Welcome to the homebody economy
by Jonathan Hurvitz. How brands can win loyal consumers in the ‘homebody economy’.Wednesday, 28 Apr 2021
by Jonathan Hurvitz. We’ve all heard more than enough of the term ‘home’, in its myriad guises… “no place like home, home is where the heart is, make yourself at home, work from home”. It is often used currently in relation to the importance of combating the coronavirus. And now, a new term enters the contemporary lexicon: the ‘homebody economy’ .
The homebody economy is the term used to refer to what Forbes describes as the convergence of spending incrementally more time at home and more money online. A pertinent question to ask is whether the homebody economy will continue to thrive as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out and our movements are (if!) resumed as they last were in February 2020. A McKinsey report looking at shifts in consumer behaviour found that consumers are still expecting to spend more time on at-home activities, offering at least one indication that the homebody economy will continue to grow well into the future.
Whether speculation around the severity of a third wave is exaggerated or not, for now we need to remain vigilant and stay home as much as possible. The business opportunity inherent in this is one that, if leveraged strategically, will benefit brands way beyond that point that we’re mostly vaccinated and (hopefully) immune to the virus.
As with any opportunity, it pays to first attempt to understand the factors driving this trend, as well as interrogate the nuances to ensure a relevant response. With access, information and a digital-first mindset at their disposal, customers today expect more from the products and services they use – and the brands providing them. In practice, this means brands need to constantly re-evaluate their value proposition to ensure it aligns to customer needs and expectations, as well as market trends. And, importantly, to ensure it can be delivered in the way the homebody economy intended – at home, via digital channels.
Value has viral immunity
It’s easy for the notion of value to be nothing more than an over-traded business term, something we say we offer or are committed to, but rarely do businesses engage with the meaning of value, and what value means to their customers. To cite an example from our own business; the pandemic suddenly forced us to really assess our value proposition. Our findings necessitated that we quickly expand our product offering to include the things that people were most interested in at a very unusual time in recent history. The outcome of this exercise was that we were able to expedite the expansion of our range of gym equipment, as well as our selection of home office furniture.
Understood differently, the pandemic has expanded our definition of what we offer – it’s not about appliances or furniture, it’s about making home a happier place to be through accessibility and financial flexibility. Naturally this will be different for every business, but the secret to harnessing the homebody economy is simply to understand how your brand offering can tap into this trend in a subtle way, but one that adds value.
Agility is often lauded as a key business skill in the 21st century. And sure enough, the pandemic forced countless businesses to quickly change, adapt, reinvent, reimagine or simply do differently. But the digital tools and expertise – in fact, the digital mindset – needed to thrive in the homebody economy should be viewed as more than a stopgap until things return to ‘normal’, because this is the ‘new normal’ (apologies for the use of this now-cringeworthy term).
For those already well established in the online space it calls for a need to be even more strategic and tenacious in their marketing efforts to ensure customers (both existing and potential) can find these businesses at the exact moment they need us, and on the platform or channel of their choice.
Ultimately companies need to be implementing a long-term strategy to meet the needs of today’s digital-first consumers. Beyond that, according to the Forbes article, businesses also need to “have the required agility to scale and evolve to meet yet-to-be determined future needs, likely to be driven at least in part by the homebody economy”.
Jonathan Hurvitz is the Group CEO of online retailer Teljoy and a registered Chartered Accountant in South Africa.
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