By Juan TornoeCuriosity did not kill this gato (although it almost drove him crazy!). I’m alive and kicking, thank you very much (and borderline sane). Honestly, I was going berserk because I did not have access to the whole scoop regarding the sudden closure of Home Depot’s Spanish website. Yes, I did read what was said in the news; cathartically posted my own POV on the subject, and interviewed another big box retailer who’s maintained a Spanish online presence for quite some time… Through it all I did gather some insights, but there is nothing like hearing the story first hand from those directly involved in making these complex decisions.
So I reached out to Home Depot’s Corporate Communications, who promptly replied and in no time set up an appointment with Leonard Wortzel, their Multicultural Manager, who stepped into this role just 7 weeks ago. Leonard has been with The Home Depot for 4 ½ years, working in various advertising and marketing roles. Prior to that, he spent several years working mostly creative side advertising, with a small agency in Dallas, as well as with the BBDO and Grey affiliates in Costa Rica.
Following, please find the interview/conversation I had with Mr. Wortzel…Juan Tornoe
: What was your U.S. Spanish online presence prior to the launch of the now closed site?
Leonard Wortzel: We had some minimal how-to content on a secondary website. JT
: Why the closure of your Spanish Site only 4 months after turning it on?
LW: When we launched the site, our research told us that this was the right thing to do. The reality was, it wasn’t; not in this current environment. It just simply did not perform the way we thought it would. Because of the very robust solution that we adopted, maintaining the site would require a good amount of manpower behind it. It would have not been simple to just maintain a piece or portion of it, technically it just didn’t work that way.
JT: Why not leave up general company info, store locator info, How-To guides, etc… and lead people into buying in English OR visiting their nearest location for some “Skin time” with a bilingual associate?
LW: The landing page that is there takes you to the store, takes you to our online site, or it takes you to apply for a job. There are a couple of resources that we still have out there: You can shop our online circulars in Spanish and a bilingual employment site. What we’ve heard and learned from our customers is that we need to engage them in the stores, person to person. So right now that is where every ounce of every type of effort is being placed; serving this customer where they told us they want to be served the best, right there in our isles. JT
: It was cited on the Wall Street Journal that one of the reasons the site was closed was that half the visitors came from other countries… Only 33% of Univision.com’s traffic comes from the U.S. Although we’re talking about completely different business models don’t you believe there could’ve been a way to keep at least a part of the site up and running – referring specifically to the How-To guides?
LW: Again, it wasn’t a simple transfer of data. The amount of resources and effort that would have been required at this particular point in time to keep that part of the site live led us to making a decision on where do we want to put our efforts right now; is it going to be in the digital space or are we best served serving our customer in the place they want and need our help the most, which is in the isles every day?JT
: Was a good chunk of the international traffic coming from México?
LW: Without getting into specific numbers that is pretty safe to say. JT
: Couldn’t you have redirected that traffic to your Mexican website and/or stores?
LW: Although Mexico has a pretty robust site, it isn’t an ecommerce site.
JT: Could you comment on your Spanish site’s conversion rates and customer satisfaction?
LW: Again, without getting into any specifics, we made the decision to shut it down because it wasn’t performing anywhere near where it needed to be. JT
: Is there a future for Home Depot en Español online? If so, what is it?
LW: Without talking about specific plans, we are always looking for the best way to serve our customers and we are always researching and developing new ways to fulfill our Hispanic customers’ needs. To say that Home Depot is done with the digital space for the Hispanic customer, or that we dipped our toe in the water and said, “No, we are done with this”, is absolutely untrue.
JT: Excellent! That is really comforting to learn. One final question… By the way that your current Spanish landing page addresses the Latino community, it seems that The Home Depot is assuming that all Hispanic clients are Spanish-speaking clients. What about Bilingual and English-dominant Latinos? Don’t you believe that specifically addressing Spanish-dominant Hispanics on that one landing page would be more appropriate?
LW: I think that is a valid point; I am going to get back with Vidal [The Home Depot’s Hispanic Agency of Record] and have them take a fresh look at that. One last thing, I enjoyed discovering your blog, I think you’ve got a lot of good content on it. So, there you have it. Don’t know about y’all but I am quite satisfied with Home Depot’s answers. They do clarify many of the questions I had written on my initial post on the subject. Hey, I even got a chance to do a bit of free consulting for Vidal… You are very welcome guys! I’ll make sure to add it to my CV.