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Reaching couples during renovation, before they reach for each other’s throats.

Good Thinking | March 24, 2021 | 3 min read

Big-ticket home renovation projects can test a relationship even in the best of times. I ought to know; I’m looking at doing a kitchen remodel and am increasingly frustrated with the shopping experience. That frustration has spilled over into discussions, arguments, and even a few tense moments with my spouse. Constantly looking at things in the far corners of the internet; websites, Instagram and Pinterest often makes it even more difficult to make decisions, not easier.

Although a customer-journey-of-two isn’t exactly a projectable sample, it seems crazy clear to me brands that recognize this frustration and take steps to help manage it will be welcome in people’s lives. And it’s the good brands that will win…more on that later.

With major money on the line, most couples make thoughtfully considered joint purchase decisions. In fact, a whopping 38% of couples spend more when they shop together, according to a ShopSmart poll, published by Consumer Reports. That’s the good news, conversely, a frustrated 12% of couples consider divorce during or after home renovations according to Adi Tatarko CEO and co-founder of Houzz. Yikes.

Conflict comes in many forms. According to Dr. Roberta Satow in Psychology Today, couples have four main areas of conflict, and in my opinion, those pain points ought to be the starting place for every website. Control issues, money issues, taste, and managing anxiety. People can barely agree on the correct size for a living room tv, how are they supposed to wade through the 1,500+ decisions it takes to get through a kitchen remodel?

Obviously, brands could do much more to harvest this couples’ boon/bane dichotomy online by being there when, and how, they are most needed. Based on recent online visits to look at kitchen cabinetry, paint, tile, appliances (, countertops ( with a shoutout to Jaime our designer), hardware and faucets, it is pretty clear that only a few websites are even considering the couple. And even fewer offered online tools that actually helped us learn anything. Instead, sites are product, product, product. None of it seems to be focused on enabling decisions, and certainly not helping to gain any kind of consensus.

It’s too early to tell for sure, but few home products manufacturers seem to be keeping pace with mass retailers in taking advantage of the rapid shift to online-only since Covid. But the reality is that serious consideration has moved away from showrooms and into virtual showrooms. Increasingly, shopping behavior on manufacturers’ sites with access to showrooms is being restricted. Suddenly the manufacturer is more fully tasked with creating selling tools that the dealers don’t have time or resources to provide.

Brands really need to think a little harder about product selector tools, VR magic to see the product in the environment and of course, taking into account the need for couples to share and co-consider what they’ve found. What’s out there is almost solely designed for a single user, in one session, by UX people that don’t appear to know what we’re all going through. The melodrama is real.

Sure, at the beginning there are late-night web searches. Instagram, Pinterest, texting and couples sharing things they’ve found on blogs, magazines or wherever, but there is precious little content on manufacturer’s sites that make any effort to help couples “decision bond.”

Taking all these emotionally charged issues into account is a real opportunity to step into the shoes of the struggling couple, and revise product selectors to be comparison tools surrounded by stories and content that addresses the emotional sides of a decision.

If you’d like to see what I’m talking about, for this client, our tool outputs a mood board for the user that they can share with their partner. For this client, our tool contributed to harmony in the kitchen/bath decision-making process and got couples shopping together.

As marketers, our job is to create experiences that are welcome in people’s lives. If you want to see more examples of how doing good in the world can be rewarding, have a look at our work.