Lowe’s: the customer journey from search to checkout

In which we take a look at the experience of searching for a product, looking at a brand’s paid search ad for the item, its subsequent landing page and then clicking-through to purchase, all from a customer’s point of view.

This week let’s take a look at US home improvement retail chain Lowe’s.

Search

First let’s check for some of Lowe’s most popular products. Here’s the search engine results page (SERP) for ‘patio furniture’.

patio-furniture-google-search-14

Lowe’s may not have the top ad, but it certainly takes up the most amount of space in terms of text and detail. The retailer has to make a big impact here in the paid space, as its competitors are dominating the organic space. As you can see from the SERP, Lowe’s languishes below Home Depot, Walmart and Costco.

Which means Lowe’s has to work hard to trounce its rivals with paid search, and in terms of persuasion it certainly does that.

lowe-s-ppc-ad-google-search

For a start it has a 5% more attractive discount than Wayfair above, probably down to some prior competitor analysis.

It’s also festooned with customer ratings all 9/10 or above, as well as a 4.5 star rating. The other major difference between Lowe’s result and the other two, is that it takes you directly to a specific clearance patio furniture page, as opposed to a generic patio furniture page from Hayneedle or the following page from Wayfair…

wayfair

I don’t want to have to enter an email address in order to continue. Neither do I want to wait for an emailed discount code. I want my cheap hammock now!

Anyway, back to Lowe’s…

There’s similarly detailed PPC campaigns for drills, dishwashers, refrigerators and other higher priced items.

However it hasn’t bothered with lower priced everyday items such as light bulbs or screws, as perhaps the return on investment wouldn’t be justified.

Perhaps as it gets later in November, Lowe’s may want to consider boosting its search presence for key seasonal terms like Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

christmas-lights-google-search

Landing page

Google AdWords uses relevancy to the searcher and the quality of the landing page to decide if it will serve an ad, not just whether it’s the highest bidder on a search term. This is called a ‘quality score’.

If you’re using PPC, your landing page linked in the ad needs to relevant to your ad text. It’s not good enough advertising cheap patio furniture if you’re just going to take searchers to a generic home page and make them hunt around for what they want.

Lowe’s provides a product results page here for clearance patio furniture rather than a bespoke landing page, such as it does with its general patio furniture.

shop-patio-clearance-at-lowes

Yes it’s relevant in terms of description, but it’s not the best example of a product results page.

On my laptop screen I can see a grand total of one and a half products. It’s pretty hard to tell because of the size and positioning of the text, but these are sorted by ‘best sellers’. The images are also tiny and offer nothing in terms of hover-zoom or alternative views.

Lowe’s could improve this by serving three to four results across the page, using much larger detailed images. With the product names and prices happily sitting underneath each image.

As someone clicking through from search I would expect attractive, attention grabbing images with clear pricing and large text, otherwise I’m bouncing immediately and clicking on a competitor’s listing.

Other important elements a landing page needs are clear information on delivery options and whether it does free shipping or not. Lowe’s includes a free shipping message here along with the threshold amount, however it doesn’t mention its click and collect offering.

Product page

So let’s pretend I found a relevant item I liked and I clicked through to the product page. Today I think I’ll purchase this decorative lumbar pillow.

product-page-lowe-s

There’s something particularly drab about Lowe’s product pages. Something perfunctory. The greying background doesn’t help, and neither does the lengthy product name with its mixture of cap sizes and lack of actual product description.

The image is small and feels weirdly marooned in the white space, although if you click on the image it pops-out to a larger version.

I love live chat for customer service, it’s convenient, personal and immediate. However the live chat box sprang up as soon as I clicked through to the page, obscuring key information and the add to cart CTA.

By all means offer live chat after a certain period of dwell time, but don’t patronise someone by assuming they have no idea what’s going on from the start.

In its favour are the clear delivery options on the right hand side, however the sub-total doesn’t change to reflect the premium option you’ve selected.

For more info, check out Graham Charlton’s guide to the ideal product page over at ClickZ.

Shopping cart

The first page of the shopping process offers a nice clear view of your basket with image, although the prices could be bolder.

lowe-s-shopping-cart

You’ll also notice that the full horror of your total price isn’t revealed till below the fold…

lowes-shopping-cart-02

Bear in mind that a significant amount of checkout abandonment occurs because of these nasty surprises. Maybe truck delivery isn’t for me. Although why regular parcel shipping isn’t available goes without explanation.

Happily Lowe’s offers guest checkout, which is great customer service, as it offers speed and efficiency as the focus, rather than data capture. Asking if a customer would like to save their details after the checkout is complete with a password is a perfect way to capture details and not put up another barrier to purchase.

The remaining checkout process is easy and straightforward. The text boxes are large and have autocomplete enabled and as you can see from the image below there are only three steps to completion. Although faster payment methods such as PayPal are missing.

lowe-s-secure-checkout

In conclusion…

Though an excellent search strategy means that Lowe’s is succeeding at being represented on SERPs, its landing and product pages leave a lot to be desired. The checkout offers a great deal of convenience, but I feel that more people would get to that point if the rest of the site was just as clear and customer-focused.

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