In my last post, I identified a half dozen or so major global trend and forecasting experts who each identified the concept of “personalization”, as a key trend in today’s world. After reading that post, does anyone out there still believe that homebuyers just happen to be the exceptions to all these rules? That the homebuying experience isn’t affected by MAJOR GLOBAL societal and cultural trends?
Throughout the hot market years, some builders’ (ok, many builders) had a construction-based outlook in which it was a nuisance to have to figure out how to deal with all those optional products without causing cycle time delays, costly mistakes and screw-ups in the field. Some builders experienced so many headaches (due to lack of strong systems and processes, inadequate interdepartmental communication, poorly-trained sales and design personnel who set improper expectations and a host of other reasons stemming from a construction-based mentality) that the knee-jerk reaction was to massively cut back on the amount of options, or what we call “Available Personal Choices” which were offered to their homebuyers. Well, maybe some builders really were offering too much choice…but that’s another topic altogether!! There were, however, plenty of builders whose position sounded to the customer like “Take it or Leave it. This is how we operate, b/c this is easier for us.”
The decision to offer little in the way of personalized choice is, in just about every case, not a buyer-based decision. It is a self-serving philosophy which reflects many builders’ lack of time, energy, experience, resources, or patience to do what’s right: figure out a profitable and efficient way to meet buyer demand without losing control over both the homebuying experience and the personalization/selections experience.
Today’s homebuyers have a sense of power that didn’t exist during the hot market of the last few years, where if one buyer didn’t buy, we asked them to move aside and let the next one step right up. Nobody wants to live in Mass Production City. Nobody wants to live in section 459 on Lot 67,842. People want their homes to be unique and reflect their own personal sense of style, or as we have all seen, lack thereof.
The upside of today’s market is that it is forcing us to be more aligned with consumer-demand (something we should have been doing all along). Ultimately we will emerge a stronger industry, better poised to meet consumer demand and provide a superb homebuying experience which will turn our buyers into Raving Fans.
My goal throughout these blogs will be to guide you toward Thinking Like a Consumer and to share strategies you can deploy to capitalize on that knowledge by Acting Like a Retailer. But first, ask yourself this question:
Does your current options strategy reflect a builder-centric or buyer-centric position? (You could certainly expand that question to cover your product, your processes, your policies, your sales and marketing programs, your construction process, your customer care program and on and on).
In my next blog, I’ll pick up on this theme and tell you what I would be saying to homebuyers if I were a builder. Until then, take an objective and open-eyed look at what your website, your sales personnel, your ads and brochures, your model homes, sales center, and design studio all tell your buyers about their ability to create a personalized home. Are there conflicting messages? Are there NO messages at all? Is what you THINK you are saying the same thing as your buyers believe you to be saying?
As the market begins it’s long, steady climb upward, there has surely NEVER been a better time to ask this question.
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