The “New Normal” for Building-Product Manufacturers

 April 21, 2020

By  Madelyn Young

Seven Predictions and Insights from Design and Construction Industry Professionals, plus Our Own Take on It.

The phrase “new normal” probably rings a bell for you — to the point of irritation, perhaps. But no one is entirely sure what the new normal will look like. What we do know: Dramatic changes to daily life and how we conduct business will soon be coming into view. 

The truth is, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis will lead us. But we want to shed some light on what’s happening in the design and construction industry and share some predictions from industry professionals.

1. Economists believe that construction and manufacturing are sectors that could see faster rates of recovery.

The next two months of economic data will show signs of a significant economic decline. Discussions of reopening the economy are underway, at least on a partial basis and with a phased approach. According to the National Association of Home Builders, economists believe that construction and manufacturing are sectors that could see faster rates of recovery, relative to enterprises in the service sector. 

Our conclusion: Building product manufacturers need to start brainstorming and developing a marketing strategy geared toward the “new normal.” The goal: To ensure the pre-existing supply chain functions in the same way in a post-COVID-19 world.

2. Majorities of Americans expect it to be at least three to four months for things to be back to normal.

APCO Worldwide conducted a fifth weekly wave of U.S. public opinion research to understand the effects of COVID-19 on people, businesses and institutions. Majorities of Americans expect it to be at least three to four months for things to be back to normal, including on-site work (66%), retail shopping (72%), business (79%) and leisure travel (80%).

Our conclusion: Manufacturers should assume that things won’t be back to normal as soon as the economy reopens; and that consumer behavior has changed. The key takeaway here is that those changes will persist past the pandemic.

We recently wrote a white paper on Responding to COVID-19 — Best Practices and Strategies for Building-Product Manufacturers. Many of these principles will carry over once we break the curve and head towards “normal.” It is a great starting point in implementing your changed marketing strategy.

There will be a shift in future buying behaviors for products and services that consumers deem important. Building-product manufacturers and marketing managers need to have a clear understanding of how the crisis has changed their customer’s expectations and beliefs, so they can communicate in a relevant and meaningful way with employees, customers and communities.

3. Protecting employee health and safety is the COVID-19 factor having the greatest impact on kitchen and bath manufacturers.

According to the NKBA’S Benchmark Sentiment Survey: Special COVID-19 Edition factors having the greatest impact on kitchen and bath manufacturers are protecting the health and safety of their employees (67%); overall economic uncertainty (66%); customers’ financial uncertainty (58%); and stock market volatility (52%).

Our conclusion: The health and safety of employees and customers will continue to be a major factor to consider once the economy reopens. Building-product manufacturers should continuously communicate (both internally and externally) on how they are meeting this critical challenge. 

4. Remodeling will bounce back faster than new-home construction.

John Burns CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, said in a recent NKBA webinar that he predicts new-home-buying will return slowly, but that remodeling will come back faster. 

Our conclusion: Messages revolving around remodeling, as well as targeting audiences showing interest in remodeling, could be a wise strategy for building-product manufacturers entering the “new normal.” But be sure to keep a close eye on industry trends and predictions. 

5. Consumers are doing a lot of DIY projects.

NKBA CEO Bill Darcy, discussing the Remodeling Sector on CNBC, observed that consumers are doing a lot of DIY projects to feel like they are making some investment of value. This could turn into longer-term remodeling projects. 

Our conclusion: Manufacturers can set up marketing messages around DIY projects, either by blogging how products can be used by do-it-yourselfers; or through social media ads targeting audiences showing interest in DIY projects. Content on home projects, incorporating keywords used by consumers, will boost the likelihood of your brand showing up in search results.

6. The percentage of ‘Healthy Home Believers” will increase.

Suzanne Shelton, CEO of the Shelton Group says that “health and control” are now the key drivers of sustainability in the home, and they will become exponentially more important in the wake of COVID-19. The buying market may contract, but the percentage of ‘Healthy Home Believers” will increase. (See: EEBA webinar, Marketing to a Changed Market.) 

Additionally, nearly three in five consumers looking to purchase new homes are interested in adding smart-home features to maximize how heating/cooling systems work or to use less energy overall. Shelton Group further predicts that in a post-pandemic society, homeowners will demand healthy homes whose costs they can control.

Our conclusion: Post-pandemic, building-product manufacturer’s primary messaging and marketing strategies should be about how their products can boost homeowner health and comfort.

7. Consumers want companies to implement physical protection and distancing measures to help keep them healthy.

New research from the TRUE Global Intelligence practice at comms giant FleishmanHillard, shows that COVID-19 is profoundly reshaping consumer perceptions, behaviors and values. According to the study, referenced in an article by Agility PR Solutions

  • 95% of consumers want companies to implement physical protection and distancing measures to help keep them healthy.
  • 52% intend recent changes to their buying behaviors to continue.
  • 26% will take planning for major life decisions more seriously after the pandemic.
  • 27% are currently saving more than they normally do, and 26% plan to save more in the future than normal.

Last, but not least 

Building your brand requires navigating the “new normal.” While the latter remains elusive, as long as we are receptive to change, we will find ways to adapt. 

To support those efforts, GreenHouse Digital + PR has put together a whitepaper on responding to COVID-19, especially geared towards building-product manufacturers. Download it here and let us know if we can be of further help.

Stay Informed!