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Home Depot’s mobile checkout drives customer satisfaction during busy periods

Not only is Home Depot experiencing strong in-store traffic and sales so far this year, the chain’s customer service scores are also on the rise, a positive trend attributed, in part, to the use of in-store mobile devices by store associates.

The home improvement chain reported this week that same-store sales rose 6.1 percent during the first quarter of 2015 while revenue, also up 6.1 percent, reached $20.1 billion. In anticipation of the busy spring season, Home Depot rolled out the second generation of a smartphone specifically designed for store associates earlier this year, making it easier for them to help customers locate products, check inventory on hand, explain product features and check out when lines are long.

“Operationally, in the quarter, we hired over 75,000 associates to ramp up for our spring season,” said Craig Menear, chairman, president and CEO of Home Depot, during a conference call with analysts to discuss the results. “Flexibility is required to be successful in spring and our associates and store operators were able to do just that.

“They officially managed the freight flow within the store, while maintaining focus on providing strong customer service in the aisle,” he said. “And our second-generation First Phone enabled us to expedite the checkout process for customers during peak traffic periods.

“We had the highest first quarter transactions in company history and at the same time saw our Net Promoter Scores improved during the quarter.”

Line busting
A company’s Net Promoter Score reflects how likely customers are to recommend the business to a friend, thereby gauging loyalty and customer satisfaction. By equipping store associates with smartphones, Home Depot is helping keep the checkouts moving during its busiest periods, a strategy that helps support a positive shopping experience.

The new phones provide an enhanced experience over the original version, which was introduced in 2010, featuring a more intuitive interface, Internet access and The Home Depot mobile application (see story).

The phones, which are also smaller and weigh less than the pervious version, also bring a significant improvement to mobile checkout – which was previously available – in that there is no longer a need to connect a separate attachment. This helps store associates reduce checkout line wait times during busy periods.

The phone can also be used to check out customers in the outside garden area of stores.

Besides serving as a phone, the device also acts as a walkie-talkie and inventory management tool. Additionally, store associates can use the phone to look up products and conduct business analytics.

Approximately 40,000 next-generation First Phones were expected to be distributed to Home Depot associates across the country.

In-store experience
The phone is just one of the ways that Home Depot is leveraging mobile to enhance the in-store experience.

The retailer’s mobile app helps customers identify product locations with an enhanced product locator that uses voice. Shoppers can say what they are looking for and the app provides the aisle and bay number where the item is located.

The chain also introduced 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 (see story).

Springing ahead
Home Depot has been gearing up for months to be well positioned for the spring onslaught, with mobile advertising playing a critical role.

Spring can be a busy time for home improvement retailers as consumers look to tackle home improvement and yard projects during the warm weather months. This annual trend could be getting a boost this year due the particularly long, cold winter experienced by many as well as the fact that the job market is strong right now.

In April, Home Depot reached consumers’ whose minds were turning to home improvement projects with native ads on the Huffington Post mobile news feed while simultaneously experimenting with the effectiveness of deep links (see story).  

“Mobile checkout is just one of the great First Phone features that’s helped us maintain strong customer service even when we’re at our busiest,” said Stephen Holmes, director of corporate communications at Home Depot. “It’s a fantastic tool during our busy spring selling season.”

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