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Renovation Time: Lowe’s Content Needs a Lift

Something’s gone missing from Lowe’s Home Improvement’s online content: its bloggers.

Visit the company’s improvement-project pages for home and garden, Creative Ideas, and notice what you don’t see.

Its blog has fallen silent. Last entry from its team of 16 home-improvement writers? April 30, 2012.

Could the home-improvement outfit’s content strategy use a little refurb of its own? Let’s take a look at what there is to learn from the site.

The Good Stuff: A Well-Made Website

The Content Strategist reached out to Lowe’s to talk about their Creative Ideas content strategy in general. Lowe’s declined to participate.

It’s a shame that Lowe’s isn’t keeping Creative Ideas busy with fresh blog material, because the site is an example of understated and quietly beautiful design.

Navigate the clean, crisp spectrum of the content sections. You’ll find that Indoor Spaces, Outdoor Spaces, Weekend Projects all deliver project how-to articles, and the larger spaces are subdivided into menus of individual rooms or levels of project complexity.

There’s also kind of play-space titled Inspiration Center, where ideas that are not exactly the standard room-by-room improvements — outdoor water features, or building a drop-cloth tent, for example— are given treatments like the rest.

The only category that seems a bit confusing is the More Projects section where — under Home 101, for example — choosing faucets and bath sinks would seem just as easily at home on the rooms pages of the Indoor Spaces section.

More Projects is a fine spot for subsections such as Holidays and Pets.

The Good Stuff II: Seamless Links from Content to Conversions

So, Lowe’s Creative Ideas content is useful, well crafted and — here’s the hard part — every idea comes with a mostly tacit, almost elegant, suggestion of how consumers might plug into the company’s retail side.

Each project not only features large and crystal-clear photography — along with peppy, encouraging video — but they also include also practical resources such as costs per foot and (this is key) shopping lists of tools and materials.

Lowe’s links content to the implication of conversions. They might go a little too far in putting the word Lowe’s in the materials-list titles, but the concept is sufficiently tucked away to one side that it’s not actually intrusive.

Bottom line: At its core level, Lowe’s is inviting readers to engage with its content, and then supplying them with information to further interact along the lines of retail.

The Bad News: Where Did the Bloggers Go?

The problem is, Lowe’s Creative Ideas site is presently failing to push, on a daily (heck, even a weekly) basis, the engagement that its articles accomplish so well.

While its project lists are ample enough to satisfy a task-based search, for a finite number of visits, what’s going to attract a more general and frequent visitor?

Blogs. That’s what the blogs should be doing.

They had a well-picked lineup of writers. Katie Stagliano of the Katie’s Krops brand promoting healthful lifestyles via outdoor gardening. Midwestern craft-blogger Beckie Farrant addressing what can be done to spruce up even the most overlooked objects, such as the family-room toy box. Gardening Ideas & Outdoor Living magazine editor Luke Miller getting botanical with a look at poplar trees.

It seems, however, that these good things never really got going. The first entry is January 6. The last is April 30.

(The Content Strategist did reach out to Lowe’s a second time, to ask specifically about the status of the Creative Ideas blog. Lowe’s has not yet responded to that request.)

Community Stories: Bloggers in the Wings?

With the Creative Ideas blog appearing to be at least temporarily inactive, fresh content is still, happily, coming from Lowe’s site users. Here are two examples:

  • On Sept. 6, a user with the handle DIYhuntress posted a quick before-and-after piece on freecycling a thrown-out table. She made it into something cool.
  • Poster tddunc shows us, on Sept. 1, what she and her husband were able to do all by themselves, without a contractor, when it came to a backyard makeover.

These aren’t very long as far as entries go but they are fun. And they suggest that smart folks are engaging with the Lowe’s Creative Ideas brand. One might also note that some visitors, such as DIYhuntress, are already running a blog.

Is there an opportunity at Creative Ideas to bring on board a more focused kind of user-generated content? Perhaps Lowe’s — if it’s not currently pursuing the professional, pedigreed blogging voices any further — should simply turn Community Stories into its blog and develop it into a forum for its users.

An in-house content strategy can lose momentum for various reasons, especially if a key person leaves or gets reassigned. Sometimes, however, by re-approaching content — from the outside — a strategist can find new energy that works.

Lowe’s responds

Lowe’s Public Relations department responded to this story a day after it was posted. According to spokesperson Jaclyn Pardini, Creative Ideas’ bloggers aren’t exactly gone. They’ve moved.

“Lowe’s Creative Ideas has an online blogger network that now has 31 DIY and garden focused bloggers that produce their own unique and original content each month centered around creativity and home improvement,” Pardini said. “The bloggers complete projects and post their stories to their own social networks including their blog, Pinterest pages, Facebook pages, and Twitter handles.”

“In the first two quarters of 2012,” Pardini continued, “we have seen millions of impressions across our bloggers’ social networks.”

And Pardini said that still more is on the way.

“We have been working on several updates to the Lowe’s Creative Ideas website, including how to integrate this great, unique community content,” she said. “And we will continue to make updates to drive further engagement our blog network and customers.”

 

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