customers took joy in doing the work themselves. The DIY movement has a focus on the learning concept as much as it does the improvement aspect in and of itself. Furthermore, only 39% choose DIY options specifically out of financial concerns like saving money. In fact, there may be an inverse relationship between total income and how much DIYers are willing to spend — more than 20% of non-elderly, low-income projects were DIY, while lower income households are less likely to commit to home improvement projects. When they do, they will spend a larger percentage of their incomes.

Most minorities are more likely to spend money on DIY projects, and more couples are likely to spend than singles.

Products DIYers Prefer

Of course, this will vary slightly based on generational concerns. Boomers, leading edge Boomers especially, are mostly interested in upgrading their homes to better meet their accessibility needs, while Millennials strive for unique customization, and to make their home feel like it’s truly their home.

Across the board, DIYers tend to be interested in green, resource-efficient options (e.g., energy, water conservation, air quality, recycled and renewable materials, etc.), and Millennials and Gen-X specifically want ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, forward-thinking products and resources. Furthermore, the desire for “smart home” and Internet-of-Things enabled products are on the rise. Consistent with their general shopping and brand choices, these generations also prefer options that provide charitable benefits, such as donations and services towards those in need.

Not Everything Is Online, Including How They Want to Learn

Some 84% of DIYers are looking for inspiration year round. While a majority of DIY resources are online, as online offerings are critical — in-store workshops, project demos, and interactive, in-store displays are also a key piece of how the DIY consumer learns the how-to for their DIYs. While big box retailers have seen a boost in sales from these tactics, they’re also just as useful for small and local home improvement businesses. Most often, small businesses excel over the big box stores in terms of customer service and store-consumer relationships. 82% of all DIYers are likely to explore products in the store even if the final purchase is made online, and Millennial DIYers are more likely to seek the product and make the final purchase of quality products in-store, especially for products like paint (twice as likely as their older counterparts).

The Role of Mobile

It’s important to note that tablets and smartphones are the top devices used to shop for home improvement tools and materials, both for pre-purchase research and mobile purchases. However, you also need to understand how your DIY customers are going to use their devices during and after their purchases as well.

First, 82% of consumers are using their devices in store to help them make purchasing decisions, and that leads a further 10% to select a different product than originally planned. Another 91% of consumers are going to turn to their mobile device while performing tasks, meaning that when a customer is watching a DIY video (which we’ll discuss in a moment) it is likely being viewed from their smartphone while actually in the midst of working on their DIY project.

There’s two other major changes from Google that affect how mobile device users are shopping — local search, and mobile friendly search results pages (i.e., if you’re web page is not designated as mobile friendly or optimized for mobile, your store will drop about 5 ranks in mobile searches, which invariably results in a potential loss of business). It’s important for small businesses to have their websites optimized for mobile, as it will help your business appear in local search, and there’s an opportunity to capture these shoppers before they make the drive out to big box stores and retailers.

None of this begins to encompass mobile apps, which are possibly one of the strongest digital tools in the home improvement world. Apps can do anything from assisting with the virtual pairing of design and decor options, virtually overlaying paint to see if the colors match what the customer intends, and even coordinate consumers with contractors or DIY professionals to help make home improvement decisions.

Of course, mobile cannot be entirely parsed from the digital consideration, given the overlaps. For instance, the influence of search advertising (which we’ll address in a moment), is just as important for mobile engagement as it is through computers.

The Role of Digital

The home improvement consumer invariably takes advantage of digital options at some point in their path to purchase. Whether it’s simply their research phase or the actual point of sale, your home improvement business needs to be present in the digital realm in order to capture their attention.


According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, search marketing is an extremely influential piece of the home improvement decision making process, i.e., the home improvement customer is twice as likely to be influenced by this advertising than the general population as a whole.

Social Media

Social media plays an unquestionable role in home improvement. On Pinterest, for example, nearly 45% of user categories are DIY-related, and more than 50% of user’s most recent posts. The younger generations are increasingly turning to social media advertising (16%) and as a part of their research for finding the best deal. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that the Zero Moment of Truth can be heavily influenced by previous customers at their Second Moment of Truth when they share their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) through online product reviews, forums, and social media outlets.


Content marketing, like blogging, should already be a key part of your SEO strategy — those that blog 15 or more times per month result in five times more traffic on average. However, this is especially important when reaching out to the DIY market, because it allows you to cultivate a genuine relationship with your customers while also establishing your brand as an authoritative leader in the very projects and products they’re interested in. In fact, the better your custom content and visuals are, the more likely your audience is to like and trust your business, which in turn can mean that your audience spends 68% of their time reading content from your brand.


As we mentioned, not all of digital should be considered separate from mobile, and video can be one of the biggest illustrations. Take Lowes, which took advantage of Vine to promote tips and tricks that utilized products that could be purchased in store. The format is short and to the point, offering quick inspiration and marketing on the go.

It’s important to remember that 65% of DIY shoppers are more likely to shop with you if you provide online videos related to DIY projects and products. Even if they haven’t already made a purchase from you, or are considering a purchase, having the right video at their fingertips when they need it can earn you customer attention and loyalty just by meeting their need.

Optimize Your Strategy for the DIYer

This is the perfect time to audit your current strategy. Are you taking full advantage of the home improvement shopper’s path to purchase? Are there any areas that could be strengthened?

  • Have you established a way to capture mobile and digital opportunities?
    • At minimum, your online presence should qualify as mobile friendly according to Google.
    •  Ensure your social media presence is consistent and engaging as well.
  • Do you offer DIY assistance or workshops in store?
    • The opportunity for hands on experience and advice from the pros gives you more opportunity to win over DIY customers in search of truly helpful and personable customer service.
  • Are you blogging?
    • This is a great way to build relationships with customers through tips, suggestions, and ideas, and give you a natural platform to organically promote products for different types of projects.
    • It should supplement and integrate a variety of engagement opportunities that you offer in store.
  • Do you have videos in your blog?
    • While step-by-step text instructions and descriptions for projects and products are good, video will help explain projects and products, humanize your brand, and really exemplify what you have to offer that perhaps other stores can’t.
    • Videos are great resources for today’s DIY audience, and the more visual resources that you can provide in addition to your content, the more it will work in your favor.