Hardware chains match multichannel efforts nearly nail for nail

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Hardware chains match multichannel efforts nearly nail for nail
Hardware chains match multichannel efforts nearly nail for nail
The competition flip-flops when it comes to email marketing. Lowe's dominates the channel, if only by following the Woody Allen adage of simply showing up. Lowe's sent an introductory email a few hours after subscribing on the company's e-commerce site, while it took Home Depot two weeks to send its first note even after 
Direct Marketing News subscribed to Home Depot's five email newsletters — including ones dedicated to the local weekly ads, in-store and online promotions, home improvement education and two from the retailer's Garden Club. 


Home Depot did not respond to questions about its email marketing strategy.


"If I subscribe to a brand and have shown that much interest, just having a courtesy welcome email is given," says Sheehan. "That's a huge missed opportunity."


Home Depot's email mirrored its straightforward e-commerce homepage with much emphasis on its products augmented with seasonal offers. Lowe's initial email includes a link to its subscription preference center, at which consumers can opt-in to any or all of the company's nine emails that are sent out on weekly, monthly, seasonal or occasional schedule. Both companies' emails include links to weekly ads and a store locator. Both companies also include product discounts in their emails, but only Lowe's specified the date when an offer expires. 


Neither Home Depot nor Lowe's have implemented an abandoned shopping cart email program.


Lowe's also edges out Home Depot with its direct mail offerings. While Home Depot serves up various catalogs and how-to guides, like its Outdoor Power Guide, its offerings feel like a catalog-cum-textbook in comparison with Lowe's three custom magazines, such as Lowe's Creative Ideas, which shirks product shilling for the type of consumer-friendly content usually found in a lifestyle magazine.


While Lowe's magazines bake in authenticity, this is not always present in its social media channels where the retailer spends more time on product promotions and offers. When it does pose a fun question, though, its customer response rate succeeds Home Depot.


For example, a May 17 Facebook post asking whether toilet paper should roll over or under generated 1,494 comments and 420 likes within a week. Home Depot spends more time on its Twitter page than on Facebook and its fan counts reflect this, as does customer engagement on each channel. For example, from May 1 through May 21, Home Depot averaged 104 comments per Facebook post; Lowe's averaged 299.


Noah Mallin, VP and group director of social media at digital agency Digitas, notes that a successful social strategy for retailers is to deliver value, and not just in the form of deals. "It should feel genuine," he says. "It shouldn't feel like a sales pitch." 


In terms of branding, Home Depot's size is both an advantage and disadvantage. It performed well on Interbrand's "Best Retail Brands 2011" study, coming in at No. 3, just behind Wal-Mart and Target, while the smaller Lowe's ranked 13. Yet, J.D. Power & Associates' 2010 US Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study revealed Lowe's delivers a superior in-store experience to Home Depot based on customer service, store facility, merchandise and price.

Brand Champion

Details delineated the Home Depot vs. Lowe's rubber match. Home Depot's email and social strategy may be to avoid over-messaging its consumers, but that restrained approach allows Lowe's to engage consumers not particularly loyal to either retailer. Home Depot may succeed at the point of purchase, but Lowe's lays a more compelling path to getting there. 


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