Catalyst

The floormat effect and other home truths

| Updated on August 20, 2020 Published on August 20, 2020

Cocooned indoors during the pandemic, consumers are lavishing attention on their homes

Last month, my wife bought four colourful floormats for our home in Mumbai, through an e-commerce site. They arrived, and she displayed them to us, beaming with pride. Indeed, each floormat had a distinct, soft pleasing design. We spent more than a few minutes appreciating how nice they looked, and where they could be placed in our home.

The Floormat effect

Before my wife and I began working from home (WFH) during this pandemic, she had never before lavished such loving attention on floormats. They were stuff bought from a neighbouring market and helped us clean our feet, period. Now, suddenly, they had become aesthetic statements of lifestyle.

Going further, she also used photographs of the floormats as her profile picture on Whatsapp. The next day, I heard her describe the beauty of these mats to our young daughter who lives in New York. Our daughter, in turn, showed us several colours of fabric that she was in the midst of choosing for upholstery in her own studio apartment. She too was looking to bring brightness into her WFH environment.

Many of my friends suddenly appear to be similarly shopping for beautiful little things for their homes - potted plants for their balconies, lovely ceramic utensils for their kitchens, brightly coloured mugs for their morning cups of coffee. This brought home a new truth to me. Since we have begun spending most of our days within the four walls of our rooms, so many more aspects of the homes we live in have begun having a new and magnified impact on us. I call this the Floormat effect, in tribute to my wife’s purchase.

The perfect shelf

Very quickly, I came across some brands that were already leveraging the Floormat effect. My first port of stop was Ikea, a brand that has always focused intensely on our homes. Ikea has an innovation laboratory called Space10, and it has recently launched in India a very interesting project and site called everydayexperiments.com. This project enables us to interact with our homes in new and interesting ways.

Here are a couple of examples. Given that most of our homes, at least in urban India, have significant constraints of space, Ikea’s everyday experiments brings you technology that can help you develop the perfect shelves for your rooms, just by looking at your walls. An augmented reality app scans your room and everything contained within it, then plans and customises your shelves to “make them an efficient and natural fit for your home space”. The shelves also bring you the legendary Ikea aesthetic.

Another interesting Ikea example is an idea called “Light Filters”, where consumers can use their smartphone as a camera lens, and see how exactly your study table or living room looks under various lights, before deciding on the lamps that you buy. This uses an augmented reality app, and can help not merely in purchasing lamps, but also in deciding the optimal placement of furniture in your home, from a lighting point of view. All this is futuristic technology, but Ikea’s veryday experiments can spark off in our minds new ways of looking at every small aspect of our homes.

Office, Restaurant or Theatre ?

Our homes are no longer homes alone. For many of us, they are now offices, physical work-out spaces, movie theatres, restaurants, libraries, and lots more, rolled into one. With these new use cases come new needs for the home, or existing needs that suddenly occupy a new pedestal.

Consider seating. Most of us have always had chairs of some sort in our homes. It is just that these WFH days, we are sitting in these chairs for much longer. Suddenly, there is a magnified need for chairs that are more ergonomic, sturdier, and do not end up scratching our floors either. And simultaneously look more beautiful. My wife and I ended up buying trendy, comfortable Godrej Interio chairs for our study tables at home.

Similarly, if you wish to re-create a fine dining experience on your home dining table, because visiting restaurants is perceived to be risky, then the need for appropriate lighting, lovely serving bowls and exquisite decanters of wine may suddenly come into prominence, from nowhere.

All this emphasizes the emerging home opportunity for marketers, particularly because WFH may well become a permanent reality in some sectors. The term “bringing home the bacon” takes new meaning, thanks to the Floormat effect.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. Views are personal.

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Published on August 20, 2020
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