Beyond DIY: The Rise of “Spec-It-Yourself”ers

A Growing Yet Often Overlooked Consumer Segment Worth Cultivating

From multinational programming and content networks like DIY Network, eHow, HGTV and Houzz, to major retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, today’s market is flooded (and rightfully so) with “Do It Yourself” resources, products and knowledge that ambitious homeowners can use to implement meaningful changes without the need for a contractor. Most projects are small and quickly attended to, although a growing number of DIYers are embracing more challenging projects that involve longer time frames and greater complexity.

While the DIY phenomenon has flourished since its roots in the 1950s, it has now given rise to a new movement of “Specify It Yourself” consumers, or SIYers. This emerging channel represents an in-market and heavily active group of consumers whose interests and behaviors are a step up from the DIY stream. Unfortunately, in spite of their deep engagement with the design process and readiness to act, SIYers are often overlooked by brands and marketers.

A “Unicorn” Consumer

Who are these SIYers? In a nutshell, SIYers are sophisticated homeowners who have the financial bandwidth to hire a designer, architect and/or builder to their next renovation project or custom build, yet also want to play a highly active role in the specification process. They often come to the table armed with intentionally curated product selections that are far more than inspiration for the design/build process, and they show little to no hesitation in taking the lead on specification from the very first days of project initiation.

According to USA Architects, specifiers “come in two flavors” and can be defined as “licensed design professionals who have chosen specifications consulting as a specialty practice of their profession” or “the self-educated specifier who proudly proclaims that they have attended the ‘school of hard knocks.’” Clearly, the first type of specifier swims in well-charted waters and likely has the certifications and association credentials to prove it. However, it’s the second type of specifier who deserves more focus in today’s market.

In short, this is a whole new flavor of self-educated specifiers who are passionate and quite adept at conducting deep research and selecting “project perfect” products, yet not so adept as to be a certified professional or involved in the physical installation process. They thoroughly research and evaluate a wide variety of products and features, including details such as complementary materials, shapes, textures and color palettes, but they have both the desire and the means to pay someone else to handle project logistics, labor costs and every intricate detail of installation.

Unlike their DIY cousins, SIYers love the design process but still don’t want to lay the tile.

A Vast and Virtually Ignored Consumer Segment

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have been potent demographic segments for the housing market for decades, and their embrace of familial and civic responsibility combined with an often intense work ethic has fueled much of the way that market has evolved over the past 30-50 years. Now, as those populations continue to age and other demos take the stage, we’re seeing a shift in the mentality and purchase behaviors when it comes to housing and a number of other consumer categories.

Larger numbers of the Millennial and Gen Z segments, for example, are inclined to conduct their own research and utilize a growing number of digital tools to accelerate the planning and specification process before even selecting a design professional or custom builder. After spending years on the “front lines” of digitally mediated consumer journeys with smaller purchases, such as food, clothing and consumer electronics, more and more of these buyers are developing wealth and applying their earlier preferences to their home buying and design decisions.

This includes completely satiating their hunger for information and doing homework at a level that may even give them more direct knowledge about particular products and systems than specialty retailer sales professionals. In the digital space, there are very few limits to developing highly specialized knowledge if given enough time, and tech-savvy consumers in all demographic segments are investing time in deciding how to invest their money. Consider this stat from one category alone: home appliance searches increased by 25 percent in the past year. That level of activity is clearly not driven by professional designers and builders alone!

Reaching SIYers

SIYers spend countless hours researching, selecting and approving the purchase of various new products and enhancements for their home spaces. This presents savvy brands with a number of opportunities, particularly in the digital space, to capture attention, captivate this highly engaged audience and convert them into purchasing customers, either on their own or through a professional contact they hire for upcoming projects.

First and foremost, your brand and its offerings must be present and digestible in order to be truly considered. Enhance the user experience by mapping your website and social media channels to match key conversion moments in the buyer’s journey. This may include refreshing your “top of funnel” messaging and introducing new digital ads that will get them hooked on your products from a storytelling and/or visual standpoint, as well as attending to their research-oriented interests with visualizers, spec sheets and a plethora of install photos and videos that help them to literally see your products in a variety of contexts. The goal here is to inform and inspire.

For those who are deeper in the funnel, perhaps the next step would be to offer consultative services or a means of connecting them to someone in their area that can coordinate and handle the installation. Notably, by providing a point of connection between the SIYers and

trade professionals in their local area, you will be reinforcing your brand’s value with both audiences and endearing them to keep you in mind for future projects, referrals and engagement.

A Resilient Market Niche

The bottom line is that “Specify-It-Yourself”ers have already carved out a powerful niche in todays’ market, and they’re not going anywhere. They’re intelligent, ready to purchase and willing to pay for high quality installation. This makes them an audience segment that’s not to be missed.

With the onset of the global pandemic, the home became even more valuable as a safe space with enormous potential. According to Improving America’s Housing 2021, the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, yet “spending on home improvements and repairs grew more than three percent, to nearly $420 billion, as households modified living spaces for work, school, and leisure.”

While COVID-19 hastened the trend of homeowners investing in their homes, it also gave them more time to become self-educated on materials and trends via online searches and information consumption, including direct insights from professional webinars conducted via Zoom and similar tools. In effect, the pandemic created the perfect environment for SIYers to grow in terms of both the acquisition of detailed specification information and the motivation to put that newfound knowledge to work for them.

Let’s Get To Work

Say hello to the 21st century home products consumer, the SIYer. They know what they want, how they ultimately want it to look and function, and where they want it installed. They just don’t want to pick up the trowel or hammer themselves. Again, this creates a unique opportunity for intentional marketers and brands to reach them at various points along the buyer’s journey while also building connections (and therefore value) with builders, designers, architects and other building and construction professionals.

To learn more about the Specify-It-Yourself audience, and to begin tailoring your brand’s messaging for this distinctive segment, contact Merlot Marketing at

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest