An employee-facing mobile app that gives store associates the tools they need to be empowered customer advocates.
The Home Depot
Our challenge was to design a service innovation that creates value for the Home Depot and its customers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Home Depot has seen a boom in sales. Their team was looking for service innovations that leverage their existing service ecosystem.
The Associate Mate, a portal for Home Depot employees accessible through the existing Home Depot app, acts as a central place for employees to find and report key store information.
Features such as notifications, real-time stock updates, and data logs empower employees be active participants in creating positive customer experiences.
Our research methods included guerilla research, guided storytelling, and market research. In our discovery, we asked the following questions:
Who is the Home Depot's customer base?
How are associates interacting with customers?
How are customers leveraging different shopping platforms?
We plotted out spaces for innovation within the home improvement industry, keeping in mind emerging trends caused by COVID-19. We found that DIY-ers are a rapidly growing customer base. These customers have disposable income and less familiarity with the Home Depot stores, preferring the in-store shopping experience.
Based on our research and interviews, we created personas to understand the motivations of our intended users, the Home Depot employees and DIY customers. In doing so, we could align our team and the client on a shared understanding of the needs, goals, and pain points of our primary audience.
We found that the quality of service is the most significant determinant of a customer's shopping experience and whether or not they will choose to return to a location.
Probing further, we discovered high turnover rates for Associate positions despite competitive pay and benefits. Dissatisfaction ran deeper; associates feel disempowered and under-appreciated.
How might we empower store Associates to create better experiences for the Home Depot customers?
We sketched out dozens of service ideas that responded to our design question before narrowing down to three proposals to present.
Of the ideas, the Home Depot team was most excited about the Associate Mate; the original pitch centered on providing Associates an avenue to report key customer interactions and insights back to the store, to be aggregated and used for improving the customer experience.
The client was enthused by our approach to build upon an existing product, saving on implementation and maintenance costs. Nearly every Home Depot Associate already uses the app when assisting customers on the floor, making the portal seamless for their workflow.
Customer Journey Maps
The Home Depot team encouraged us to find additional features that could be integrated into the Associate Mate; mapping out the in-store customer journey helped us to identify and communicate major customer pain point and opportunities for intervention.
After gathering client feedback, we narrowed down features and functionality for the Associate Mate. A service blueprint helped us visualize where new features would be situated into existing service offerings, and where value would be created for the customer and the company.
The Home Depot
Accessible from any mobile device, the Associate Mate is a Home Depot employee's pocket toolbox.
Integration with the customer-facing Home Depot app makes it convenient to switch between modes.
Employees can report customer trends, complaints, or general feedback to be aggregated and used to improve the in-store experience.
Knowledge at the fingertips
Live-time inventory search enables to access stock and supply chain details in-aisle.
Push notifications alert nearby associate when a customer requires assistance.
Impact & Learnings
For our final presentation, we created a video explaining the service to users and delivered a pitch to the Home Depot design team. The Home Depot team was impressed by the blending of mobile technologies and in-person experiences. Key next steps will include user testing, building out the prototype, and working through back-end processes.
This project was a great opportunity to work on a real-world problem and I learned a great deal about research methods, collaborating with non-designers, and product management including agile frameworks.