HIRI takes a deep data dive in Orlando

Orlando, Fla. -- More than 70 home improvement research and marketing professionals gathered here for the HIRI Spring Conference.

HIRI, the Home Improvement Research Institute, organized seven presentations, with titles such as "Using Qualitative Research to Deepen and Expand Quantitative Insights" and "Engaging the Connected Consumer for Deeper Insight." 

The April 17 event was a day of continuing education for those who participated and was designed to present new insights into the tactics and strategies of home improvement research.

For instance, Ken Habarta, VP consulting for The Futures Company, described qualitative research as "an exploration into real insight." The qualitative category of research includes the "usual suspects" of focus groups, in-depth interviews and shop-alongs, but also includes new forms such as the study of consumer scrapbooks or diaries and numerous online social networking tools.

He said the purpose of research and data is to tell a story, and a great way to tell a story is to combine quantitative research with qualitative research. 

"Data alone is not an insight," Habarta said. "Data is a fact. It is not, however, an insight of its own. An insight rests on a deeper understanding of that information." 

The event also included a presentation on the outlook for home improvement spending. James Gillula, managing director of IHS Global Insight, based in Washington, D.C., pointed to a number of positive signs for the economy, but also obstacles to faster growth. 

"We see the housing market continuing to improve over the course of 2013," he said. "But the pace of growth is a little below the percentage growth already achieved in 2012."

After a soft first quarter of 2013, the IHS forecast sees between 4% and 6% increases in year-over-year home improvement product sales for the next several quarters. 

The Home Improvement Research Institute is a membership-based, independent, not-for-profit organization of about 80 manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and allied organizations in the home improvement industry.