Home Depot Trounces Lowe’s in Home Improvement Presence
It came down to a battle of accuracy and engagement in this Brand Battle between Home Depot and Lowe’s home improvement stores. Home Depot prevailed across search, data quality and social engagement with customers, setting the pace for the home improvement store competition.
Home improvement chains Lowe’s and Home Depot compete in this month’s “Brand Battle,” hashing out their branding strategies in local markets. Lowe’s, established in 1946, has more than 1,700 locations across the U.S. and a strong e-commerce presence. Home Depot, established 30 years after Lowe’s, has grown into a network of more than 2,200 locations.
Round 1 – Data Quality
WHY HOME DEPOT WON: Data Quality is key to establishing a strong online brand identity, potentially increasing consumer confidence and eventually influencing path-to-purchase. For this analysis, digital marketing company Brandify used location data obtained from a major core data provider. Only minor data cleansing was performed in order to ensure the analysis reflected how the data is distributed. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s obtained impressively high data quality scores given both companies have more than 1,000 locations factoring into this data quality pillar. Home Depot’s NAP (name, address, phone number) analyses showed that their local data was only 0.8% more accurate than Lowe’s. Home Depot’s advantage in this area was their stronger presence within their local listings – 16.7% stronger – even more impressive since they have approximately 500 more locations than Lowe’s.
Round 2 – Local SEO
WHY HOME DEPOT WON: The search evaluation primarily looked at four key components for local search: local pages, locator, website and on-page factors, including page rankings results across Google Maps and Bing Maps of the keywords “Home Improvement Store” “Appliance Store” and “Garden Center.” Any result returned out of the top 10 was considered “Not Found.” Lowe’s surfaced at the first position in the top results 20% more than Home Depot, but Home Depot dominated positions 2-4 by surfacing 12% more often than Lowe’s (view our infographic for more). Home Depot’s locator and website is ranked higher due to architecture, usability, SEO factors, content and design. Lowe’s weakest point in their local SEO strategy is absence of local pages.
Round 3 – Reviews
WHY HOME DEPOT WON: Home Depot barely won the reviews round in this month’s Brand Battle, winning out over Lowe’s by just three points. The winning points tell of Home Depot’s competitive advantage in gaining their customers’ overall satisfaction. Brandify conducted an analysis across six different types of experiences a customer could have at a home improvement store, including friendliness, helpfulness, price satisfaction, quality of service, speed of service and staff satisfaction. While the service of staff had a more positive sentiment at Lowe’s, Home Depot customer sentiment was higher for the remaining experiences.
Round 4 – Social Engagement
WHY HOME DEPOT WON: While Home Depot has fewer “fans” across social channels, it has been able to keep its competitive edge against Lowe’s by maintaining an audience that interacts with its brand. Home Depot visitors are more likely to check-in at a location than Lowe’s visitors. “Check-ins” are pertinent because they may be the closest metric to social ROI attribution, aside from beacon-mapping technology. Home Depot dominates on Foursquare with more than 5 million check-ins. Home Depot’s audience is also more likely to show them love by sharing the brand’s content – twice as often as Lowe’s audience.
Round 5 – Local Advertising
WHY LOWE’S WON: Lowe’s invests $200,000 more per month than Home Depot’s budget in local advertising, according to SEMRush. This investment may be the driver of Lowe’s ranking in the top one or two positions. Lowe’s also uses a wider range of keywords: 474,000 compared to Home Depot’s use of 359,000 keywords. Home Depot and Lowe’s are using all available ad extensions that offer extra pieces of information within the ad copy, making ad copy more relevant and attractive for local users.
Round 6 – Competitor Benchmarking
WHY HOME DEPOT WON: Companies should benchmark their top competitors both nationally and locally in order to gain insights into the market and better compete and win real estate across local digital search. Brandify performed a local search analysis using the phrase “home improvement store” across Google.Brandify compared the scores that each company received for all the rounds put together and averaged them. In the end, Home Depot ranked slightly higher than Lowe’s. At the local level, Home Depot and Lowe’s each have about six competitors in total. Their top competition is each other, followed by Menards, Walmart Supercenter and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Brandify Recommendations: Home Depot
Home Depot won this Brand Battle thanks to their winning approaches to digital integration and accuracy, but Lowe’s local branding is not too far off. For Home Depot to maintain its competitive edge, Brandify recommends the following improvements:
1 – IMPROVE DATA QUALITY. Home Depot’s brand score for data quality is strong, but it could be stronger. Like Lowe’s, Home Depot’s pain point is Yelp and Bing. The NAP data and unclaimed locations across these two engines are highly inconsistent and inaccurate. For these two brands, it’s a race to the finish line. A more in-depth analysis also indicates that about 25% of Home Depot’s locations across Foursquare are either incorrect or missing.
2 – DEVELOP LOCAL ADVERTISING. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are running search campaigns targeting all locations at the same time, with radius targeting active around these locations. But there are three main disadvantages to this:
- Messages, keywords and bid strategies cannot be localized, and therefore are not personalized, leading to low user engagement and possible alienation.
- Inefficiency in budget allocation based on individual location performance.
- Impossible for corporate level to run Franchise AdWords Contribution Programs.
Home Depot could improve its strategy by fully localizing search campaigns. New campaigns could focus on individual locations with unique messaging that resonates with local consumers. Unique keywords, bid strategies and ad extensions will increase the possibilities that consumers will find and visit a local store.
Bonus benefit: The corporate level will be able to allocate budget in a more efficient way because they will have campaign performance visibility at the local level.
3 – ACQUIRE REVIEWS. Home Depot’s brand score was strong enough to win over Lowe’s, but it was very, very close. One area that Home Depot can improve in is with customer reviews. Sixteen percent of Home Depot locations have few or zero reviews. Those locations are getting lost on native review sites and across search engines.
Brandify Recommendations: Lowe’s
Lowe’s is not far behind its top competitor, and can use these recommendations to improve its local branding strategy:
1 – IMPROVE DATA QUALITY. The three main engines that hold opportunity for Lowe’s are Google, Bing and Yelp. Lowe’s has a significant number of unclaimed locations on Yelp, with 82% of their locations not claimed. On Google, 11.35% of Lowe’s locations suffer address inaccuracies. In order to outperform Home Depot and to improve overall local marketing and connection with consumers, Lowe’s first step needs to be data consistency and accuracy.
2 – ADD LOCAL PAGES. Lowe’s spends more and is outperforming Home Depot in paid advertising, but one key component is missing in Lowe’s overall local advertising strategy and digital marketing strategy as a whole: Local pages. Local pages are brand-owned digital assets that are specifically created with local traffic in mind. There are many ad enhancements that can be made at the local level, and local page integration is one of them. Local pages have potential to be one of the strongest local extensions across advertising due to the level of control a brand can exercise. Most importantly, local pages serve as the hub for all the local information a consumer needs, from directions and store hours to coupons and Black Friday deals. The search experience for potential Lowe’s customers is not optimal. Local pages would offer a seamless experience from a search to a location, further directing and retaining that local conversion.
3 – ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE. A common trend we see among brands is their need to collect “fans.” But why collect them if not to use their strength in numbers to advocate? Lowe’s has more than 46% more “fans” across social channels, yet has a less engaged audience. The frequency and volume at which Lowe’s publishes social messages is greater than Home Depot, but their followers are 44% less likely to share content. The untapped opportunity for Lowe’s exists at the local level. To get ahead of Home Depot, Lowe’s must optimize their performance by creating hyper-local campaigns. Lowe’s must not underestimate the power of local content coupled with a community. The right content at the right time can make for a powerful success story. Integration of social engagement across other digital properties is also essential to accurately engage with the right people, and integration across the business locator and local pages is essential.
Brand Battle Winner: Home Depot
To determine the outcome, the battle was scored using data across various channels,* including Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare and Brandify Social Data Matching (SDM) technology. Data from these sources was rolled into the Brandify analytics engine to test the two companies’ local digital marketing footprint to determine a Brand Score.
The Brand Score is calculated with an algorithm that consists of 250 variables grouped into six pillars: Data Quality, Local SEO, Reviews, Social Engagement, Local Advertising and Competitor Benchmarking. The data determining AMC’s and Regal’s online presence strengths accounts for activity occurring between January 1 and April 30, 2015.
In the final rounds, Lowe’s lost the battle for local presence to Home Depot, which nailed a brand score of 671, besting Lowe’s by 27 points. Home Depot came out on top in four out of five pillars, leading them to win the final category, Competitor Benchmarking. Home Depot’s focus on consumer engagement and attention to data accuracy helped push the company ahead into the winning spot for this month’s battle.
Street Fight and Brandify will publish a new Brand Battle each month.
*Other channels sources included in this analyses: Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.
Brandify is transforming the way businesses connect to consumers by leveraging location technology and offering unrivaled personal service. Brandify has helped hundreds of brands understand and improve their local presence. Current and past clients include In-N-Out Burger, True Value, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Applebee’s, Black & Decker, and more. For more information about Brandify, go to brandify.com.