Shifting DIY Channel Behaviors

Shifting DIY Channel Behaviors

The Farnsworth Group recently completed research for the Home Improvement Research Institute on DIY channel and purchase behaviors among 15 home improvement categories.


The Farnsworth Group recently completed research for the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) on DIY channel and purchase behaviors among 15 home improvement categories.

We conduct this study every two years for HIRI to understand trends and changes to those behaviors. This year, some of the results have been made publicly available and are an excellent source to quantify the impacts COVID-19 has had on DIY channel and category behaviors.

Many clients have asked us, “What are the biggest takeaways we see with DIY home improvement shopping behaviors?” Below, we’ll do our best to highlight a few.

How has the size of purchase changed?

This year we’ve seen an increase in the number of categories purchased within one transaction: 20% more categories are being purchased compared to 2018. This is in addition to an increase in the overall size of each transaction, which increased by 5% over 2018.

This is seen in home improvement and hardware retail data that shows a nearly 10% increase in sales from Jan-July 2020 over Jan-July 2019. And, in case you missed it, Q2 comps at Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Ace were up from 25%-35% over 2019.

More traffic x larger cart size = happy retailers.                    


Are all categories seeing an increase in online penetration?

Yes. Even categories that have forever had low to no online penetration such as paint/paint supplies and lawn/garden have seen double or triple-digit growth in online purchases.

For those DIYers that purchased paint/paint supplies during their most recent purchase, 36% did so online. For those that bought lawn/garden products during their most recent purchase, 35% did so online (delivered and pick-up at store combined).

What is driving channel shift?

In a word: Availability.

There are several factors we track in this study and many others in home improvement: Convenience factors, Pricing factors, Brand factors, Service factors and Merchandising factors. For the last several years, Convenience, Price and Product Availability factors have shared relatively the same importance to DIYers when selecting a retailer. This year, Product Availability was by far the #1 factor in channel selection.

DIYers are using suppliers that have the products they want, when they want it and how they want it. This is a direct result of supply chain issues facing the manufacturer and supplier community.

This is also common among residential contractors. Check out our recent posts on Channel Shifts Among Contractors and Brand Shifts Among Contractors.

What does home improvement online purchase behavior look like going forward?

While no one can predict the future, we have current data that suggests online will remain strong even if some consumers revert back to in-store behaviors. We’ve effectively achieved 10 years of online purchase growth in 5 months.  

Younger, higher-income males are much more likely to be engaging online, and it’s youth that is driving housing demand right now and will soon be the biggest share of owner-occupied homes.

Supply chain issues will be a major force that leads to continued channel and brand shift.  Availability may also overcome some potential pricing concerns of consumers.

Rest assured, winning brands in the near-term are those that will be able to meet the consumer where they are (online) to deliver the product they want, when they want it and how they want it delivered. Classic channel convenience may become less of a differentiator because online is already in your home — and that’s as convenient as it gets.        

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What does our business need to consider when planning?

Revisit how your customer makes a purchase: Where are they going to buy your category, what is driving them there, what is important when making a product selection and how is that product meeting their expectations? This will reveal product or channel needs you must deliver to compete, and it will uncover opportunities to differentiate or gain share.

Understand your brand position. With less brand loyalty due to availability issues, brands are fighting to establish their position. What brands do consumers think of within your category, how important is ‘brand’, how do consumers view your brand and your competitors?

Knowing this level of detail is ammunition for your marketing and sales teams. It can also be a powerful tool when it comes to merchandising reviews.

Each category, each channel, each demographic has subtle differences, so dig deeper into your specific market in order to make better informed strategic decisions.

Click here to preview HIRI’s DIY Channel Study

If you’d like to understand your specific customer to make informed sales, marketing, product, brand or channel decisions, please schedule a time to speak with us.