The Future of DIY Retail

The retail experience hasn’t really changed much in 200 years. But today, there are several important and rapidly evolving transformations taking place in the way retailers and their customers interact. Taken together, these new developments are revolutionising the way we think about the shopping experience in Do-It-Yourself or home improvement.

Most noticeably, innovation and technology is permanently altering how we shop every day. Interactions between the customer and retailer are no longer simply confined to face-to-face transactions but now take place across a range of physical and digital platforms and devices.

As customers become used to making purchases across different channels – face to face, on a mobile phone, on a tablet or PC, so they are also experiencing an empowerment in what, how, when and where they choose to shop.



Already, the DIY customer is often highly involved in the purchasing decision. DIY demands a level of understanding of the product, how it is used and whether the customer has the skills to properly handle it. As a result, the physical store has always played a particularly important role. When a consumer urgently needs a product, they are unlikely to want to make an online purchase when their need is immediate.

But change is taking place. In Germany, amongst the top three largest DIY retailers, one is an online retailer with no physical store presence. A growing number of customers are content to only purchase DIY products online, particularly amongst the male population. But instead of running away from the competition, retailers are embracing it, by giving the customer more control, and convenience in their shopping experience. And they are doing this by deploying new technological innovations in other parts of the customer journey.

So get used to accessing the entire store inventory with an iPad, using it to browse the store and then make a purchase, and have the product shipped to your home, all while you’re in the store itself. This will be an entirely new way of shopping, merging all of the benefits of the online store with the immediacy of the physical store environment.

Retail in 2017 will continue to be driven by the needs and preferences of two prominent generations: the baby boomers (in their 60s – 70s) and millennials (18 – 34 year olds). Baby boomers will need an easier shopping experience; this could include changes to store layout, such as areas for people to sit down, larger in store signs and clearer packaging and labeling.

A broader, and perhaps even more profound change between these age groups is a generational DIY skills gap between the over and under 35s, between homeowners and renters. Younger consumers are now more likely to go down the Do It For Me route, hiring in professionals or asking their parents to fix their homes.

In the UK, research suggests that anything from rewiring a plug to unblocking a sink can prove too much of a challenge for many under 35s. This is not a universally shared trend in the whole of Europe though. In Finland, retailers see young people doing more in the home, conscious of the ongoing recession and more careful in how they spend their money. Their buying decisions are strongly influenced by social media and are receptive to marketing campaigns over these platforms as well. Beyond marketing, the next step will be to start shopping over social media.

As retailers compete more intensively for customers, so loyalty has risen up the scale of priorities. Retailers will aim to build loyalty by providing highly personalized services. Location-specific marketing, with store offers arriving on mobile phones while the customer is browsing, replacing loyalty cards with customized rewards and incentivising customers to share information.

Better trained staff will evolve more into positions of an advisor or problem solver, and in doing so build stronger relationships with customers. This is all part of moving away from the points-for-purchases model into a more personal approach to rewarding customers.

Providing truly personalised experiences will only be possible if retailers continue to invest in Big Data – which is the backbone behind a personalised retail experience. Gathering as much information about the behaviour, history, and whereabouts of consumers as possible and using that information to implement dynamic pricing, personalised recommendations, and shopper-specific discounts.

So clearly there are many new and exciting things happening in the world or DIY retailing. The backdrop to this shopping revolution is however, an economy struggling to shake off the aftermath of the financial crisis. Continued uncertainty in the Eurozone is hampering a prolonged return in consumer confidence. The DIY market will not fully recover until stable growth returns.

The sector is highly cyclical, and trends in home improvement industry are closely linked with the performance of the housing market. To increase sales in this market, retailers will need a flexible supply chain allowing stores to hold the right products at the right time; a well known and trusted online offer and good reputation in customer service. We should also expect to see a growth in private label which holds stronger margin opportunities and for consumers to focus on durability and value.

Successful DIY retailers will be those who best understand customer buying patterns and use this knowledge to create a unique point of difference: an easier shopping experience and a wider offer that excites the customer, providing a logical reason to invest in the home.

Author: Alisdair Gray,  International Analyst for the Global DIY Summit

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