Home Depot Builds an Online Community
Commentary by Rick Moss
Home Depot originally established its reputation as
a predominantly big box DIY outlet staffed with personable, seasoned pros.
When it worked well, the social aspects of Home Depot’s customer service philosophy
were tangible. An ambitious weekend DIY adventure became somehow within the
reach of the average “all-thumbs” homeowner,
secure in the knowledge that a staff member would be at the point-of-sale to
And so, when its “How-To Community” site launched last
week it seemed like a natural extension of the HD approach to educate and encourage
DIYers. Some market observers compared it to Best Buy’s Twelpforce squadron
of Twitterers. However, the Home Depot effort seems more substantial by comparison
to most, with less emphasis on superficial socializing and more weight on instructional
More akin to a user-forum than a Facebook page, it’s clear that the
How-To Community knowledge-base will grow over time. There is a decent initial
offering to get early visitors started, however, and it’s likely the Home Depot
contributing associates were asked to pay particular attention to seeding the
first round of discussions. (“Experts” work a couple days a week
on the community website instead of on the shop floor.) That said, the response
to consumer inquiries is surprisingly thorough.
In the “Plants & Vegetables” category
of the discussions, for example, “aalicea” posts
an inquiry entitled “Bamboo-zled” in which she asks advice on transplanting
bamboo to a small outdoor flower bed. The response:
- She receives a concise
reply from “greengiant,” a
14-year Home Depot veteran and store horticulturist. (He’s 6′ 9″ tall.)
Ingar (his real name) warns against bamboo’s invasiveness and adds a photo
- A second associate, “hortman” (aka
Ken — associate degree in horticulture) takes aalicea to class on different
bamboo species so that she can first identify what she has and then care
for them accordingly.
- Finally, a professional landscaper
from GardenWorldReport.com gives aalicea options on using outdoor pots for
her bamboo, complete with more photo examples.
The social content on the How-To
Community runs the gamut from this type of interactive threaded discussion
to video blogs, contests and “Meet the
Judging from much of the “Recent Topics” highlighted on the home
page, it appears Home Depot is going after the”lighter” side (i.e.
Lowe’s customer) of its base with home decorator projects as opposed to more
challenging renovation work. But the site also offers plenty of “Project
Guides” and “Buying
Guides.” And these bridge the gap between education and e-commerce to
guide customers as they fill their online shopping carts.
Discussion Questions: How would you rate Home Depot’s efforts in building
their online How-To Community? Do you think the time their associates will
spend working online and away from their in-store duties will be worthwhile?
Will the online community build loyalty and sales with a valuable demographic?