Woman-Centric Design: Marketing to the Decision Makers

We speak with Paul Foresman, Design Basics, LLC.

According to the book Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying & Remodeling Decisions (BuilderBooks.com), women make or direct 91% of the decision to buy a new home.

Now, this is just an observation, but there seem to be a whole lot of, um… guys in the building business.  And according to this week’s guest, Paul Foresman, Business Development Director for the design firm Design Basics, LLC, we guys might be at a disadvantage if we’re not getting an ‘alternate-gender’ perspective on the homes we build, market or sell.

“We interviewed lots and lots of couples, and most of the feedback we got came from Her, not from Him.  We realized that She was making the majority of the decisions when it came to the home plan, the builder, the products for the home, etc.

“Prior to this we had been talking primarily with our customers, most of whom were male, small volume custom builders.  We weren’t getting the homebuyer’s perspective.  So, in 1993, we made a turn and for the past seven years have been trying to get a better feel for Her preferences in housing today.”

Does the Woman-Centric approach really work?  Will it help builders sell more homes?  “One builder in Maine,” reports Foresman, “sold 17 homes in 2008, the year they got started with Woman-Centric Design.  In 2009 they sold 28 homes – that’s more than a 50% increase in sales!  Another builder in Rhode Island had been selling 15-20 homes per year.  He started with the Woman-Centric approach in January of 2008, and by December 2009 he had sod 149 Woman-Centric homes.  Another builder in Fargo, SD that builds with our program reported that 2009 was his best year ever.

“So, it’s making a big difference for a lot of our builders.  It’s a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from everyone else in the marketplace. ”

What is Woman-Centric?

Woman-Centric Design is the science of looking at every feature of a home through a woman’s eyes.  Foresman describes the four ‘lenses’ through which women see and measure a home or plan – those areas used for entertaining, de-stressing, flexible working, and storage/organization.  “Women taught us that we have to bring in both the practical, functional aspects of design and have the aesthetics – the ‘wow’ first impressions.”

Design Basics developed the Woman-Centric concept through over 7 years of research, including holding numerous focus groups.  “But we also spent time with women in their homes watching what they would do to overcome common design deficiencies,” says Foresman.  He cites an example of watching a woman bring her dogs back in through a sliding door.  It had been raining and the dogs were tracking their muddy paws onto the carpet.   Woman-Centric design would call for a hard surface transition area where pet’s could be towelled before they reached the carpet.

Woman-Centric in Action
What are some of the design elements that make a home more desirable?  Foresman lists a few for us here:

Spa Shower:  “Our research shows that 78% of women never use the bathtub in the master bath.  So when you start designing master bathrooms around the idea of an oversized spa shower, you can create a much more desirable master bath.”

Pet Friendly:  Places for dogs to shake off when they come in wet and to store pet toys and supplies.

Work-In Pantries that are big enough to prepare food in and that has an extra dishwasher and sink.  This de-clutters a kitchen, even allowing some upper cabinets to be replaced with windows for a more open feel.

Entertainment Kitchens that flow seamlessly into other living spaces and that accommodate larger groups.

Lockers in the transition space between the garage and home so that every family member can store their personal items.

Attractive Front-Entrance Garages:  “We found that women prefer to be able to pull straight in and back straight out of the garage as opposed to making the sharp turns often required for side-load door.”

Other trends that Foresman sees coming include smaller floorplans, fewer formal living rooms, and formal dining rooms being replaced with breakfast rooms that are open to adjoining living spaces.  “More open spaces; more free flowing and flexible spaces that keep people together.”

Benefits of Woman-Centric Building
“Our builders have come to recognize that the Woman-Centric floorplans represent innovation and leadership in their marketplace.  That helps them to differentiate themselves from everybody else.  When you go into their homes it’s not necessarily the same thing you’ve been seeing in other builder’s models.  When buyers are introduced to these concepts, such as not having to walk through the laundry room to get from the garage into the house, they ask, ‘Why don’t all builders build this way?’  It just makes sense.

“And these designs aren’t gender-specific.  The things we put into these designs tend to make guys every bit as happy as the ladies.  These houses just live well.  And that’s what we’re focusing on.  It’s the livability as well as the aesthetics; in this marketplace you’ve got to have both.

“So builders using these plans and design concepts are able to show buyers, not just the home and the design, but the products that go into it, emphasizing a redesigned customer experience that is going to be nothing short of remarkable.

“We want to give a new definition as to what value really is,” says Foresman.  “Let everybody else compete on price; I want to focus on making everyone else obsolete by creating a remarkable Woman-Centric model home.”


Ready to make your homes Woman Centric? Contact Design Basics to get started.

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