The Demand for Customization

A multi-generational call for a personal brand
By Keith Juhola
May 16, 2017
FEATURE ARTICLE | Markets & Trends
The front door, which is the hallmark piece of a home, represents a homeowner’s individual brand. Today, that brand can take on many different looks. Homeowners can add a pop of color to their door or incorporate door glass. Dealers must put on the ‘designer’ hat and help customers create one-of-a-kind, personalized entryways. (Images courtesy of ODL Inc.)

We tend to think of baby boomers and millennials as starkly different generations because of their age separation and the difference in their disposable incomes. While we can easily see those differences, it takes a closer look to realize how similar these two generations can be. There is growing awareness that these two distinct groups have spending potential in the same ecosystem and industries are responding by creating one brand experience for both baby boomers and millennials.

This new reality is particularly evident in the door glass category. Here, baby boomers and millennials might have different traits, but their buying habits look remarkably similar. Dealers have reported that both generations are willing to spend money on new trends: customization, contemporary design and a compromise between privacy and light.

To capture profits from both generations—especially as millennials emerge as buyers in the marketplace—dealers and manufacturers must offer products that respond to both generations’ demands.

The custom craze

As homeowners, both baby boomers and millennials ultimately have the same goal: to customize their space. A customized space can feel comfortable and make the homeowner feel special. Beyond that, customization also makes a statement. The front door, which is the hallmark piece of a home, represents a homeowner’s individual brand. Today, that brand can take on many different looks.

“That’s what makes it fun for buyers,” says Kay Johnson, showroom manager of Salt Lake City-based BMC/Stock Supply. “They feel like they have something the neighbor down the street won’t have.” Homeowners can add a pop of color to their door or incorporate door glass.

To ensure buyers find the product they’re looking for, dealers are offering and stocking more options than ever. Previously, baby boomers were content choosing from three options. Today, baby boomers and millennials alike want 30 options. This demand is influencing the market and putting the ‘designer’ hat on the dealer, who must help customers create one-of-a-kind, personalized entryways.

Contemporary design: simplicity sells

For today’s buyers, customization alone is not enough—customizing with an outdated design will produce a personalized front door, but not one that speaks to its owner or a passersby. Millennials and baby boomers both demand contemporary design.

This style is identifiable by an open design and clean, straight lines, unlike traditional style, which integrates embellishments, rich textures and heavier materials. “The word I keep hearing from both builders and homeowners is simple,” Johnson confirms. “A clean, modern aesthetic is really bridging the gap across the generations.”

Today, both generations look for doors that have a simple design, whether that is a simple glass door, a solid door or merging the two and incorporating contemporary concepts into door glass inserts.

Dealers must recognize this trend toward simple styles, where the most growth is predicted, as many window and door manufacturers are creating and investing in product lines dedicated specifically to contemporary and trending aesthetics.

Manufacturers offer styles that balance privacy and light. Today’s door glass incorporates opacity, textures and patterns. Glass can be stippled or have a geometric pattern that obscures objects or people in view. Further, patterns that were typically only seen in bathrooms have been upgraded and now are on the top of the list for front doors.

The demand for privacy and light

“The marketplace has been trending toward privacy,” Jessie Godwin, owner of Builders Hardware Inc., in Tampa, Florida, reports. Previously, older generations seeking privacy purchased a solid front door or a door that gave off minimal exposure to light. Those that wanted natural light had to purchase the opposite: a door that is practically transparent. Today’s buyers of all generations, “just want something a little more secure and obscure,” Godwin continues. “But they also still want style and personality. And everyone wants to let in natural light.”

Further, millennials have grown up in an era of endless options. They expect “the best of both worlds” in most every industry because they’ve grown up experiencing it through different purchasing channels, such as Etsy or Amazon.

When it comes to today’s doors, the result of this demand is that the win-win is not only available, but trending. Some manufacturers offer styles or full product lines that balance privacy and light. Today’s door glass incorporates opacity, textures and patterns. Glass, for example, can be stippled or have a geometric pattern, ultimately obscuring objects or people in view.

While the textures available in the market for privacy glass were limited and unappealing in the past, manufacturers have focused on the design aspect, offering more aesthetically pleasing designs to complement any home’s style. Patterns that were typically only seen in bathrooms have been upgraded and now are on the top of the list for front doors. Manufacturers saw that, and listened.

The old way of thinking says that, in selecting a front door, homeowners must choose between privacy and light. The new way of thinking, as evidenced by sales, says that a homeowner can have both.

The new way of thinking

Baby boomers and millennials are so different, yet the newest research on engaging and retaining both generations as customers suggests the best path is to create one brand experience for both. Many in the window and door market are already in tune to this idea and are seeing growth in their business as a result. Are you?

Keith Juhola is vice president of sales and marketing of the Pro Channel at ODL Inc., a Zeeland, Michigan-based manufacturer of door glass, door blinds, retractable screens and other entryway products. A salesperson and sales manager for more than 25 years, Juhola has worked for both distributors and manufacturers in the high tech and building materials industry.