The home improvement industry has experienced continued growth in the United States over the last several years, with market value projected to exceed $600 billion by 2025, according to Statista.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people into lockdowns in 2020, interest has increased in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects such as painting, remodeling, and landscaping, contributing to the growth of the industry. Porch.com reported in a recent survey that 76% of homeowners had completed at least one home improvement project since the start of the pandemic.
Growth in the home improvement industry is expected to continue despite rising costs associated with inflation. Due to high values and mortgage rates, some experts are predicting that more people will opt to renovate rather than purchase a new home.
We sought to assess the online home improvement shopping experience by collecting UX benchmark data for leading home improvement retailers.
We used our MUiQ platform to collect data on a variety of attitudes and intentions toward six home improvement websites:
- Ace Hardware
- Harbor Freight Tools
- The Home Depot
- True Value Hardware
We computed SUPR-Q® and Net Promoter scores, investigated reasons for using the websites, measured users’ attitudes regarding their experiences, conducted key driver analyses, and analyzed reported usability problems.
Benchmark Study Details
In January 2023, we asked 311 users of home improvement websites in the US to recall their most recent experience and their perceptions of one of the listed online home improvement sites on their desktop and mobile device (app and/or website) in the past year.
Participants completed the eight-item SUPR-Q (which includes the Net Promoter Score) and the two-item UX-Lite® standardized questionnaires and answered questions about their brand attitudes, usage, and prior experiences.
Quality of the Home Improvement Website UX: SUPR-Q
The SUPR-Q is a standardized questionnaire that is widely used for measuring attitudes toward the quality of a website user experience. Its norms are computed from a rolling database of around 200 websites across dozens of industries.
SUPR-Q scores are percentile ranks that tell you how a website’s experience ranks relative to the other websites (50th percentile is average). The SUPR-Q provides an overall score as well as detailed scores for subdimensions of Usability, Trust, Appearance, and Loyalty.
The home improvement websites in this study collectively averaged at the 71st percentile. Ace Hardware received the highest SUPR-Q score at the 89th percentile, and Menards scored the lowest at the 41st percentile.
Usability Scores and Trust
We asked participants to rate how easy they thought it was to use and navigate the websites. Ace Hardware had the highest usability score (90th percentile) and Menards had the lowest (23rd percentile). Comments regarding usability for some of the brands included:
- “The overall homepage is laid out pretty well. The navigation bar is also laid out well. There isn’t too much going on to where it makes you confused. There is just enough information on each page.” — Ace Hardware
- “The clutter, and sometimes the keywords needed for specific items can be a bit touchy.” — Menards
- “I like how search results will not just show basic products but will also include the accessories and other items associated with using that item. This gives me more research ideas and also makes sure I do not make an incomplete purchase.” — Harbor Freight Tools
- “I didn’t like all the top bar menus. There were far too many options and some seemed like hidden ads.” — The Home Depot
We also asked participants to rate the trust and credibility of the home improvement websites. Trust scores were higher on average than usability scores across websites. Ace Hardware had the highest trust score (99th percentile) while Menards had the lowest trust score (81st percentile).
Loyalty/Net Promoter Scores
The average NPS for the home improvement websites was 16% (slightly more promoters than detractors), ranging from 2% for Lowe’s to 30% for Harbor Freight Tools. In general, a better user experience is a good predictor of customer loyalty. Comments related to NPS ratings included:
- “The website is trustworthy and contains useful products. However, the website is cluttery with a lot of information, which you might not need, on each page.” — Lowe’s
- “Personally, I find the Lowes website to be very cluttered. The dropdown menus are very long and takes time to find what you want. A lot of times, it’s just faster to use the search function to find what I am looking for. On the plus side, the DIY videos are well made, but again, it takes a lot of effort to find what I need.” — Lowe’s
- “The products are easy to find using the search function, they are grouped well and they are simple to arrange according to price as well as ratings. My only issues would be the limited number of images of some products and the ratings tend to be quite short, so I cannot learn a great deal of detail from them. I would recommend the website to a friend or colleague of any knowledge level because the website functions overall as it should.” — Harbor Freight Tools
More verbatim comments are available in the downloadable report.
Websites and Mobile App Usage
As a part of this benchmark, we asked participants how they accessed the online home improvement products and services. All participants reported using their desktop/laptop computers (this was a requirement for participation in the survey), with 70% also using mobile websites and only 23% also using mobile apps.
The typical frequency of use was a few times a year for desktop and mobile websites (on average, about 1% reported daily use on desktop and mobile). Lowe’s was the most frequently visited mobile website (overall usage of 58%). For those who reported mobile app use, the typical frequency of use was also a few times a year. Ace Hardware was the most frequently used mobile app (overall usage of 29%).
Key Drivers of the Home Improvement Experience
To better understand what affects SUPR-Q scores and Likelihood-to-Recommend (LTR) ratings, we asked respondents to rate the home improvement websites on a five-point scale from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 5 (Strongly agree) on 21 attributes. We conducted key driver analyses (regression modeling) to quantify the extent to which ratings on these items drive (account for) variation in overall SUPR-Q scores and, separately, LTR (the rating from which the NPS is derived).
SUPR-Q Drivers. As shown in Figure 1, the top key driver was “I can quickly find products I want across different departments,” accounting for 16% of the variability in SUPR-Q scores. This was followed by “The website was cluttered” (11%). Taken together, ten significant variables explain 76% of the variance in the SUPR-Q scores.
LTR Drivers. At a high level, the top key driver of likelihood-to-recommend was Brand Attitude (36%), followed by website Appearance (17%). At a lower level, using the same set of predictors as in the SUPR-Q KDA, the top key driver was “I can quickly find products I want across different departments” (14%).
Best and Worst Ratings: Key Drivers
“Product images are clear” was a significant driver of the home improvement website experience and explained 8% of the variance in SUPR-Q scores.
Harbor Freight Tools had the highest top-box score for this website attribute (Figure 2), with 75% of respondents strongly agreeing that product images were clear, while Menards had the lowest at 45%. The group average was 61%.
“The images are really clear.” — Harbor Freight Tools
“Sometimes the picture quality of the products could be better.” — Menards
Narrow Down Products
“It’s easy to narrow down products to find what I need” was another significant driver of the home improvement website experience that explained 6% of the variance in SUPR-Q scores.
Ace Hardware had the highest top-box score, where 54% strongly agreed that it was easy to narrow down products, while Menards (Figure 3) had the lowest score at 24%. The group average was 39%.
“It’s a decent website, the search works well. You can find what you need without much hassle.” — Ace Hardware
“It’s too busy and their search engine doesn’t always give me what I’m looking for. I get frustrated with the results.” — Menards
Deals and Discounts
“I can easily find deals and discounts” was also a significant driver of the home improvement website experience and explained 5% of the variance in SUPR-Q scores.
Harbor Freight Tools had the highest top-box score, with 55% of respondents strongly agreeing that deals and discounts were easy to find. The Home Depot and Menards had the lowest scores, both at 24% (Figure 4). The group average was 33%.
“I like that they don’t hide coupons and deals for you and make them easy to find.” — Harbor Freight Tools
“I like them a lot, but the only problem is that they do not offer many coupons or discounts.” — The Home Depot
“I think Menards sometimes offers some kind of discount that is basically a product rebate…? I don’t like this type of discounting.” — Menards
What to Improve
While the top problems or frustrations varied across the home improvement sites, cluttered or overwhelming user interfaces, unreliable “in stock” information, and poor online selection were common problems across all websites.
Across all websites, users experienced issues with clutter. Concern about websites appearing “busy” and having an overwhelming amount of information or irrelevant information on any given page were reported frequently. True Value Hardware had the fewest comments relating to clutter, while Ace Hardware had the most.
“Nothing on the main page is that useful. You have to know what you want to look for or you will never find it.” — True Value Hardware
“My word is it ever cluttered, it gives you too much information at points in one fell swoop. You could easily streamline it so someone could go on the front page and dive in faster versus having every little thing on the front page.” — Ace Hardware
Unreliable “In Stock” Information
Across sites, respondents frequently mentioned that they use home improvement websites to check the availability of needed items before going to their local brick-and-mortar store to purchase the item. Another top frustration among all sites was that the online stock information did not match in-store stock levels. This issue came up least frequently among True Value Hardware respondents and most frequently among The Home Depot respondents.
“The site looks to have gotten better since I used it a couple months ago, though. At that time, I had numerous problems finding the materials I wanted and determining whether they were in stock at my local store. It seemed, as a whole, that the local store was disconnected from the chain’s website.” — True Value Hardware
“I’ve had issues with the website showing different inventory numbers than the physical store so when I go to pick something up the item is not actually there.” — The Home Depot
Poor Selection of Items Online
There were also frustrations across all home improvement websites about a lack of variety of products available to them, which is an important issue to consider because the key driver of the SUPR-Q was “I can quickly find products I want across different departments.” Menards respondents mentioned that more products were available in a physical store than what they found online, though this may be symptomatic of the difficulties they had searching and filtering results. This issue was mentioned least frequently by The Home Depot respondents.
“The product offerings are a little smaller than some of the competitors. I cannot always find what I need from the site.” — True Value Hardware
“I’ve encountered not being able to purchase certain products that I’ve found in-store but decided I wanted to purchase online at a later time. I wish their online and offline inventory were more similar.” — Menards
Summary and Takeaways
An analysis of the user experience of six home improvement websites found:
- Ace Hardware and Harbor Freight Tools lead, while Menards and Lowes lag. Ace Hardware had the highest SUPR-Q rating (89th percentile) while Harbor Freight Tools had the highest NPS score (30%). Menards had the lowest SUPR-Q (41st percentile), and Lowe’s had the lowest NPS rating (2%).
- Easily locating desired products, uncluttered websites, and clear images drive SUPR-Q scores. Ten variables accounted for 76% of the variation in SUPR-Q ratings. The top key drivers were “I can quickly find products I want across different departments,” accounting for 16% of SUPR-Q variation, and “The website was cluttered” (11%).
- Brand attitude drives LTR. When looking at higher-level constructs, Brand Attitude was the top driver for LTR (36%). At a lower level, “I can quickly find products I want across different departments” was a top key driver for LTR, accounting for 14% of the variance in scores.
- Clutter, unreliable “in stock” information, and poor selection are consistent problems across sites. Respondents had a few common problems and frustrations across the home improvement websites, such as cluttered and overwhelming pages, online stock information not matching what’s available in-store, and poor selection.
For more details, see the downloadable report.