I think that we can all agree that the Covid-19 pandemic was a huge disruption for pretty much the entire world. However, over at the Home Depot their product managers were able to make the most of the opportunity presented by having everyone stay at home with nothing else to do. They gained a lot of customers during the year that nobody went into work. However, now as the pandemic starts to ease up, can those same product managers retain the new customers that they have been able to get?
Good Times For Home Depot
The product managers at Home Depot reacted to the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the U.S. by canceling their annual sales events and pulling many marked-down goods off the shelves in order to keep crowds away from stores. However, rather than a drop in traffic, amid lockdowns and social distancing, their customers began flocking to its physical and online stores, spending stay-at-home savings and government stimulus checks on home-improvement projects. The Atlanta-based company posted its strongest quarterly sales growth in nearly 20 years, with revenue up 23% to $38.1 billion, compared with the same period the year before.A lot of what made all of this possible was how the product managers had implemented technology to make things run smoothly. The product managers quickly spun-out mobile apps for curbside-pickup services and real-time inventory-tracking software, among other tools. The most important thing for the product managers to do during the pandemic was to find ways to keep the Home Depot stores open. To do this, they went to crowd-limiting very early. Within 24 hours, they had an app deployed, running in the cloud, that allowed associates to control the crowds coming in and out of the stores. They had a person who had a hand-held device in front of the store. As one customer goes in, they added them, and as one comes out, they subtracted them. It was not high tech, but it did the job.
As you can well imagine, the Home Depot product managers did not have all of the answers to all of the questions that they faced. They have learned a lot. The pandemic provided them with a wealth of customer feedback, in a compressed time frame, related to the digital capabilities that they offered. Take curbside rollout, for example. Initially they started with a very scrappy, manual process where a customer would arrive at the store after ordering online, inform an associate of their order number, and then the associate would get the order and bring it out. They were able to introduce enhanced features very quickly. The experience today is now fully embedded into their app. Customers can even opt into location-based alerts that let the store know they’ve arrived to pick up their order.
The Pandemic’s Impact On Home Depot Customers
The Home Depot product managers realized that the people shopping at their stores were changing. They were having more of the do-it-yourself home-improvement shoppers. In order to help these shoppers, the product managers have a home-measure service, whether it be carpet or other products. They want to be able to engage a customer how they want to be engaged with. If a customer wants to order a sample online, they want to get those to them. The product managers can help a customer know how many bolts they might need. They have a tool to calculate how much it will cost to buy new countertops. The goal is to provide all the things that help a customer assess a project. The goal is to remove the friction that prevents a customer from doing a job, even connecting them with a professional if needed.
Home Depot customers are changing. The product managers are seeing customers take on expanded projects throughout their homes that, in turn, create additional activity across the store. They are seeing customer’s confidence grow after they complete their first DIY project. This can be a garden, it may be painting. Once they have that confidence, the product managers see them take on the next project that may grow in complexity, like installing ceiling fans or light fixtures. What the Home Depot product managers realize is that in many ways, Covid has fundamentally changed how consumers shop. For many customers, homedepot.com or the Home Depot mobile app is now the new front door to the store. The product managers saw digital sales increase by roughly 100%, with 60% of those sales being picked up at stores.
As the pandemic has started to ease, the Home Depot product managers now need to start thinking about how they are going to go about keeping the pandemic home-improvement surge going. Their goal is to keep people coming into their stores and not the competitor Lowe’s. The plan is to continue to invest in capabilities that make it easier for customers to choose whenever and wherever they want to shop with Home Depot. In order to keep customers coming to their stores, the product managers have had to take into account the safety of older and retired workers. To do this they have taken several measures to keep their associates safe, including additional paid time off, new wellness programs and health checks at stores. Across all stores, they have installed heavy-duty protective shields that were designed specifically for the Home Depot.
What All Of This Means For You
It turns out that a pandemic can have some benefits. Over at the Home Depot, the product managers discovered that when people were forced to stay home, they decided to make changes to their homes. This required them to get supplies for their projects and this meant that they went out to the Home Depot to get what they needed. However, there was a pandemic going on and the product manager had to plan for doing business during the pandemic as well as doing business once the pandemic was over.
When the pandemic hit, Home Depot saw its sales shoot up. In order to deal with new crowds, the Home Depot had to implement crowd limiting applications and they started to offer curb side pickup. The pandemic has been a learning experience for the Home Depot product managers. Their pick-up app has evolved over time to allow smoother operation. The make up of the Home Depot shoppers has changed and there are now more do-it-yourself home-improvement shoppers. The good news for the product managers is that people are now starting to take on larger projects. The product managers have had to take steps to keep their associates safe and to keep attracting new customers.
The pandemic tested all businesses. The Home Depot product managers not only had to deal with the challenges of trying to keep a business running during a pandemic, but they also had to deal with a surge in customer traffic. They used technology and good planning to help them to weather the storm. Now that the pandemic is easing, they are going to have to take steps in order to keep their new customers coming back to them.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that the Home Depot product managers should start to offer more professional services to DIY homeowners?
Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Generally speaking, being a product manager who is in charge of getting people to go out to Las Vegas and spend their money is not all that hard of a job. Then the pandemic hit. The Las Vegas product managers all of sudden had a real problem on their hands – the product that they were selling was no longer something that people wanted. They were going to need to make some changes in order to get their customers to come back. What could they do?