When The Home Depot Inc. launched a redesigned web site just before Memorial Day, it was just the first step in an ongoing series of improvements that have led to increased site visits and higher conversion and customer satisfaction rates.
“Back when we did the redesign, one of the things I talked about was that we were on an 18-to-24 month journey,” says Hal Lawton, president of online at Home Depot, No. 39 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “The expansion of the site in May was kind of a notable event because it changed the aesthetics of the site so much. But we’ve got significant releases that we’re making each and every month to the site.”
As a result of the changes, visits to the site are up 20% year over year and conversion rates are up 30%, Lawton says. Both internal and external satisfaction scores also have increased, he says, noting that in ForeSee Results Inc.’s 2010 Top 100 Internet Retailers spring survey Home Depot was one of the most improved sites in terms of customer satisfaction, scoring 77 out of 100 points, compared with 70 out of 100 points in the previous survey.
Lawton attributes the results to not only the site redesign but other innovations including e-mail retargeting introduced during the first half of 2010.
“In the past, we sent out generic promotional e-mails to all of our e-mail subscribers twice a week,” he says. “Now, if you come on the site, we’re going to send you e-mails that pertain to the content you looked at on the site, or if you put something in a cart but didn’t check out.” Home Depot also has more than 20 category-specific e-mails that it sends weekly to customers. ExactTarget is Home Depot’s e-mail vendor.
Home Depot also introduced personalization on the home page, product pages and at checkout using Certona Corp.’s software. “We’re seeing significant success there based on an individual’s specific clickstream data and history and cookies,” he says.
Search engine optimization also has been improved, with Home Depot creating unique meta-data for content pages and product pages, Lawton says. In addition, the retailer implemented auto-fill for its search box, resulting in significant improvement in site satisfaction rates and conversions, he says.
Another feature implement by Home Depot during the first half is automatic localization based on a site visitor’s IP address.
“If you go on most retailers’ sites, they’ll ask you to enter your ZIP code to localize you to a store,” Lawton says. “We actually sniff the IP address of a visitor when they come on our site, and over 90% of our visitors we localize to a store based on the IP address of their computer versus having to ask them.”
Research showed that retailers don’t inherently understand the need to localize, Lawton says. “Most retailers end up localizing their customers well into the shopping process, and you create significant disappointment by showing a product that they aren’t able to purchase either online or at the store,” he says.
Home Depot also has standardized shipping processes, better defined how long it will take to process and ship an order, and implemented free shipping for all orders over $249. The site features a calculator in the header and at checkout that enables customers to calculate how much more they need to spend to get to $249, Lawton says.
Improvements to HomeDepot.com will continue through the end of the year, Lawton says.