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Home Depot Store Visits Driven By Targeting Shoppers Before — And After

The home improvement retailer is trying its best to tie mobile pageviews whenever they happen to its brick-and-mortar outlets.

In the five years that Matt Jones has been general manager of mobile at Home Depot, he’s been championing the idea that customers today are more connected and more technologically savvy than they ever have been before. It’s because of that savviness that diving straight into making the retailer’s mobile app as capable as possible was one of his first priorities.

That confidence paid off over the holidays when Home Depot saw nearly 950,000 mobile page views in a single hour on Black Friday, a record for the company. But beyond the big shopping bumps on days like Black Friday, Home Depot sees mobile and omnichannel as trends that will continue long into the future. The retailer saw 1.5 billion site visits in 2015, with 50 percent of those being from mobile or tablet. “It’s all about giving the consumer more control,” Jones said.

GeoMarketing: How have Home Depot’s app’s in-store capabilities expanded?

Matt Jones: If you think about the Home Depot app for iOS and Android, three or four years ago we really started to go down a road of driving a couple of specific tactics that we wanted to go after to support our omnichannel or our interconnected retail strategy. One was making products easier to find. Now, that was in the app, that’s our online catalog, or that means in the store for our store customer.

We’ve accelerated our efforts in the last year to improve our search capability. This could be text search, this could be voice search, this could be image search, it could be barcode search. Those are all areas where we’ve leaned in to try to improve the ability of the customer to find the right product that they’re looking for.

What are the differences in use cases and results from the various search features the mobile app employs?

You’re probably familiar with things like voice search. Image search is something that’s fairly unique. That allows you to take a picture of a product and we try to find, not necessarily a direct match, but we try to find products that are in the right category, then allow you to browse through and narrow down from there. Obviously on text search we’ve done a lot of different things with type ahead and things of that nature to continue to improve that.

Then, on the in store piece, we’ve probably been recognized as leaders because we have some unique customer problems for customers in our stores. We’ve got 2,000 stores across the U.S. They’re roughly 100,000 square feet, very, very large stores that are complicated to shop in, complicated to find the right product. Mobile seemed like the perfect channel to try to solve some of those customer problems around ‘help me find what I’m looking for when I’m in the store.’ We’ve been leaders in things like utilizing aisle bay, utilizing store maps, pins on maps. You’re going to continue to see us drive forward to try to solve those problems for customers when they’re in the store.home depot app

The image search is probably helpful for a lot of people who go to Home Depot who know what the item they want looks like, but not necessarily what it is.

You’re exactly right. There are a lot of products that we sell where you don’t know what it’s called, but you walk into the store, and you have it in your hand, and you’re trying to find an associate, you just say to them, “Help me find this,” right? Using image search, you don’t have to be in the store to start to get some help to continue that customer journey of finding out what that part is, finding out if it’s in stock, finding out how much it costs, finding out if it has solid ratings and reviews, all of those things can happen prior to you actually heading out to the store.

“I’d say we spend the same number of calories on the pre-store visit, as we do the in store visit, as we do the post-store visit.”

I’d say we spend the same number of calories on the pre-store visit, as we do the in store visit, as we do the post-store visit.

How do you balance the energy and focus that’s spent on the pre-, present-, and post-store visitation?

If you think about it, you’re shopping for an item and you don’t even know what item it is. By utilizing our website, by utilizing our app, there are a number of tools that can help inform you about simple, basic things like the store hours or the store nearest to me. Then obviously being able to have real-time access to the store inventory and in a lot of instances, save you a trip. Then being able to look at product descriptions, being able to look at detailed information about the product, high-resolution imagery, 360 spin, ratings and reviews can all help inform you prior to going to the store.

Once you get to the store, your number one question is, “Okay, I know what it is I want,” let’s say you do in this case, “Where is it?” Well, we’ve got aisle and bay information in the app that will tell you down to the specific bay location or bin location where that product is. Then from a receipt standpoint, let’s say you go ahead and you do purchase that product in the store. If you have an account with Home Depot, we’ll store that physical store transaction in your account so you have access to that receipt any time you need it in case you need to make a return or if you need a re-order or something like that. There’s a pre, there’s a during, and there’s oftentimes a post. Then there’s an out of store and an in store component or layer. We spend a lot of time thinking about that whole continuum or that whole customer journey.

Are the metrics the same for each of those touchpoints along the purchase path?

We don’t weigh an in-store visit or in-store traffic any greater or less than we do traffic or visits that come from somebody who is at home, or on the job, or in their car, or in the parking lot of the store. Those are all components of the successful interconnected retail kind of shopping experience. The most important thing for us is to make sure that we’re connecting the dots and that it’s a seamless experience throughout. What we don’t want to have happen is the inventory to be wrong, let’s say, so that you make a trip out to the store and there isn’t a product there, or for products to be out of stock, or for the site to not perform in a high degree of speed, and up time, and availability, and things like that. Those are basic building blocks of a successful omnichannel business.

What have you learned about the nature of omnichannel retail in the past five years that you wish you had known when you first started? What’s something you would tell another retailer who’s trying to do a similar thing?

I’d say you’ve got to relentlessly focus on the customer. That one challenge in doing that is the customer is more diverse in terms of their needs than ever before and in different places in terms of a technology adoption continuum, if you will. What I meant by that some customers are going to always prefer to go into Home Depot, and talk to somebody, and get help, and want to have an orange apron [Home Depot sales associate] guide them to a product, affirm the decision that they’re making about what to purchase, things like that.

“The customer is more diverse in terms of their needs than ever before.”

What I think we’ve seen in the last probably five or ten years, though, is this new type of customer or shopper who wants to do it themselves, and is very familiar with technology, and very comfortable with technology, and has utilized technology to solve particular problems, whether it’s booking movie tickets, or booking an Uber, or something like that. That didn’t really exist ten years ago and so I guess the overall point is just if you have a big, diverse customer base like Home Depot, they’re not always necessarily one size fits all solutions and there are adoption curves that are going to take place that take years to really understand from a pattern point of view.

We’ve got to provide a seamless, phenomenal, delightful user experience regardless of the channel that the customer wants.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.