Grill shoppers prepping for barbecue season may be too busy calculating how many packs of buns and bottles of ketchup to buy to measure out the exact product dimensions of a shiny, new outdoor cooking toy. That’s why The Home Depot Inc. decided to add a different unit of measurement to its product descriptions: hamburgers.
“We get this all the time. ‘I’ve got a grill, and it’s 64 inches. That means zip to me,’” said Mike Shady, senior director of web operations process at Home Depot. “‘I have no idea what that relates to or how that translates.’ We do it by hamburgers. Everybody understands how many burgers they can throw on a grill.”
To spice up the detail images, the retail giant uses photos of patties lined up across the grates, Shady told attendees in a content marketing session Wednesday at the 2017 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition at McCormick Place in Chicago. The revamp has had measurable results for the company.
Retail websites often rely on simply reproducing stock images and product copy supplied by the manufacturer. That content is rarely dynamic or optimized for search engines, Shady said. He spotlighted a Dyna-Glo grill sold by Home Depot—and many other competitors including Lowe’s Cos. Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The product overview structure and content was practically identical on Lowe’s and Amazon’s sites.
But Home Depot, which merged its marketing and online departments about a year ago, took a different approach. “I’ve carried this grill for a little while. I’ve gotten some research on grills in general and what people are looking for,” Shady said. So the team combed through customer questions and answers plus ratings and reviews to generate ideas for how to improve product overviews. The goal was to settle on a product treatment that wouldn’t require customers to dig around in the Q&A area or wade through lengthy blocks of text to satisfy their inquiries.
The sleeker design began incorporating a specifications section labeled “Primary Cooking Space,” which, in the case of one grill, lists 576 square inches and quantifies the number of hamburger patties that can fit on its surface as 23 next to an image of a burger with sear marks.
When customers expressed concerns about the range of the thermometer, Home Depot added a closeup shot of that gadget. When shoppers wanted to know how they can better control the heat, the retailer supplemented product images with a closeup of the chimney, which is shown with double zoom.
“The big thing here is listening to those voices and understanding what they’re not seeing,” Shady said. “So we said ‘Hey, you know what? Let’s answer another question to add to that experience with that person looking to empower themselves to make a purchase. Throw the number of burgers out there and include a visual. [It’s a] very simple thing.”
Home Depot, No. 8 in the 2017 Internet Retailer Top 500, has offered product spin for a long time, and Shady said the retailer brought that type of specialized photography in house with a full program a couple of years ago as it’s been such an integral part in content generation and customers have demanded it. The web feature is interactive, and customers can open and close the grill online after viewing the item from different angles.
Another important part of the product overhaul for Home Depot’s grill portfolio has been digestible bullet points and icons rather than long paragraphs of explanatory text, Shady said. The team studied the top categories of words coming up in questions, and found many references to warranties and questions about charcoal vs. gas specifications. So Home Depot created more at-a-glance pictorials and put a charcoal image and warranty ribbon “front and center.” The imagery and more readable text formatting are good tools for enhancing a page’s SEO value, too, Shady said.
The content team also added a video on how to use a charcoal grill and product demo clips.
“There are a number of ways to present information, but not everyone is going to interpret or consume it in the same way—or at all,” Shady said.
Being responsive to customer posts has proven successful for Home Depot. The retailer enriched the product pages of about 100 grills in October 2016 in preparation for the spring push—and measured how those items fared in year-over-year conversion rate and share of voice within the category. When seasonal data came back, Home Depot saw a 16.5 basis points lift in conversion on items that received enhanced product treatments, Shady said. The company’s share of voice, or how visible a retailer’s brand is on a particular channel during a given time, increased from 23% to 25%.
Online sales for Home Depot continued double-digit growth in 2016, and the company has gained a billion dollars in web sales every year for the past several years, according to Shady. (Top500Guide.com data shows Home Depot’s online sales increased from $1.79 billion in 2012 to $5.58 billion in 2016.) “Item-level work has been something that’s really driven a lot of what our expansion has been over the past several years,” he added.
Developing a content marketing strategy isn’t for “fluffy” bonus material that gets featured on a random web page—it helps retailers drive consumer engagement and sales, according to Quinn Tempest, director of marketing at content marketing agency Vertical Measures, who spoke with Shady. When consumers can’t find the information they’re looking for elsewhere, “You could be the best answer and land that discovery and help them choose you over a competitor,” she said.