Home improvement retail grows online, increasing emphasis on product data agility

September 1, 2020
For years, it seemed that the DIY audience was going to give way to the “do it for me” audience. Home improvement retail has been trying to adapt to the way millennials shop and care for their households, and that has included increasingly digital tactics. Apps in particular have made a lot of headlines. However 2020 is accelerating this shift even more. Now that these audiences are rapidly shifting to DIY and looking into their home improvement options, retailers need to be more creative and digital than ever before.

What makes home improvement retail different after 2020

Major home improvement retailers have been working to upgrade their digital offerings for several years. From Lowe’s revamping its website to the One Home Depot program, multichannel has been steadily growing in importance. Home Depot’s well-known success early this year - whereby they grew their digital business by 80% - is a direct result. Not to mention, order volumes for home and garden brands are reported to have increased by 55% year-over-year.
In other words the pandemic has taken what was already a growing shift and expedited it several times over. Shoppers are now looking to be deeply educated about their options and also to order products online. BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store) in particular is picking up, with Home Depot, Menear and Lowe’s having reported that online shoppers choose to pick up orders in stores over 50% of the time.
With these new habits, there are also new waves for home improvement retailers to stay competitive and get in front of audiences.
home improvemet and diy inspiration
Source: Venveo

New buyers turn to social and instructional content

New DIYers are emerging this year as a result of restrictions and lockdowns, and they’re turning to digital for help getting started with their projects. While sites like Pinterest have always been a great place for these audiences to get started, it’s become clear that there are many more options available to them. In fact, 90% of DIYers watch online how-to videos to help with their DIY Projects.
YouTube and TikTok in particular have become powerhouses for learning how to get things done around the home and garden. Lowe’s alone has acquired 900k+ subscribers, making it clear that digital is an opportunity for brands to better connect with shoppers, if they are able to leverage both SEO and brand building. To furher push their digital presence, home improvement businesses can also serve ads dynamically to these curious shoppers, particularly on YouTube and Pinterest.

Different channels and new ad types

There are a lot of channels out there for performance marketers to spread their message, and it will take time for any existing business to adapt and start leveraging those channels. Luckily most brands retailers are likely already some social and retargeting platforms. These are great places to get started and revamp current advertising to better support multichannel.
However it’s important for these messages to focus not just on general branding or sales. They will be most relevant (and successful) if they highlight specific, targeted products.
Most of today’s biggest platforms offer dynamic ads, and with the right tools, these ads are quite easy to use. Dynamic ads dynamically pair the user (and their data) with the most relevant products from a business’s catalog.
Here are some options you might not yet know about: - Pinterest Shoppings Ads - Facebook Dynamic ads - Instagram Shoppable posts - Snapchat Dynamic Ads - Google Shopping ads - YouTube TrueView for Shopping - And keep an eye out for TikTok, which will likely be joining the bandwagon soon
Another important topic for home improvement (and DIY in particular) is the ad creative. On top of the traditional single-image product ad, there are also many options to do more such as Facebook Collection ads and Slideshow ads. (Learn more about other popular Facebook ad formats over here.)

Digitally native brands and retailers show the way

When it comes to furniture, there are a number of websites that millennials in particular will turn to - and many of them are digitally native brands, retailers, and marketplaces. These businesses can offer a unique, wide array of products. But they also offer something special: a flawless digital experience, especially on their own site.
One thing that many successful digitally native businesses understand is on-site search. It should be easy for shoppers to find products that match their criteria, narrowed down by popularity and quality. Plus, these sites are often built around brilliant cross-selling and upselling recommendations. As a result, this data-first approach makes it easy to create consistent cross-channel product experiences. It won't be the same for established businesses who have a lot of data and a lot of stakeholders. However, what these businesses can do is begin to make their data more agile. By focusing on digital transformation from the top down, it is much easier to get on new channels and create intuitive experiences.

Culture is key for top content

"Culture is organizational 'dark matter' - you can't see it, but its effects are obvious… The challenge is that many organizations have developed a culture of hierarchy and clear boundaries between areas of responsibilities. Digital innovation requires the opposite – collaborative cross-functional and self-directed teams that are not afraid of uncertain outcomes."
Marcus Blosch, research vice-president at Gartner
Oftentimes the blocker for innovation is the talent. It’s not easy to get the right people for new, digitally-centered tasks if that hasn't been the focus in the past. However it can also be the existing mindset within teams, and product content will often suffer when businesses have an out-dated approach. Product content has long been a highly technical task. Marketing and sales teams could use it, but it required certain skills as well as effort. As a result, many home improvement businesses still function as though their content is a complicated, technical asset that only the highly-qualified can understand. This is one area that digital transformation should occur, at least mentally.
Once businesses start to see that this product content can be agile - and easily manageable - that mindset can begin to change. Using a solution like the Productsup platform allows for business user teams to start taking more control of the data and opportunities. They can push the existing culture in a direction of more active product data usage.

What’s next?

It’s important to audit how well your team can manage product data. Can it be easily used to create dynamic ads, and can it be quickly funneled to new channels (which are popping up every few months!)? Can it be used to optimize on-site search as well as product appearances on marketplaces or your own site? Rather than looking into the past and how data has been used historically, ensure that it can be used for all the initiatives you hope to launch in the future. There are countless possibilities, so start with initiatives that make sense to your team.
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Hannah Augur
Senior Content Creator