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Home Depot doubles down on in-app interactive shopping tools

The Home Depot is supporting shoppers’ omnichannel needs with several new interactive tools available across its application and mobile Web site that are designed to simplify finding and buying the right products for the lawn and garden this spring.

With consumers’ thoughts turning to spending time outside now that winter is winding down, The Home Depot has introduced the Mulch and Top Soil Calculator, Grass Seed Calculator as well as the Weed, Plant and Pest Problem Solver. By streamlining the shopping process for smartphone-equipped consumers, the retailer is taking some of the frustration out of shopping from a small screen, whether a purchase is completed in–store, online or inside the application.

“All [the tools] have been developed with mobile customer/shopper in mind,” said Stephen Holmes, director of corporate communications at The Home Depot, Atlanta, GA.

“Mobile is playing a huge role in our spring marketing efforts and continues to grow across our interconnected retail strategy,” he said. “We’re active with mobile display advertising, social media, paid search.”

Removing guesswork
The new interactive tools are designed to take some of the guesswork out of purchasing products for the yard. The Home Depot hopes to make it easier for consumers to shop when, where and how they want as they prepare for warmer weather by getting their lawns and yards in shape.

The Mulch and Top Soil Calculator involves three steps to help shoppers determine just how much mulch they need. Users first pick their type of mulch or topsoil, then calculate the area they wish to cover and, finally, enter how deep they would like the material go.

Once the information has been input, users can click “Calculate” to find out how much mulch they will need. The results can be emailed for future reference.

To use the Weed, Plant and Pest Problem Solver, shoppers answer a few questions about their location and pest or weed problem before being directed to a recommended solution and product.

A recent update to The Home Depot iPhone app made these tools available to users as well as several others, including Paint Color Center, Patio Create Your Own Collection, Fencing Project Planner and Decking Project Planner.

Boosting app sessions
Interactive shopping tools can help retailers provide additional utility to current and potential customers and in turn strengthen a retailer’s point of differentiation. They can also relieve the pressure of always having to compete on price while bridging the gap between products and physical services that retailers offer.

“Interactive shopping tools have always been critical to the success of big box as well as specialty retailers that have large merchandise selections,” said Derrick Lin, brand and mobile strategist at Resource/Ammirati, Columbus, OH.

“Interactive shopping tools are even more critical to the success and longevity of retailer apps since they provide a reason for app users to keep retailer apps on their phones,” he said. “They are a good way to cultivate brand loyalty, boost app sessions and, most important of all, facilitate more opportunities to purchase.”

The Home Depot is also leveraging mobile advertising to drive awareness of its spring offerings, with native ads appearing on the Huffington Post new feed (see story).

The Home Depot’s omnichannel push for spring points to the way that consumers are increasingly shopping across a variety of channels, with almost 40 percent of all orders on in 2014 having been picked up in a local store.

The new tools join Home Depot’s existing array of mobile-focused offerings, including a shopping app that enables users to create a shopping list, check local inventory and locate where a product is in the store.

Using the app’s augmented reality capabilities, shoppers can see what a product would look like in their backyard or on the patio.

Home Depot also offers smartphone-enabled catalogs throughout its stores so shopper can find items not available on the shelves.

The customer journey
As mobile use throughout the shopping journey continues to grow, savvy retailers are exploring interactive shopping tools to enhance the experience.

The key to creating a successful interactive shopping tool on mobile is understanding the customer journey.

“Customers won’t always go directly to the tool sections to find the tool and then start their research,” Mr. Lin said. “And they don’t always know certain tools exist. The ability to serve up tools and the flexibility for mobile users to jump into the tools at multiple phases of their journey is essential.”

Retailers should leverage mobile functionality to augment shopping tools, making them more useful and more enjoyable. Key functionality to consider includes cameras, 6-axis accelerometer, touch screens and Bluetooth.

Retailers with bricks-and-mortar stores also need to think in terms of omnichannel experiences.

“We’re increasingly seeing shoppers use their mobile devices in the aisle to help make purchase decisions,” said Jason Goldberg, global vice president of commerce strategy at Razorfish. “Last Black Friday, for example, 10 percent of Target’s e-commerce sales came from shoppers on mobile devices in a Target store.

“So it’s critical that retailers offer the digital pre-shopping experiences that their consumers are looking for and expecting,” he said. “These new shopping tools from Home Depot are a perfect example of the kinds of experiences digitally enabled shoppers expect in the store.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York