The power of one: Could a single ‘must-have’ item be the key to attracting Gen Z? | Cindy W. Hodnett

One topic that always generates a lot of chatter when we’re talking with members of the home furnishings industry is how to get the next generation of consumers excited about the furniture category.

It’s a challenge that will no doubt evolve as technology continues to transform the home and retail landscapes, but ironically, technology could also provide a compelling solution in numerous categories.

As an example, consider an item-based retail scenario where technology innovations are front and center, supporting a sole product that attracts Gen Z to a new brand via a distinctive set of features.

First, an anecdotal prelude that speaks to Gen Z’s buying power.

In an earlier column, I looked at the gaming culture and the true-life story of 20-somethings willing to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on items — some real and some virtual — related to their favorite video games. More recently, a small group of 20-somethings currently working their first post-college/graduate school jobs were discussing how they were building $2,000+ computer systems over the holidays, all for the singular purpose of creating a premium gaming experience.

Keep in mind that these new gaming set-ups go far beyond what was once a one-box device plugged into a television. Instead, think of this technology as a multicomponent system where every enhancement comes with a price that a subset of younger consumers is more than willing to pay.

And why? Because not only are they gaming; they are also socializing in real time with their friends through their screens.

While my examples are anecdotes, these social behaviors attached to Gen Z’s technology habits are ubiquitous, and they offer actionable opportunities when it comes to creating next-generation excitement for home furnishings.

Home theater in bed

On a recent visit to Luxfort Home, President Lee Boone showed me a power bed with a built-in projector that one Top 100 retailer called the “most innovative new idea in our industry in 10 years.” This bed allows the consumer to stream videos from their phone directly onto a screen or wall in front of them and share content, taking what is often a small viewing experience to next-level immersive opportunities.

As Gen Z, and frankly anyone considering a new bed purchase, begins to explore their bedding options, this function adds an exciting modern technology element to the equation, and one that a $1,000 sword purchaser might be willing to invest in when compared with other more traditional products.

Seat-to-sleep upholstery

During a recent visit to Manwah’s Mexico factory, I learned more about the company’s sliding seat system, which officials said creates “easy-to-operate, adjustable depth seats” that offer modular chaise and bed options on sofas and sectionals.

Designed for multifunctionality as adaptable group seating and bedding in one upholstery product, the modular component of this sofa/sectional item adds a new twist to a furniture item that many Gen Zers say they don’t think about when it comes to spending discretionary income.

As with the Luxfort Home power bed, the technology utilized for this upholstery piece creates a next-level product that lands outside of the expected norm, a single item designed to create initial interest and then seal the deal with added features.

As younger consumers establish their own households, the competition will no doubt continue to be fierce for their attention and dollars. However, one thing is certain: They will spend money on items that matter to them, whether through functionality or lifestyle habits.

Consequently, creating these types of products that could inspire item-based purchases that lead to enthusiasm for and engagement with the brand or store in subsequent buying decisions.

Note: if you are manufacturing or selling a product with a technology tie-in that might fit this “item-based” description, reach out and let me know. We’ll continue to explore the concept in future issues.

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