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How mobile helps Lowe?s and IKEA customize digital engagements

While digital how-to?s have been a key strategy for home improvement retailers for some time, thanks to the growth in mobile and social, chains such as Lowe?s and IKEA are exploring ways to put the most relevant content in front of customers.

With consumers increasingly using smartphones and tablets to research home-improvement projects, retailers in this space are increasingly leveraging the convergence of mobile and social to get valuable how-to content in front of consumers during the path the purchase. For example, Lowe?s recently updated Improve with Lowe?s site leverages responsive Web design, social profile data and geographic information to supply customized weekly home improvement tips.

?Knowing that we need to be available for our customers across all devices, particularly mobile, we are building our social efforts/properties with responsive Web design so that the viewing experience is consistent from device to device,? said Brad Walters, director of social media at Lowe?s.

?With today?s customers being very connected, making sure our social efforts are mobile ready/enabled is critical, so we can be available for our customers whenever and wherever they need us,? he said.

Flexible media
Lowe?s, IKEA and Home Depot are all putting a big focus on mobile social this year because of the flexibility it provides to quickly disseminate content compared to more traditional media.

The Improve with Lowe?s site, which was recently updated, encourages users to sign in with Facebook so it can gather geographic information about customers.

Then, based on that geographic information, it will supply weekly home improvement tips based on the progression of the spring season as well as a customer?s local weekend weather forecast.

For example, the site might tell browsers that rain is predicted for the weekend, making it a good time to get started on a home-improvement project.

If the weather is fair, the site suggests outdoor projects to prepare for spring.

New homeowners
Browsers are also encouraged to sign up to get alerts for new projects and special offers based on their location and weekend weather forecast.

?Since 84 percent of smartphone owners use their mobile devices while shopping, how can a home improvement retailer ignore that trend,? said Pat Murphy, vice president of business development at Funmobility. ?I've heard time and again from them that circulars and direct mail promotions aren't as effective as they have been in the past and their number one goal is to reach new homeowners.

?More money is spent in the first two years of home ownership on home improvement than at any other time,? he said. ?It's imperative that these retailers reach this audience with engaging how to videos and mobile offers.

?They realize that mobile allows them flexibility in advertising and marketing that they could only dream about in the past. With print and direct mail, you need at least a 90 day window to execute a campaign.?

Two-way dialogue
IKEA is also making a big commitment to mobile social. By leveraging mobile?s real-time capabilities to deliver makeovers and tips, Ikea is making sure customers know they are receiving the most up-to-date home décor ideas.

The chain just launched Ikea Home Tour, for which a team of experts are traveling around the country to help consumers with their home projects, with the makeovers documented and shared on YouTube along with tips. On the microsite for the campaign, consumers can watch videos, view the products featured in the video and click-through to see more products on Pinterest or to purchase from the IKEA site.

The team will also be sharing live updates from the tour on #IkeaHomeTour.

?The Home Tour is all about consumer engagement,? said Julie Foor, IKEA Home Tour project manager. ?We know that Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other digital & social channels are the platforms that people are using everyday to engage with each other and the brands they love.

?They no longer want to just see a commercial from a brand,? she said. ?They want to be involved in the discussion, and contribute to the content.

?By using social media, we know that we can help people tackle the often-daunting Home Furnishing challenges that they have. We want to engage in a two-way dialogue within the environments in which they naturally engage.?

Value-add content
Home Depot is taking more of a cause-marketing approaching, leveraging mobile social to drive participating in an annual grant program for historically black colleges and universities. In the campaign, students compete for more than $250,000 in grants by driving social engagement and votes.

The Retool Your School campaign integrates voting via hashtags and a social wall where all campaign posts from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are displayed alongside Home Depot content that Home Depot.

Home improvement retailers also know that consumers will be watching how-to content from their mobile devices while standing in a store aisle trying to make a decision about what to buy.

?Home improvement consumers are challenged trying to imagine the end result of their projects,? said Rodney Mason, chief marketing officer of parago. ?The more clearly a retailer can bring them to a final vision, the more inclined they are to buy.

? They are beginning to develop significant value-add content, like Home Depot's garden club that is being propagated through mobile friendly email, text and social media,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York