Lauren McGrath Kyle Pennell

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React to the Changing Face of Retail DIY with Behavioral Data

This project was a collaboration between, SafeGraph, a data company seeking to understand the world and power innovation through open access to geospatial data, Spatial.ai, which organizes geo-located social media data into 72 behavioral segments, and CARTO, the world’s leading Location Intelligence platform.

It is always interesting to watch how humans adapt to unique circumstances. As we have seen in 2020, a worldwide pandemic can cause dramatic shifts in human behavior. One shift that many of us have witnessed is the amount of people undertaking home improvement projects. Whether due to boredom, stimulus checks, Zoom fatigue, or a convenient excuse to get out of the house, home improvement stores like Home Depot and Menards have experienced a surge in traffic.

In fact, foot traffic to Home Depot and Menards increased by an average of 44.6% across the US.

Graph showing increase in foot traffic at Home Depot and Menards


There are two questions that these brands and others like them should be asking themselves:

  1. Is this increase from new or existing customers?
  2. If due to new customers, how can I retain them?

CARTO, Spatial.ai, and SafeGraph teamed up to answer these questions by combining two unique datasets.

SafeGraph Patterns: Captures the block groups that people come from to visit these home improvement stores.
Spatial.ai Geosocial: Captures people’s dominant social media interests in block groups.

By combining these datasets we are able to segment home improvement stores by their customer’s top interests on social media, and more importantly we can see how new customer interests rise or fall post COVID.

In order to achieve this, we first created a simple geosocial profile of each brand. This geosocial profile was calculated using an average of social characteristics of neighborhoods from which customers visit, weighted by counts of visitation. We calculated this social profile twice: once using data from the year pre-COVID (March 2019 - February 2020) and once using data from the COVID era (April 2020 - August 2020). By comparing these two profiles, we can gain an understanding of how each brand’s customers have changed.

To understand the change, we first need to know the customer segmentation pre-COVID. Let’s dive in. To make it concrete we limited the results to Menards & Home Depot in the Milwaukee area as they were very representative of the national trend.

Pre-COVID Top 10 Segments

Tables showing the top 10 segments at Menards & Home Depot Pre COVID


Pre-COVID, we see similarities between the top segments for each brand; Farm Culture, and Outdoor Adventures taking the top two each time. This paints the picture of an outdoorsy, hard working individual more likely to live in rural or less densely populated areas.

A common pattern in the top 15 segments for the two brands—although in different order—are Dog Lovers, Natural Beauty, and Organized Sports. The combination of these segments paints the picture of the suburban family with a few projects around the house.

Post-COVID Top 10 Segments

With the exception of a few shifting segments, we do not see a lot of change for these brand’s top ten segments. This is not too surprising, as we saw a huge lift in visitation overall, and it seems even the customers who were visiting previously have continued to come albeit more frequently.

Tables showing the top 10 segments at Menards & Home Depot Post COVID


These brands can feel confident that their top customers remain as such. However, the story begins to get interesting when we sort our list by the segments that had the greatest change.

Post-COVID: Segments with Greatest Change

This is where home improvement stores should take notice. In the tables below, we sorted by the 10 segments that have seen the greatest increase in foot traffic. These segments are not the prototypical home improvement customer.

Tables showing the segments with the greatest change at Menards


Tables showing the segments with the greatest change at Home Depot


There are three running themes that run counterintuitive to what we’d expect as the type of person interested in DIY projects:

Youth & Urbanicity: Younger Affinity, Student Life, Discount Affinity, and Party Life all point towards younger consumers in urban areas that have slightly less than the national median level incomes. These are also people that tend to rent rather than own, nevertheless they seem to be taking on new projects making Menards newly relevant.

Higher Income Urban: Networking, LGBTQ culture, and Politically Liberal affinity all have a relationship with higher income and tend to work in occupations such as: professional services, information technology, finance, and corporate management. All occupations that lend themselves to working from home. Perhaps being shut up in a house on Zoom calls all day results in a perfect storm of life change that unsurprisingly results in these knowledge workers looking to get their hands dirty.

Nightlife: Perhaps the most counterintuitive, Party Life and Late Night Affinity all have a relationship with nightlife in the area. Subsequently we have seen these segments drop in recent months, captured best in this case study. Perhaps these people are channeling their extroverted energy to focus their time on things that do not require close contact.

Using Geosocial and Mobile Movement to Influence Business Decisions

Understanding the changing face of DIYers is helpful, but it begs the question: how do I use this information to increase my bottom line? Translating research into practical and actionable business decisions is the next step in using these data successfully and making sense of it for your executives.

Below are a few ideas for home improvement retailers navigating this new world that can also be applied to other retail concepts.

Communicate & Personalize

Consider how you communicate with and personalize shopping experiences for your new consumers. What are their interests, and can you better cater to those interests in-store?

For example, Home Depot or Menards could dig deeper into the lifestyles associated with each of their new customer segments to identify potential areas of opportunity.

The Networking segment is capturing folks who commonly work outside the home in large corporations and who care about human connections and business pursuits, spend money on electronics and personal care, and tend to, during pre-COVID times, visit furniture/home appliance stores and fast casual dining establishments. For a home improvement store, these indicators suggest that Networkers might be interested in revamping their home offices with standing desks, video-friendly backdrops for video conferencing, and more comfortable and ergonomic seating spaces.

People who fall into the Party Life category are commonly talking about things like Bottle Service, DJs, and Dancing. The consumers who fall into this segment tend to have a propensity to spend time and money at full-service restaurants, drinking places, and apparel stores, specifically shoe stores. With the understanding that these consumers are currently less likely to dress up and venture out to bars and restaurants, but do have an affinity for party-type behavior, Menards might consider putting together a DIY project package for how to build a home bar, finish your basement, or decorate for entertaining at home.

These are simple and immediate ways to capitalize on current consumer interests.

Think Long Term

Now that home improvement stores are capturing a wider swath of consumers with DIY interests, they should consider how to retain these shoppers for the long haul, even after “normal” life resumes.

  • Site Selection: Launch small-footprint pop-up stores to capitalize on more urban or suburban consumers.
  • Co-tenancy: Identify the retailers that resonate strongly with these new segments of behavior and develop a colocation strategy to generate more foot traffic.
  • Merchandising: Continue developing DIY packages that speak to consumer interests and newfound handiness.
  • Advertising: Reach your new customers in geographies where they are highly concentrated with imagery and messaging that is relevant to them (e.g., Image of backyard party with cafe lighting, homemade bar, and a fire pit stating, “Everyday’s a reason to celebrate”).

With innovative data sources like geosocial, mobile movement, and powerful mapping from CARTO, it has never been easier to listen, learn, and react to changing customer demands.

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About the author
Lauren McGrath

Senior Director, Client Success at Spatial.AI

More posts from Lauren McGrath
About the author
Kyle Pennell

Solutions Engineer at CARTO

More posts from Kyle Pennell

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