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 Home Depot

2,200 stores

Launched e-commerce in 2000


Lowe's

1,750 stores

Launched e-commerce in 2000


With more and more consumers using digital technology throughout the purchase process, home specialty retailers such as The Home Depot and Lowe's are bridging their in-store offerings with a multichannel approach to keep up with the various consumer touchpoints. The two companies share a foundational strategy and execution, if little else. 


With 450 more stores than Lowe's, Home Depot enjoys a larger footprint than its most direct competitor. Despite that physical advantage, the two companies' e-commerce sites are relatively even. According to Compete.com, Home Depot received 19.2 million unique visitors to its homepage in April 2011, while Lowe's was close behind with 17.9 million. 


On the surface, the e-commerce sites of Home Depot and Lowe's could be fraternal twins. Both dedicate the majority of their homepages to product promotion. Both thread how-to information throughout the site. They even use the same SMS short code service. 


When Direct Marketing News opted in to product news via the brands' online circulars, the text messages from Home Depot and Lowe's showed up in the same conversation stream because they came from the same number. For better or worse, the general homogeneity permits the differing details, whether they are valuable innovations or missed opportunities, to chasm the two brand experiences. 


Home Depot's e-commerce homepage maintains a streamlined effect with a focus on product promotion, whereas Lowe's is much busier with multiple offers and features. Casey Sheehan, design director at interactive marketing agency SapientNitro, praises Home Depot's "clean and simple approach." 


"It's just a rich take on products," he says. "They're not pushing promotions down your throat. It's really just about giving you almost a one-page brochure experience on their homepage."


Lowe's, however, includes consumer-generated product ratings alongside items on the category pages, which can also help an unsure shopper. Home Depot includes these ratings on a product's landing page or in its "Quickview" overlay, which only displays one product at a time. Home Depot also gives consumers the ability to share products to social networks. 


"The share feature in today's day and age seems like table stakes. It's such an easy thing for a brand to execute on, and I'm actually surprised that Lowe's is not doing that," says Sheehan. He was also surprised by the absence of a Lowe's mobile app for consumers. 


Lowe's has developed one for realtors, but consumers are limited to the retailer's mobile-optimized site whose primary function is m-commerce. Home Depot complements its mobile site with an iOS app that features how-to videos and a virtual toolbox that can convert an iPhone into a tape measure, nut and bolt finder or paint calculator. The app also features a barcode reader to scan in-store quick response (QR) codes, which deliver product information and how-to videos.


"We know customers are increasingly using their mobile devices to assist in the purchasing process, and using QR codes enables us to more closely connect our stores and customers to our digital content," Home Depot said, in a statement to Direct Marketing News. 


Unfortunately, the Android version of the app does not feature how-to videos, a virtual toolbox or QR code reader.


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