As we headed out of the first lockdown back in 2020, Google Trends data was used as a tool to indicate an implied boost in demand as the general public shifted their spending patterns towards home improvements.
Now, Trends data is pointing to a slump in demand. Matching the anecdotal evidence that is out there of a very different market compared to the last two years.
Door demand waning
The search term “patio door” was used in marketing analysis a couple of years ago to help reveal what might have been ahead of us during the first lockdown. It revealed a boost in consumer demand which indeed came to pass, perhaps even stronger than any of us could have anticipated.
Fast forward a couple of years and I have used the same search term, as well as “composite doors” and “bifold doors” to try and gauge where we’re at in terms of interest and demand.
These are the results of a 12 month and 5-year search:
The 12-month chart shows a steady and sustained decline stemming from Spring 2021. It was around this time that inflation and cost of living fears began to spring up, although weren’t the major stories like they are today. The prospect of foreign travel was also beginning to look more positive around this time.
As the year progressed, inflation and the cost of living became serious concerns, which could explain in some part the drop in Trends data throughout the year. The drop at the end of the year is due to Christmas and is something we always experience as an industry.
If you take a look at the longer 5-year chart, you can see that demand is still above pre-pandemic levels. Although not by much. We’re at the start of this new economic down cycle so I would not expect the data at this point to be below pre-pandemic levels, we’re too early in the cycle for that. If we see that data drop below 2019 levels, however, that could be a signal of a much more serious problem.
Increase marketing activity
There is a lot of noise right now, and lots of very serious distractions which are hitting consumer confidence and the amount of money in people’s pockets. I am seeing talk of a 20% downturn in industry activity this year compared to 2021. We’re now in a much different climate from that of the last couple of years. So what do we do about reinforcing the growth we have worked incredibly hard for?
The temptation is to start cutting back. To conserve costs and find ways to save money. In the past, that has tended to be on the marketing front. Frankly, it’s the worst thing you can do when we start to enter a downturn. When things become challenging, becoming less visible to buyers is like pouring fuel on a fire. You compound the problem in the long term.
When we don’t have the attention that we did in 2020 and 2021, we have to work harder to remain relevant in people’s minds. Remember, we’re fighting against war, a cost of living crisis that is taking money out of people’s pockets and rampant inflation. That’s a hell of a lot of noise to try and cut through. But we do have a range of very effective tools to be able to do so.
Social media is the obvious one. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc are all free and are all image-based platforms. The use of images and videos to help grab the imagination of potential customers is a very powerful tool indeed. Video is the fastest growing and most influential medium, therefore we all need to be using it as much as possible to help produce inspiration and motivation. This will create leads which then funnels into sales. We have to be doing that immediately.
Showrooms are also very useful sales tools for installers that have them. Giving them a revamp, or simply making efforts to increase footfall into showrooms is generally a good way to either create new leads or to secure sales from customers who have already had quotes but are still undecided.
Fabricators need to be working actively with installers on marketing campaigns and materials. Basically, anything that will help installers create leads and keep the sales funnel moving. It will be hard to do this for free, considering the raft of price increases we have all incurred during the last two years, but helping installers to grow is a very good way for fabricators to grow their own businesses.
This is not a time to go quiet on the general public. We all have to start making more noise about fenestration, extolling the benefits of home improvements against a backdrop of rising energy costs. We have an important role to play here as an industry. New energy-efficient windows and doors will help save households money in the long term on their energy costs. We just have to work harder to deliver that argument effectively now.
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