What is happening to big box retailers with customer experience? I toured the aisles of Home Depot over a weekend expecting to find product for my master bath remodel. Alas, the lowest-end vanities, four commodes, maybe six shower fixtures and NO tile I could even remotely consider were featured. As I walked faster through each department, I realized that the brick and mortar business is failing customer experience.
Home Depot Customer Experience Failure
I went to customer service and asked about the selections in the store and mentioned I would need to order online. The CSR immediately told me the online store was not the same as the retail, in-person store. She wanted me to come in with my list and sit with a sales associate and order my vanity direct from the manufacturer or make custom furniture.
After I expressed confusion, I then realized and said, “Oh, I get it. Home Depot corporate is the same but the retail outlet competes with the online outlet for revenue.” The customer service rep said yes.
No wonder people are buying more online, eh? With that kind of customer experience, who wants to go into the brick and mortar store any more? And, I can get delivery to my front door of the 30 lb. sheets of Hardie Backer board for the shower instead of attempting to lift 25 of them through check out myself (because there are no cashiers) and into my vehicle.
After Home Depot took away cashiers at check out several years ago, I stopped going there. I thought I would give it another chance over Lowe’s, but you know what? Lowe’s is beating Home Depot hands down. I even found some tile in the store at Lowe’s and a vanity I could purchase there, too. Guess which retailer is highly likely to get my bathroom remodel business?
Tory Burch And Customer Experience
In the Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2016, I was delighted to see a brand I absolutely love featured in a story about marketing and customer experience. Turns out, Tory Burch has decided to build its ‘first permanent retail outpost for a fledgling brand in the world of athleisure, the fast-growing, still confusing mode of dressing that has overtaken the apparel industry.”
This is a reverse of what most companies do — first they build a brick and mortar business, attract customers and sell, sell, sell. Then, they get an online business to attract a wider audience beyond geographic boundaries.
Tory Burch is disrupting e-commerce + retailing and making a case for the customer experience. Here’s my absolute favorite part of this article in the Wall Street Journal, extracted directly:
“Stores are changing, Ms. Burch says. Their purpose is to engage customers and to build a community. They also can be a place where the online and offline worlds merge. A big cube in the middle of the Tory Sport store has an interactive tabletop where customers can view projected images from the Tory Sport look book.”
What Tory Burch is doing with her new designer store (where only 1-2 sizes are available on the shelf), is to “immerse and entertain shoppers in the fictitious, tightly controlled world the brand creates. It’s a chance to show and explain all that a brand stands for — and to seduce a shopper into buying something.”
Home Depot Meet Tory Burch
Back to the concrete and metal fabricated warehouse that stocks whatever a homeowner or builder needs to maintain a residential or commercial structure. The two experiences are related yet don’t compare.
I had no customer experience at Home Depot. There was no one on the floor to help me; there was no good feeling as I perused the aisles of product stacked to the ceiling. No one cared, no one was engaged, and I was extremely disappointed. The Tory Burch brand and shopping experience, on the other hand, is made to delight. Shoppers are put into a setting of sports leisure with travel destinations and tennis (my absolute fave pasttime). You’re invited to sit, have a beverage, engage interactively, and chat with the designers floating around the store.
Hey, Home Depot, can you take a lesson from Tory Burch?
How I See A Home Depot Customer Experience
Here’s what I want when I walk into a Home Depot or Lowe’s:
- Remember the K-mart blue-light special? An announcer belted out the aisle number for the blue light special and customers in the store raced over to grab something. We had to; we didn’t want to miss a deal. How about that? Put an announcer over the intercom and get a deal going on lighting, paint or other slow movers. Engage the shopper so they feel positive about the brand.
- How about some training demos in the store? Want to show how to tile a shower wall or how to put tile together to design something more exciting than laminate? (Funny, just found a list of DIY workshops on its website, but how are customers made aware of these? I had no idea my store offer these at all.)
- I’d like a gathering place in the store to sit and have a coffee. That way I can look at my list and think while taking a breather.
- You know that garden center that pops up every spring? What an opportunity to have someone demoing shade plants, landscaping, and how to select perennials that bloom in all seasons.
- There’s absolutely nothing appealing about Home Depot for me now; not after this most recent experience that has been a customer experience fail.
Retailers are going to need to get a clue how to re-attract the customer. The online experience, while convenient, is not always the first choice for shopping, but it permits comparison shopping. If you want my business, and I know you do, Home Depot, then act like you care and put people on the floors who are engaging, want to be there, and want to help me.
You can bet had someone approached me and asked if they could help, then you could have rescued my customer experience and made a huge sale on a master bath remodeling project. As it went, I walked out with nothing and my business is going down the street.