Learning how to use the Internet – particularly how to integrate social media into the marketing mix – has been especially challenging for bricks and mortar retailers. A mere 10 years ago, Home Depot – which is now trying out social media marketing – told its suppliers “stop selling online if you want to sell to us.”
Wow, how things have changed for some companies!
1999: What’s Next Online Newsletter: “Leading the list of slow to get online retailers is Home Depot who, according to the Aug 16, 1999 issue of Fortune, recently issued “a Godfather-esque” directive to its suppliers selling goods online. The gist of it was stop selling online or you won’t be selling to us.”
Home Depot wasn’t alone. A lot of bricks and mortar companies still worry that selling online will cannibalize their in-store sales.
As this interesting court decision about Blockbuster’s right to sell videos online demonstrates that this issue is far from resolved.
2009: Today, Home Depot’s not only sells products online and allows its suppliers to do the same, it uses Twitter to address customer service issues in order to build relationships with their all-important female customers.
Stephanie Holland noted in a recent She-conomy post that “these customers most likely created a loss in sales either directly or by influencing others.” And these days, disgruntled customers have all got lots of tools to make their voices heard.
Home Depot: Orange Blooded (ewww!)
Home Depot also has a dull and corporate sort-of-blog called Orange Blooded, where employees post stories about the corporate culture. (Yawn) It’s basically a glorified press room
The most interesting thing about it is the Home Depot blog policy, a good model, which notes that employees should act ethically and responsibly. Because, as I always tell my clients: if you don’t trust your employees to deal with the public, you have the wrong employees and/or the wrong employee training and incentives.
Here’s their policy for associates who post on the blog:
Participation in this and any other social network requires that you:
• Remember our core values
• Never disclose proprietary information
• Act responsibly and ethically
• Participate in your own time, remembering that your job and customer service come first
Dear Big Companies, I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again. We don’t care about you. We care about what you can do for us, and that’s what we want to talk about. And, call me a cynic (I’ve certainly been called worse) but I don’t believe all those “Home Depot is so great!” comments on the blog are genuine.
Nonetheless, kudos to Home Depot for trying. A lot of companies are still sitting fearfully on the sidelines.