How Consumers Find the Home Improvement Expertise They Need

Seth Spriggs

Even the smallest homes can be filled with big dreams.

Homeowners may wake up, walk through their rooms and see countless opportunities to create new additions, renovate old spaces and reimagine their yards and gardens. For the businesses that can help them, though, it’s more important to think about how homeowners try to make those dreams come true. 

Five years ago, homeowners might have asked their neighbour what company they used on their last project. They might have heard an ad on the radio or TV. Or they might have driven past a billboard. Many of these things may still occur, but fortunately they’re only part of the story.

Here’s how consumers are pursuing home and garden improvement projects today. 

  • Nowadays, 95% will use a PC to find design ideas, which means they probably look across a wide range of sites, from major product and service manufacturers to home and garden show listings to popular portals like HomeStars and sites from your competitors. 
  • When they’re ready to make a decision, though, they start moving away from their desktop. In fact, 65% use a smartphone once they enter the research phase. This probably includes mobile sites of individual businesses, as well as sites and apps like Houzz and Pinterest, which allow users to create an image-based catalogue of things that inspire them. 
  • Those conversations with neighbours are now expanded to the entire world, thanks to social media. According to Google’s Customer Journey to Online Purchase tool, social is used by 39% of consumers at the beginning of home and garden projects, 44% in the middle of those projects, and 16% at the end. 
  • People aren’t content to simply read and flip through pictures. They want to see ideas come to life, which is why more than half of consumers say watching videos is an important part of the home improvement process. 

What Home Services Firms Need to Do

This is where the challenge begins, because, overall, only 6% of SMBs have mobile sites, while 45% don’t have a site at all, according to an article on Marketing Land.

But these days, whether a potential buyer is looking for a contractor, renovation firm or even a plumber, the search most likely begins online. If a business doesn’t have a professional online presence – or easy-to-find contact information – there’s a good chance potential buyers will dismiss it and keep searching.

Having a poor online presence (or none at all) gives the impression the business is unprofessional or possibly even illegitimate, and it may leave potential customers wondering if you’re still in business.

Get mobile

Even if your business is not an e-commerce site, a website will still help generate sales in-store, thanks to mobility. Probably the most important aspect of a website these days is ensuring it’s optimized for mobile. That’s because more and more Canadians are using their smartphones and tablets to research products before they ever set foot in a bricks-and-mortar store. Even magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, which focus on the home services market, are starting to realize the importance of a mobile-optimized site

When they’re conducting local searches, 88% of consumers are searching on their smartphone, and 84% are searching on a computer or tablet. On their smartphone, consumers are looking for when business owners are available and how to find them, while on their tablet they might be looking for more specific information about the products and services a business offers, according to Ipsos MediaCT.

Search equals conversion

Websites also influence sales at brick-and-mortar stores. There’s a misperception that a website competes with the in-person experience – even cannibalizing sales – but the reality is that the two complement each other. In fact, 68% of consumers are looking at home improvement websites today, so it’s a huge opportunity. 

Today’s consumers are highly informed. They’re searching for information before they make a purchase, but they’re also using their smartphone or tablet to look up information throughout the shopping process and even after they’ve made a purchase.

One in four Canadians research purchases online before purchasing offline, according to Google’s Omnichannel Retail report card. While in this research study, 87% of consumers look for information before contacting a business, 79% search for info while visiting the store and 35% do so after visiting them.

Not only are Canadians researching purchases, but they’re also using their smartphone to find a business location or compare product prices, according to comScore. And 37% of mobile searches result in “conversions,” which means an in-person visit, phone call, purchase or download, according to Google’s mobile search research.

But the same comScore research finds that less than one in four Canadian businesses incorporate product video, provide appointment booking services or link to a business locator from their online product pages – all ways to boost the selection process for consumers.

Building your brand

A website is more than an electronic brochure. At the very least, it helps customers find you and find out about you. But it’s also your calling card: a way to engage your customers and find new fans. And even if you’re not selling products online, a website can boost sales and drive more customers your way. According to an eMarketer report, seven out of 10 consumers are looking at home improvement information online, and 25% are looking for specific brand information. 

Search engines don’t just send customers to e-commerce sites: they drive people directly to a business by providing information about where the business is located, the areas it services, and what products and services it offers. Online information fills in any gaps consumers are missing and can even motivate them to reach out directly.

A website isn’t only for customers: suppliers or partners could also turn to your website for more information about you.

And a website helps with viral marketing. If you’ve built your business on word of mouth, imagine how far word could spread online! Your website serves as a tool to promote your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when you’re not working. Eventually, your website could help drive sales to your store and may become a revenue generator in and of itself.

5 Ways to Get Started in Home Services and Digital Marketing

  1. Create a website, and make sure it doesn’t look like it needs more work than the average home renovation. In other words, include your phone number, email address, location, and areas of specialty. For example, kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular remodeling projects, so if this is something you focus on, make sure your site reflects your track record and experience. 
  2. Scour the competition for home services sites that render well on smartphones and tablets. This top 100 list of DIY home improvement websites could be a good place to start. Then you will have a vision and can plan for what you want to build for your own business.
  3. Include photos, particularly “before” and “after” journeys, of your best projects to help potential customers see how you can transform their space. 
  4. Don’t think of video as merely a nice-to-have for your site – it’s a must. Look at these five YouTube channels for DIY projects. That is what you’re competing with today. 
  5. Use Facebook, Twitter and other channels as a way to nurture customer relationships and have conversations with your target market. Try these five social media tips for the home improvement sector to get up to speed. 

Your next move: Contact Yellow Pages to find out how we can help build an effective, affordable website and boost your online presence.

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