Hardware giant Bunnings Warehouse says it has embraced influencer marketing to capture gen Z shoppers, but a leading social media expert believes Australia’s strongest brand could miss a “huge audience” if it doesn’t stake a claim on TikTok.
Speaking at the Global DIY Summit over the weekend, Bunnings Group CEO Michael Schneider told industry luminaries his business is adopting a new strategy to entice younger buyers.
The Australian reports Schneider spent much of his address outlining a looming problem for the brand: the declining home ownership rates of young Australians.
Bunnings became a national mainstay by targeting the home improvement market — and did phenomenal business through COVID-19 lockdowns, as government incentives and low interest rates encouraged homeowners to renovate — but millennial and gen Z customers are simply less likely to own a home than their parents.
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“We believe gen Z have defined attitudes and preferences that will require a re-imagining of the DIY shopping experience,” Shneider said, indicating the business will focus on DIY products and services outside its traditional remit.
To do this, Bunnings is “working extensively with social influencers to bring DIY inspiration to life in a relevant and relatable way,” he said.
Young Australians are learning about DIY projects through their social media feeds, he added. As a result, Bunnings is “seeking out social influencers and brands on social media, and thinking about apps to help visualise a space online, blogs and YouTube videos”.
Bunnings now boasts in excess of 350,000 followers on Instagram, with many posts on its feed not coming from the brand itself, but from lifestyle influencers recruited to style and re-purpose goods sold in the big box store.
While the backyard renovations and kitchen overhauls remain, the Bunnings’ Instagram now showcases content renters can emulate, provided by professional DIY influencers.
The videos showcase a fresh, decor-forward side of Bunnings, beyond the blokey connotations often associated with hardware stores and home improvement.
Using social media marketing to reach young consumers is an essential strategy for major brands, says Tom Maynard, director of social media production and talent agency Amplify.
“You have to fish where the fish are, which is on social media and on their phone,” Maynard tells SmartCompany.
The fact many content creators are also young aspiring homeowners lends a sense of authenticity to Bunnings’ outreach, he adds.
“By working directly with creators, Bunnings has a huge opportunity to talk to an audience they would not ordinarily have access to.”
TikTok has “changed the game”
Of course, Bunnings is hardly the only legacy brand to lean into social media marketing.
An active community of ‘hack’ pages and DIY creators helped department store Kmart revitalise its image, and the brand now partners with social media entrepreneurs on paid advertising campaigns.
But the same Instagram and Facebook strategies that helped Kmart over the past decade may not work for Bunnings in the years to come, Maynard says.
“TikTok has changed the game since the pandemic hit us,” he says.
While the app is popular among all age groups, TikTok users generally skew younger than those on Instagram or Facebook, suggesting a larger in-built audience of gen Z viewers.
Bunnings does not have an official TikTok account, but user-submitted videos bearing the #Bunnings hashtag have been viewed a cumulative 216.8 million times, and the store’s aisles can be seen in countless clips.
(Not every video has been so welcome. Although Australians are all too happy to film their own videos inside Bunnings locations, the company this week came under fire for deploying facial-recognition technology in-store.)
Notably, much of the #bunnings-tagged content posted on TikTok also mirrors the paid influencer marketing content posted to Instagram, suggesting an appetite for DIY content among young TikTokers.
Bunnings has “built a decent social audience on their own platforms over the past decade,” Maynard says, but the brand’s absence on TikTok is conspicuous.
“I find it interesting that they’ve not invested in TikTok yet,” he says. “There are so many niche DIY content communities for them to leverage, they’re missing out on a huge audience opportunity.”
Other major brands have taken the plunge, with Telstra launching a major TikTok offensive over the past 18 months.
Smaller businesses have also benefited from the platform, as it allows professionals to showcase their personality alongside their work.
In his speech, Schneider said Bunnings “started working with influencers a few years ago and today we have an extensive program”.
That program could yet grow to TikTok, of course. And if any brand knows about building a new extension, it’s Bunnings Warehouse.
SmartCompany has contacted the company for comment.