Brand Experience Breakdown: One New Homeowner’s Experiment With Curbside Pickup

Editor’s Note: Consumer spending behavior changed rapidly in early 2020. People began making the bulk of their purchases online as states and stores shut down due to a public health emergency that was sweeping the nation. This is part of a series of articles that highlight elements of a consumer’s ecommerce shopping experience. 

My wife and I had just bought our first house together in December and the coming of Spring brought with it a surprising number of weeds that needed to be addressed, along with a demonstration of how fast a lawn really grows when you’re the only one responsible for it.

I grew up not far from a The Home Depot and would take trips there often with my father, so it’s a brand I’m familiar with and the first one to come to mind when I needed to decide where to make my purchase of a lawnmower. Luckily, there’s one just down the road from my new house as well, so the choice was easy. 

While I normally would just visit the store, pick out what I need, and drive home, I decided to test out their online buying experience. For context, this happened during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and we were all being extra careful to minimize contact with other people. 

My onsite experience

When I first visited The Home Depot’s website, there was no call to action for me to join their mailing list. For purposes of this experiment, I went ahead and made an account and gave them my email address anyway.

Choosing which model of lawnmower I wanted ended up being a fairly painless process. While the site had a lot of lawnmowers available, they made it easy to sort by a variety of features, including which were in stock at my nearest store, which was very helpful.

I found a model in my price range and read a few of its 2,600 consumer reviews before determining that this particular one would be a good fit.

Just to see what would happen, I put the lawnmower into my cart and clicked away from the website. Then, I went on about my weekend.

When I checked my email a few days later, I had received a couple of messages from The Home Depot.

These messages were a bit repetitive, but they definitely got the point across. 

I do think this is one area where their email marketing strategy could feel a little more personalized. These generic-looking emails don’t really inspire me to continue with my purchase or make me feel like I’m connecting with the brand. Instead, they feel more like a transactional email, which isn’t what you should aim for in your abandoned cart messaging. 

There’s an opportunity here to improve the copy to feel more personal, particularly in the preview text. The Home Depot could use my name and perhaps reference the product I abandoned to catch my eye and remind me of why I was shopping in the first place. 

“Trevor, don’t let your yard get out of control! Your new lawn mower is waiting,” feels a lot better than the preview text originally sent, which seems to communicate the bare minimum.

The email itself was actually pretty nice. It included a large picture of the mower and accompanying product details, along with a few other product recommendations, one of which I ended up buying in the future—nice job with those algorithms, Home Depot! I clicked through and made my purchase.

My checkout experience

When checking out, I had the option of choosing delivery, in-store pickup, or curbside pickup, where you pull your car up to the store and they load your purchase into your car for you. I opted for the “curbside pick up” option as we had a truck rented while our car was in the shop and I wanted to put it to good use. 

I provided all of the necessary payment details and elected to give my phone number so that I would receive a text when my mower was ready to be picked up. Within an hour, my phone buzzed, so my wife and I hopped in the car and drove over to The Home Depot.

The pick-up experience was certainly unique. We followed some confusingly laid out signs directing us to the line for curbside pickup and eventually pulled up behind another vehicle. 

Parallel to us was a socially-distanced line of people waiting to enter the store. This line of masked people stretched across the length of the store. I was honestly surprised to see so many people waiting to go inside, especially with the option of curbside pickup available!

We sat in the car for about 20 minutes, slowly inching our way to the front of the line, before a man appeared outside our window. From six feet away and through a face mask, he asked for our order number. As the order number was about ten digits long, I just held my phone out the window at arm’s length for him to copy it down on his notepad before disappearing into the store.

A few more minutes passed and he reappeared with a large box on a cart. I was thankful for the extra space of our rented truck as he loaded the lawnmower into the back. We said thank you and pulled out of the line to head home.

Overall, I ended up feeling pretty good about the curbside pick up experience. I felt safe the entire time and The Home Depot is clearly cautious about respecting social distancing. My only thought for improvement was that maybe there was another way to have customers wait for their purchases since it felt a bit wasteful to have to sit in that line with my car running, slowly moving forward every minute or so.

Fortunately, they had improved this process by the time I returned to buy the weed whacker suggested in my abandoned cart emails. Instead of waiting in line, there were marked parking spaces to park in. You could simply pull your car in, call a number to let them know you arrived, tell them the number of your parking spot, and wait for them to bring out your order. Easy!

The post-purchase experience

The Home Depot certainly had a solid post-purchase experience. I appreciated that The Home Depot sent thank you emails after I picked up my order. They even waited a few days and sent an email asking if the product I purchased met my expectations. 

This email included a simple form asking me for an overall rating from one to five stars, along with a text box where I could submit a 300-character review summary. This is a great way to get consumer feedback and you can tell it works by the thousands of reviews left on their products!

But still, the post-purchase email experience is another area that I feel The Home Depot could improve by including a more personal touch. Primarily, I’d recommend to them that they scale back the volume of their sending and make their messaging more unique to my behavior and preferences. 

For example, between June 21st and July 5th, I received six emails informing me of “Summer Savings.” That’s about an email every other day. 

This feels like a rather aggressive email strategy and gives off the impression that they’re using more of a “batch-and-blast” methodology instead of using more targeted segmentation

It would feel a lot less “spammy” if they paid attention to whether or not I was engaging with their marketing with either opens or clicks before sending me every email they decide to promote.

My overall experience with The Home Depot

The Home Depot has definitely laid the groundwork for a positive online shopping experience. Their product recommendations were spot on, which helped convert me to a repeat purchaserBut they could use a few tweaks to really bring a more meaningful, personalized experience to their customers.

One way to do this would be to collect more personal data while I’m on the site and then segment based on that. For example, just asking a few questions about me and what projects I’m working on through a pop-up form would help them better understand who I am as a customer and what kinds of products I would be interested in.

With a product catalog as large as The Home Depot’s, trying to understand my individual needs throughout my onsite experience would definitely help them more accurately target their marketing messages to me later on.

As a new homeowner working on my first yard, I should receive a very different email than a professional contractor working on their hundredth house and I’m just not seeing that. Thinking through those different customer experiences would truly bring their email marketing to the next level.

All in all, The Home Depot made shopping online an easy experience. While I do think their overall email marketing strategy could use a more personalized touch, I have no complaints about the ordering process itself. I’d happily return to their site again and place another order for curbside pickup. 

Interested in more brand breakdowns? Find out one designers’s experience buying Turkish towels.

 

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