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Jo Kendrick, Director of Marketing, Homebase

Jo Kenrick, Director of Marketing, Homebase

By Jo Kenrick

In the classic film Field of Dreams, a strange voice in a cornfield whispers to an Iowa farmer: “If you build it, he will come.”

That’s pretty much all the prodding that Ray Kinsella needed to rush down to his local DIY store, pick up some supplies and erect an entire baseball field all by himself.

Now fast forward 25 years and change the setting to the UK, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that voice instead advised: “If you build it, hire a professional.”

As one of the leading home and garden retailers in the UK, we’ve carefully monitored a tremendous change in attitudes towards home improvement. Consumers still want beautiful homes, but many now lack basic skills or the desire to learn them. With today’s busy lifestyle, studies show that we just aren’t as handy as we used to be, opting instead to hire a tradesmen to do it for us.

At the same time, there’s of course a massive surge in shopping online – even in the hands-on world of home improvement. We’ve found that more than 40 percent of our customers start shopping with us through our website. While we have just under 300 stores across the country, we need our digital channels to somehow guide our customers with the same level of personalization that they find in store speaking with one of our local experts.

It’s critical that we are not only in sync with these changes as they happen but also be able to adapt to them as quickly as possible. And that’s where data analytics comes into play. Today with the help of IBM, we can more deeply understand our customers – what kinds of projects they are most interested in, what advice they need to be successful and where they may struggle along the way.

These insights allow us to adjust to the needs of each individual customer – be it online, from a mobile device, or even in the store.

Consider a homeowner who is frustrated with the water pressure in her shower and comes to to research replacement fixtures. There she will find ready-made content to guide her research with improved information on the product range to help her decision. We are also able to understand her past shopping habits so we can better respond across all our channels – perhaps by sending her a coupon for showerheads on her mobile device. She will then be able to order the item from a range of delivery options including in store for pickup or home delivery.

In the near future, we will be implementing changes that will make her experience even more personal. Perhaps our showerhead shopper tends to buy environmentally friendly products such as low energy lightbulbs. Our data analytics will be able to pick up on this tendency and serve her information and offers on water efficient showerhead fixtures to seal the deal.

In effect, we are transforming our digital channels into an online showroom designed to inspire and encourage customers to the successful completion of their home or garden projects. With rich interactive content, we’ve developed step-by-step guides for more than 160 of the most popular home improvement projects.

Our business is not just about the wood to build the shelves, the screws that hold together the drawers or the 38,000 other products we offer – it’s about helping customers create a home that they truly love to live in.

This approach has received a tremendous response from our customers. They find great value in the convenience of being able to shop online and are now spending more time browsing the information and inspiration we have to offer. As a result, we’ve seen double digit online sales and a 30 percent increase in online visitors.

Despite these innovative changes to our online shopping approach, I doubt we can inspire anyone to actually build their own ballpark, as in Field of Dreams. But with customer analytics, we can better understand exactly what they need to make their home of their dreams.

For more information on how Homebase is working with IBM to improve their customer journeys, click here for today’s announcement.

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