Do people decide to buy windows or doors the same way they make a decision about purchasing, say, a new pair of shoes? Of course not. Buying windows, doors, or other types of home improvements costs a lot more and takes far more time and research. Some homeowners relish the challenge, while some put it off because they dread it. And with good cause. Whether eager beavers or reluctant buyers, they’re going to be experiencing some stress.

Badge Value

How and why people buy large home improvements, such as major appliances, flooring, and doors and windows, is the subject of the study “The Complex Shopper.” The annual study, based on an online survey of 1,600 homeowners by The Integer Group and research partner Decision Analyst, shows how differently consumers view various types of big-ticket purchases, even if the price tag is similar.

Non-glamorous commodities, such as toilets and gutters, get the least consideration, even though the price tag is still high, relative to other, i.e., non-home improvement, household items. On the other hand, some homeowners think a lot, and care a lot, about the kind of washer or refrigerator they buy. That’s all about what study authors call “badge value.” The more that people can potentially brag about something they bought — like that new refrigerator — the more time and effort they will put in to researching it before they actually buy. Furniture and appliances have badge value, toilets don’t.

Windows and doors fall somewhere in between, and brand loyalty plays little role in the decision. Seven out of 10 homeowners bring no notion of brand to their window or door purchase. It’s not that window and door manufacturers don’t try to get their attention; it’s that so much time passes between purchases.

How many times would you replace the windows in your home? Once? Twice?

So the homeowner, newly in the market for these products, starts with few preconceived ideas. And the first place he or she goes is … online.

Info via the Internet

“Window and door shoppers tend to spend a lot of time online,” says Katie Geraty, vice president /director of strategy and planning for The Integer Group.

Though plenty of window and door showrooms exist, people looking to buy those products are twice as likely to go on the Internet — for pricing and reviews — as they are to visit a product showroom. It’s not that they don’t want to see, touch, or feel the product; it’s that by the time they get to that showroom stage, they’ve narrowed the choices considerably.

“Window and door shoppers often wait to visit the store until they are ready to sit down and buy,” Geraty points out. And smartphones, which give users instant access to the Internet, from anywhere, are “changing research.”

Post-Purchase Loyalty Strategy

Who are these buyers? The authors group them into four categories. But essentially it comes down to how much enthusiasm they bring to the purchase. Is it a chore or an adventure? Do they look forward to buying windows? Do they see it as another form of excitement? Do they know that they have to do it but postpone making the purchase because of anticipated stress?

Having done their homework, window and door buyers are typically “confident going in, but often feel overwhelmed with all the options.” For window and door buyers, “anxiety is always there,” Geraty says. And anxiety translates to fear and frustration.

The biggest fear? “Making a mistake,” she says. The faster you help them get past that feeling, the quicker they will buy.

Creating Brand Advocates

The study also describes strategies for turning buyers of big-ticket home improvement items into “brand advocates.” No surprise, those who view the shopping experience as fun and who look forward to it are the ones most likely to “take action” (i.e., comment on your company and its services) after the job is complete.

The study’s authors advise big-ticket sellers to ensure that the relationship with those clients continues: “Give them a forum and engage them in two-way dialogue when they seek it.” In addition, customers who submit warranty information “open the door for relationship-building.” Offer customers an incentive to buy something else from your company or an incentive to talk about what you did for them on social media.

—Jim Cory is the editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR, a sister publication of REMODELING.