Customer Engagement

Will Lowe’s UpSkill Project empower more consumers to tackle home improvement jobs?

This article is republished courtesy of RetailWire. Click here to read the full discussion.
Some home improvement projects aren’t as easy as the pros make them look on TV or in YouTube videos. For some of those aspiring DIYers whose skills don’t quite match their ambition, Lowe’s is now offering a helping hand.

By Matthew Stern, RetailWire

The Lowe’s UpSkill Project website allows people with a home improvement project but limited skills to submit a video about the task they plan to take on. Lowe’s then selects winners and sends out a team of associates and experts to their home — not to do the work, but to guide the homeowners through planning and completing the project while teaching home improvement skills in the process. The first round of the UpSkill Project featured 200 winners from 40 U.S. cities, according to a press release.

Providing on-site teaching services on-demand and at scale could be challenging for the chain, but the UpSkill Project does not appear to be a one-off promotion. While submissions are now closed, the UpSkill Project website lists three upcoming application windows for people in specific cities to submit videos to participate in future rounds. The website lists the contest as being open in two cities in August, three cities in September and two cities in October.

Offering a personal touch is a big part of what differentiates home improvement chains in the minds of customers. Ace Hardware generally tops the list of favorite stores for home improvement shoppers specifically because the in-store staff are knowledgeable and helpful. But there is only so much guidance an associate can give in-store. Bringing people on-site to guide customers, rather than do the work, could represent an unexplored type of home service/learning experience hybrid.

And while teaching home improvement skills may seem like a tall order, some big names have made an educational element to the retail experience.

Apple stores have long offered in-store workshops to train customers on how to get the most out of their products. In fact, as part of an initiative called “Today at Apple,” the retailer recently expanded the classes to all 495 of its stores.

Discussion Questions:

Do you see the UpSkill Project becoming a regular home service offering from Lowe’s?  Should other home improvement retailers consider offering on-site, in-home training for customers?

Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:

The UpSkill Project is exactly what younger homeowners need. Most were not taught any DIY skills be DIFM Boomer parents, so Lowe’s can fill the gap. The video submission keeps it fun and interactive for consumers. Maybe this is precursor to a more regular service offering, but I rather like the “win it” versus “buy it” model.
Anne Howe, Principal, Anne Howe Associates

As an HGTV junkie, I love this. I would even take it a step further and turn it into a TV show. Look at the success of shows like Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper and the old show Curb Appeal which has some similarities to this. One random house on the block is picked for an update. Then add a little Food Network where the chefs teach you how to make certain dishes.

This is a cool move on the part of Lowe’s and I do see a service coming out of it. For my 2 cents.
Lee Kent, Principal, Your Retail Authority, LLC

It’s a nice gimmick, because it draws attention to Lowe’s, but it’s hard to scale due to cost and the number of requests for help. Lowe’s and Home Depot have done a great job of making home improvements easier than they actually are. If they can help explain how to successfully complete these projects, they will drive more people into their stores.
Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

I love this idea! It’s not scalable because the project is too time- and resource-intensive, but holding a contest like this every so often is a great way to build trust and loyalty with customers. You’re giving people the tools they need to do projects themselves so they’ll keep coming back to buy more tools. Lowe’s could make it sustainable by charging for the service which would still be considerably less than if a customer hired a professional to do the whole project. The more you build relationships, the more you build the bottom line.
Cristian Grossmann, CEO, Beekeeper

Why not? Younger homeowners often need instruction and — if they can’t do it themselves — they will have to contract it out. So, if you are in the home improvement business ideas like UpSkill seem to make sense. Remember, they aren’t offering it to everyone and — over time — they will build up a video library of the most common projects which shoppers can access.

As to the second question, if it is a good idea for Lowe’s why wouldn’t it be a good idea for other DIY retailers? Even Home Depot which caters to contractors still does a healthy business with regular shoppers.
Ryan Mathews, Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting

This is great for drawing attention to the expertise Lowe’s has to offer but there is a limit as to the number of people who can be helped. Doing this project in conjunction with promoting in-store skills training would be a good approach. Reviewing the videos should provide some insight as to what kind of training is most in demand.
Camille P. Schuster, PhD., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Read the entire RetailWire discussion here.

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