DIY Behaviors in Outdoor Power Equipment: Part 2 - Battery vs Gas Attitudes

The following are insights from a recent, publicly available study completed by The Farnsworth Group. To receive the full report, contact gfarnsworth@thefarnsworthgroup.com or Contact Us.

Consumer attitudes towards outdoor power equipment are evolving as Gen Y transitions into homeownership and battery technology improves. A 2018 study by The Farnsworth Group suggests that while consumers still worry about run time and price with battery-powered OPE, younger generations are less concerned over the downsides of battery and more likely to rate its performance higher than older generations. In addition, homeowners across all age groups seem to lack top-of-mind awareness for the many positive attributes of battery OPE but do recognize and value these benefits when they are mentioned. The study also found that although most consumers would buy battery OPE rather than gas if all things were equal in terms of brand, specs, and performance, about a quarter of consumers would still choose gas. Lastly, buying battery-powered OPE from a specialty manufacturer is important to about half of consumers.

Doubts about run time continue to discourage homeowners from purchasing battery-powered OPE. In 2018, 33% of consumers shopping for OPE who never considered buying a battery-powered product said they didn’t consider battery because of concerns about run time. That number was about the same in 2016. Much like homeowners who never considered battery, those who considered battery-powered OPE but didn’t purchase it worried about run time. This number increased from 21% in 2016 to 27% in 2018. Consumers who considered but did not purchase battery-powered OPE also cited battery’s higher price tag as a deterrent, although price sensitivity has decreased slightly from 35% in 2016 to 27% in 2018. Around 40% of all consumers who shopped for OPE but didn’t purchase battery said longer run time would cause them to consider using battery. Around 20% said a cheaper product would encourage them to use battery-powered OPE.

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In general, concerns about run time, power, and price have dropped since 2016 but remain evident in 2018. When prompted to list concerns about battery OPE, 57% of all homeowners surveyed listed run time, down from 71% in 2016. Amount of power and price were the other top concerns, but both have declined since 2016. Homeowners provided similar feedback about run time, power, and price when they chose concerns from a list for an aided response. Doubts about durability and longevity also emerged in the aided response, which aligns with findings from previous studies. In past qualitative research, many consumers have commented on how the plastic components of battery OPE make the products seem breakable and less durable.

Qualms about battery OPE’s run time and power are generational to some extent, with members of Gen Y being 10-15% less concerned than other generations. For example, 61% of Boomers and 47% of Gen Y homeowners worry about run time. Similarly, 37% of Boomers are concerned about the amount of power, while only 23% of Gen Y consumers are. As more Gen Y consumers begin to own homes and become a key demographic in the DIY market, their comparatively favorable attitudes towards battery may start to dominate the OPE conversation. Forward-thinking OPE companies should take note of Gen Y’s more battery-friendly outlook.

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When respondents were asked to list perceived benefits of battery power, the top benefits mentioned were “cordless,” “no gas,” and “environmentally friendly.” But when homeowners had a list of benefits to choose from, the most popular positive attributes were “exhaust-free,” “no oil to change,” “easier to start,” and “environmentally friendly.” The difference between unaided and aided responses suggests the potential benefits of battery-powered OPE are not top-of-mind for many homeowners. In other words, there are upsides to battery power that consumers don’t consider at first but recognize once they are pointed out. As in 2016, older, female, and light DIYers still tend to see cord issues as more important than other groups.

From 2016 to 2018, there was a slight increase in agreement with positive statements about battery-powered OPE such as, “Battery-powered OPE is just as good as gas powered” or “Battery-powered outdoor equipment can last a lifetime.” Agreement with the statement “Gas will always be more powerful than battery” decreased. Younger generations tended to agree more strongly with positive statements about battery OPE than older generations. And in a performance rating test of attributes like speed, durability, and price, Gen Y rated battery higher than Gen X and Boomers did for almost every attribute. It could be that younger consumers are more open to new technology and less attached to the idea of traditional gas OPE than older generations.

 When respondents were asked if they would choose gas or battery OPE with all things equal in terms of brand, specs, price, and performance, most homeowners would choose battery over gas. At the other end of the spectrum, 10% said they would still choose gas over battery without question, and 15% said they would choose gas over battery with some hesitation. Despite the convenience of battery, many consumers are loyal to gas and may not ever be persuaded to switch.

Buying battery-powered OPE from a specialty manufacturer is important to about half of all respondents, as 29% of consumers prefer to buy battery-powered OPE from a company that only makes battery-powered equipment, while 19% of consumers would choose a reputable gas-powered OPE company. Battery-powered equipment companies seem to have an advantage over gas-powered here, but the remaining 52% of consumers said it wouldn’t matter where they bought the battery-powered OPE. This suggests that both battery-powered and gas-powered equipment companies have a strong opportunity to capture this market.

Although concerns about run time and price still characterize the conversation about battery-powered OPE, these concerns have declined among consumers in general since 2016. Furthermore, younger homeowners who are beginning to influence the DIY market have more positive attitudes towards battery-powered OPE than older generations. And with all things equal in terms of performance, brand, price, and specs, most consumers would choose battery over gas. Taken together, these elements in the study suggests that homeowner attitudes have become more favorable towards battery-powered OPE in the past two years and will continue to do so in the future as a younger generation emerges in the home improvement industry.

To receive the full report, contact gfarnsworth@thefarnsworthgroup.com or Contact Us.