Despite a recent high-profile data breach, The Home Depot (THD), the world's largest home improvement retailer, reported sales of $23.8 billion for the second quarter of fiscal 2014, a 5.7 percent increase from the second quarter of fiscal 2013. One of the reasons for these positive results is a women-friendly makeover that is already paying dividends.
It has been interesting to track the retailer’s transformation efforts. Facing intense competition from arch-rival Lowes over market share, the transformation included a complete “about-face” as it relates to marketing to women shoppers - as well it should.
It’s easy to overlook (especially if you’re male) the fact that almost two-thirds of all home improvement decisions are made by the female member of the household. So any go-to-market strategy must include this critical segment. Historically, however, THD focused its marketing efforts on attracting the “tool belt” and weekend handyman crowds and paid little attention to getting women into their stores.
A quick comparison of the shopping experiences traditionally offered at Lowes and The Home Depot highlights the difference in strategies. The Home Depot is a bit messy. Tradesmen are walking about in work clothes and there are folk trucks in the isles filled with pallets that look like they can topple over onto a passerby at a moment’s notice. The experience can be a tad intimidating for someone who is unfamiliar with such a ‘masculine’ environment.
Lowes, on the other hand, is bright and shiny. Floors are freshly-waxed, a member of staff greets customers at the entrance and directs them to the products they are most interested in finding. It is a welcoming experience, one that many women may prefer when compared to THD.
But things are changing. The Home Depot understands that they need to improve and enhance their shopping experience. Their stores are beginning to become less cluttered and better lit. Greeters have been introduced in most stores. New product lines have appeared, including Martha Stewart, intended to appeal to female customers.
Even their advertising has shifted to be more female-friendly and focused. Recent print ads show a young couple perusing the curtain and fixture aisle, while television campaigns depict a family walking into the store with mom and dad, hand-in-hand and junior all in tow. He’s pulling a little red wagon suggesting that he can shop there, too.
The messaging here is clear. The Home Depot is a great place to shop, safe and pleasant - comfortable for the whole family. And that’s a message that appeals to a woman’s sensibilities.
But there are other changes, too, that THD can implement to boost its appeal to female clientele, including:
- Offering hand-held devices that can be used to check pricing and identify product locations within the store to limit dependencies on finding a member of staff to help;
- Prequalifying sub-contractors and providing report cards from other THD customers on their experiences with the sub-contractor so to improve the installation experience;
- Providing additional female-friendly DIY workshops and online tutorials to help demystify home improvement projects for the female shopper;
- Maintain a list of toll-free numbers to help customers find replacement parts for products bought in THD’s stores;
- Better train THD staff about products and installation knowledge to enhance their capabilities to assist customers.
Today’s financial report shows that THD’s transformation effort is paying dividends. We can expect more changes and improvements in the customer experience to be introduced in the future. As for now, it is wonderful to see what an organization can do when it sets its mind and is deliberate in its commitment to make changes.