I’m a frequent shopper at my local big-box home improvement warehouse chains. I’ve got my pick of them, too — at last count there were 3 Lowes and around 8 Home Depots within 30 minutes drive of my house. Welcome to the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
I’m also a web surfer. I like to plan projects at home and then look for the stuff I need online before I actually get in the car. I’m sure there are many more like me. And for the longest time, neither of these two retailers seemed to “get” this. Searching for stuff on their web sites was mostly an exercise in futility. In most cases, the search results I got back were either incomplete or totally unrelated to what I was looking for.
Lowes has made some improvements to their web site in recent years. Case in point: recently I was looking for some PVC electrical conduit and fittings. Both Home Depot and Lowes carry a fairly complete line of PVC conduit manufactured by Carlon. I went to both retailers’ web sites and searched for “carlon.” Lowes’ site worked great, returning several pages of relevant results. Home Depot’s site “helpfully” corrected my search term to “gallon,” and returned several pages of shop-vacs and pressure washers. Guess where I ended up going?
I guess the moral here is that retailers need to start realizing that their web sites are extensions of their store fronts. Online catalogs should be easy to search and results should reflect what’s actually on the shelves in the stores. I’m sure that’s much easier said than done, but ultimately, modern consumers are going to be driven to the stores that have the best web sites.
Disclaimer: I am a Home Depot shareholder.