eRetailer Summit Optimizes Home Improvement Channels

The fourth annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit, held in Chicago, provided an information-packed exchange for retailers and suppliers looking to optimize their participation in a growing e-commerce market for home improvement.

The annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit was launched by veteran home improvement B2B executive Sonya Ruff Jarvis in 2016 to connect home improvement vendors, distributors, e-tailers, logistics and digital service providers under a theme of optimizing e-commerce opportunities. HomeWorld Business is a media sponsor of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit.

Here are highlights of the summit’s educational program:

Leen Nsouli, home improvement industry analyst for market data and insights provider The NPD Group, said population shifts are favorable for the home improvement market as Baby Boomers and Millennials hit key life moments for considering and initiating home improvement projects.

Noting that some 20% (and rising) of all home improvement shoppers are buying the category omnichannel, Nsouli said women are taking an increasingly leading role in home improvement projects, especially for design and home organization decisions.

Home improvement retailers, led by Home Depot, are gaining in e-commerce share against Amazon powered by growth in online décor spending, Nsouli said.

David Weiss, a partner at retail consulting firm McMillanDoolittle, identified three pillars of e-commerce success: value, convenience and engagement. Noting that proficiency at each facet should be a goal, Weiss stressed that winning e-commerce businesses must at least excel at one.

As consumers gain more control of an omnichannel marketplace, social commerce will increase its influence on growth in stores and online, Weiss said. “Everything must lead to optimizing the consumer experience,” he said.

Laura Heller, a veteran retailing journalist who hosts the annual High-Tech Retailing Summit at CES, said emerging retail and smart home technology— from augmented and virtual reality to voice commerce to self-driving vehicles— is rooted in efforts to advance personalization of the shopping experience.

“How many of you work for an organization that is making personalization a priority?” she said. “How many have a clear idea of what that means or looks like?”

Jimmy Barber and Scott Sinclair of OneStone, an e-commerce facilitator, stressed that operations, marketing and sales are intrinsically linked when it comes to successful selling on Amazon.

They shared key considerations for optimizing an Amazon product display to drive conversion, including review enhancement; use of high-value keywords; and a quick-response question-and-answer feature.

The OneStone partners also encourage a strong understanding of Amazon-provided tools for sales analysis, reporting and trend analysis. On-time, accurate shipping without operational chargebacks is the foundation upon which a strong e-commerce business is built, they said.

Asa Farquhar, home improvement category manager for e-commerce seller Spreetail, cited the company’s in-house software development and fulfillment investments as examples of early-adopting, all-in risk in e-commerce that can deliver a big return.

“We have to try to predict the future, and we have to make some bets… We intend to lead,” Farquhar said, advising against building an e-commerce business narrowly focused only on Amazon.

“It’s about being ahead of the next big thing, whether it’s Amazon or Walmart or Google or Facebook,” he said. “You need to focus on that now.”

Matt Woods, COO for Woods Hardware, a chain of True Value-affiliated hardware stores in and around Cincinnati, cited his recent implementation of e-commerce-enabled virtual store tours as an example of e-commerce innovation that can integrate with traditional store business.

“We decided to focus on micro-commerce, a way to allow the 3 million-plus people in our market to feel and shop our stores online,” Woods said, noting the need to continually update the virtual store technology and capabilities. “I’m an early adopter. It pays big dividends.”

Paul Lin, CEO DrillSpot, an e-commerce seller of industrial and hardware supplies, cited the three V’s of big data: variety— all devices that collect data; velocity— how quickly the data is processed; and volume— how much data is processed.

Highlighting advancements in data gathering used for online retargeting, Lin said, “Even if you browse in anonymous or privacy mode, you can be identified and retargeted. They can examine where you move your mouse. They’re getting info on everything you’re looking at on a site.”

Charli Casey, of Rakuten Super Logistics, offered guidance on why and when to use a third-party logistics provider. “You are the experts on product: Third-party logistics allows you to stay in your lane,” Casey said. “If you are spending more time on logistics then on your product, then it’s time to look for a third-party logistics company.”

Encouraging attendees to carefully vet prospective third-party logistics partners based on service level expectations, delivery rates and warehouse capacity/locations, Casey advised to “look for a perfect fit for your company— one that can scale up or down with the business.”

Hannah Rogers, of EZ-AD TV, a developer of digital in-store and online marketing solutions, shared best practices for website development integrated to omnichannel POS programs.

Noting that overuse of the same product content from e-commerce site to site can downgrade SEO, Rogers said sellers should explore methods for created unique titles, descriptions and images each time an item is posted.

She recommended integrating “create an account” forms directly onto online shopping cart pages to help prevent customers from abandoning a site.