How can housing shortages and video games lead to furniture purchases for Gen Z? | Cindy W. Hodnett

A recent Furniture Today story on Gen Z living situations and spending habits garnered lots of pageviews in just a few days, generating numerous conversations about what exactly prompts late-teen to mid-20s buyers to part with their money.

As might be expected, the research showed that life-stage events such as moving into their own place, earning a paycheck and paying for their own essentials influenced Gen Z buying behavior, but there’s more to unpack in the findings.

For example, the home and garden category ranked as the second highest spend for the respondents, with the oldest Gen-Z-ers spending $982 during 2022 (following their top spend on health and beauty), not even quite $1,000 of discretionary income spent on home.

Almost concurrently, the National Assn. of Realtors published research findings that highlight one of the challenges facing potential Gen Z homebuyers. According to NAR, the U.S. housing market has a shortfall of some 320,000 home listings valued at $256,000 or below, a price point described by officials as affordable for middle-income buyers or households earning up to $75,000. That’s a salary threshold that likely includes many Gen Z consumers.

So, if purchasing a house is currently problematic and enthusiasm for the home category is lukewarm, how can the retail industry capture more dollars from this elusive consumer? Thinking outside of the buyer’s journey box might produce one answer.

Consider this, numerous surveys show that one of the preferred recreational/social activities of this age demographic is gaming. Not unintentionally, these games also come with plenty of opportunities to spend money, whether a player buys in-game virtual merchandise that assists in a strategic battle of some sort or actual physical items that provide tangible touchpoints to his or her favorite online-only world.

For example, did you know that $409 will buy a real-life True Katana handmade “mortal blade” sword that is used virtually in the Shadows Die Twice video game to defeat opponents? Or how about the hundreds of dollars spent for accoutrements inspired by the Gourmet Chef game where aspiring five-star chefs try their hand at creating upscale cuisine?

Those numbers quickly add up to $982, and there are thousands of virtual world items just like them competing for Gen Z’s discretionary income. And although this consumer is still a few years away from becoming the top buyer demographic in the home furnishings category, there’s no doubt that they still have money to spend — and will — if the product story is compelling.

To be sure, home furnishings that tie into trending video games are not a new idea (think all things Mario Brothers or even Pac-Man back in the day). However, evolving technologies have opened new avenues of opportunities when it comes to attracting home furnishings buyers.

Look at Design Home, a mobile game where the player uses high-end furniture and home décor from real brands to create 3D spaces. The game showcases a lot of familiar home brands, and it is a user-friendly introduction to these brands for consumers who might be a few years away from affording some of the items. Design Home is game meets brand meets real life potential purchase for players interested in furniture and décor, all on an easily downloadable app and, for a growing number of future home consumers, that first exposure through gaming platforms is also an entry point to buying.

It’s a new consumer world out there in 2023, and yes, there’s an app for that.

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