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Optimising content for mobile: Best lessons for home improvement retailers

By Chris Haines

Among ecommerce retailers, the home improvement category is head and shoulders above the pack in creating volumes of engaging content. For many DIY brands, the how-to, project-oriented content alone would put related editorial brands to shame with the amount and quality of content available. Add to this customer-focussed content like buyer’s guides and you’ll see why home improvement leads the charge with content creation across all ecommerce categories.

That said, the content is not universally discoverable, and in some cases, it’s downright difficult to find, particularly on mobile.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the opportunities which mobile platforms afford, and where retailers are falling flat. Let’s get to it.

When it comes to DIY, mobile is shelved

With ecommerce giants like Amazon circling traditional DIY retailers, it is crucial that the omnichannel potential of this content is maximised. In a recent analysis of 13 global home improvement retailers, Amplience analysed 90 data points across four dimensions (Access, Brand, Product Image Quality, and Rich Media Experience) to measure the availability and quality of content across desktop, mobile and app if available.

We focussed on three categories—lawnmowers, flooring, and BBQ grills—to mimic the customer experience of shopping for a specific product and to determine how and where content formed a meaningful piece of that experience.

One disappointing trend we discovered in this analysis is that—aside from fully responsive sites—much of the access, and even existence of content, degraded from desktop to mobile to app. Major retailer Lowes, for instance, doesn’t offer any access to its content in the mobile experience and Home Depot and UK retailer Argos don’t offer any on their apps.

Some of this content scarcity is due to the nature of mobile, where landing pages like Department and Category are omitted as navigation takes customers directly to product landing pages. What that means from a content perspective, however, is that there are fewer chances to engage with educational information.

Kebabs on a bbq

The alternative use for apps

In the race to streamline their sites as much as possible, retailers have, in some cases, missed the opportunity to serve content at relevant points in the purchase journey, leaving a hole in their customer engagement strategy that all the duct tape in the world can’t fix.

However, apps might be a special case. Some brands utilise their apps primarily as a sandbox for experimenting with different kinds of experiences. Both Lowes and Home Depot offer in-store navigation through their apps as well as experimenting with Augmented Reality, so they may have made a conscious decision to forego site content.

This technique is an intriguing way of unifying perceptions and experiences of the brand through integrating in-store and online presences. But this could prove to be risky, given that ecommerce across the board is seeing an explosion in mobile traffic but conversion rates are not keeping pace.

Apps on a tablet

The call for content

Other potential reasons for the dearth of content on mobile are puzzling, especially when compared to the apparel category, where mobile experiences are often richer than desktop. The explosion of User Generated Content contributed through social media platforms, such as Instagram giving visual user testimonies to inspire potential purchasers, is a great example. H&M’s Tinder-styled, mobile-only bikini finder is another great example.

Given the amount of pre-purchase research customers perform on their smartphones, there is all the more reason to make this content available, particularly through navigation.

One potential reason for content sparsity on mobile is that the content isn’t designed and built to be published to multiple platforms, so it doesn’t render well on mobile. One major retailer’s washing machine buyer’s guide appears to have been created first and foremost for desktop, while its appearance on mobile seems to be an afterthought.

Instagram on a phone

Once again, drawing from our experience of evaluating brands’ content creation process, the reason for not publishing consistently across devices is that brands aren’t utilising purpose-built ecommerce tools that have that innate functionality. When teams have to republish content separately by device, the experience usually degrades.

Most of the EU home improvement retailers we evaluated offer fully responsive websites, so content availability was consistent between desktop and mobile. As the most recent IMRG/Capgemini sales figures proved, with summer comes optimism, shared by shoppers and retailers alike. Clearly a more active lifestyle leads to more time outdoors and an even greater reliance on mobile devices to purchase items.

This is more important than ever in the season of BBQs and get-togethers, where customers will be more likely to pick up their mobile to purchase items. That said, very little of the content produced for mobile by the DIY retailers we assessed leverages the functionality of the form factor. This includes features such as being able to tap and swipe horizontally to reveal additional content. The result is long pages of dense content that requires constant vertical swiping to take in.

If I were to advise a home improvement retailer on how to improve their mobile experience, there are two areas I would recommend that they lean into: leveraging purpose-built content management tools and defining a comprehensive category-level content strategy.

DIY

Purpose-built tools and workflow

As we’ve seen, even when content like buyer’s guides exists, it’s often formatted in an awkward manner that may work well on desktop but not on other devices. Add to this that content availability degrades substantially from desktop to mobile to app and we have to assume that these retailers are not leveraging purpose-built tools.

Today’s retail-focussed Content Management Systems take a Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE) approach, which reduces the level of effort to publish to multiple platforms and provides the means to format content by device.

Comprehensive category-level content strategy

Given the fact that not a single retailer offered access to content consistently throughout the customer journey, we have to assume that none have activated cohesive content strategies by product category. This is perhaps the most serious miss that we identified throughout this investigation.

By putting themselves in the position of the shopper, brands can identify the many touchpoints—including in-store—where actionable content can help the customer make the correct purchasing decision. The impact of this is substantial. Not only do you build brand loyalty and repeat customers by offering educational content, but this is the best opportunity for reducing product returns.

Shop welcome sign

A fixer-upper

Britain is an isle of DIY enthusiasts. But to keep up with modern customer expectations, retailers will need to fully convert to omnichannel strategies. With troves of content at their (green) fingertips, they only require the right tools to leverage this to optimise the customer experience.

As many customers develop shopping habits that rely on mobile, it will still be vital to present agile and impactful content throughout the purchase journey. After all, an educated customer is a happy customer.

Download the full whitepaper here: How do you measure content success?

By Chris Haines, Director of Consulting, Amplience

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