At Ace Hardware, the marketing strategy is focused on leveraging community and small business attributes. The steady strengthening of the utility position attracted more women, more younger buyers, and more new owners.
I recently asked Kim Lefko, CMO of Ace Hardware, to fill us in.
Paul Talbot: When you step back and look at how your marketing has evolved over the past few years, what stands out?
Kim Lefko: Last year accentuated the purpose of the Ace brand: we exist to help others.
Our integrated marketing and promotion campaigns focus on how Ace is the preferred destination for paint, grills, electrical equipment and home preservation. Our goal is simple; the high-quality brands in each of these categories that consumers want and that only Ace delivers, and the trusted expert advice that our neighbors have come to expect.
For reference, this assortment of high quality brands that Ace carries nationwide includes Benjamin Moore, Magnolia, Weber, Traeger, Big Green Egg, Ego, Stihl, Toro and Milwaukee.
Last year we attracted younger buyers, more new home buyers and more women than ever before. Ace stores offer quality brands, expert advice and the convenience of neighborhood shopping. This accolade helped attract a new audience to Ace. We have also worked on engagement and partnership with young do-it-yourselfers.
For example, in our recent paint campaign, we declared April 3 as “One day”. From the survey results, we knew that people often put off painting for one reason or another. To help overcome painting procrastination, we have offered many offers to help our customers finally tackle the room they wanted to paint “one day”.
To spread the word, we’ve teamed up with millennial DIYers on Instagram and TikTok to support their own creative painting project. During the 6 week campaign window, we saw a record number of customers for our paint category.
Talbot: Your organization is a retailer-owned cooperative. How does this structure influence the development and execution of your marketing strategy?
Lefco: With over 4,500 stores in the United States, 75% of the American population is within 15 minutes of their local Ace store, and no store is alike. These local stores are part of the community and you can feel that as you walk in, each offers a unique assortment of products and their own unique shopping experience.
The majority of Ace stores are small, local, often family-owned businesses with the autonomy to tailor their store offerings to their communities. While we have a national advertising campaign strategy that drives global awareness and affinity with Ace, we are focused on providing the platforms and tools we promote for personalized local marketing around each store to attract their local customers.
Talbot: Ace Hardware had been in business for 47 years before Home Depot came along. After 43 years of competing with The Home Depot, to effectively communicate what you see as benefits, what key messages do you need your marketing to convey?
Lefco: We distinguish ourselves by our local ownership, our reliable advice and our award-winning customer service. We were once again honored to receive the top ranking for “Highest Customer Satisfaction Among Home Improvement Stores and Retail Stores” in JD Power’s annual home improvement survey.
Talbot: When considering how technology and media platforms can support your marketing goals, what opportunities do you find most compelling?
Lefco: The technology that excites us most are the tactics that help amplify and extend our human, high-quality service experience delivered by local store execution.
E-commerce is a growing channel for us and during the pandemic we have seen our digital revenues increase by 272%. Our Ace e-commerce app and site is the “front door” and extension of our local stores, providing the convenience of online ordering.
Our deliveries are handled by local Ace associates. It’s the synergy between each of these components that makes our service great and what consumers want. digital, the proximity of the local store and the personal and human connection of the local Ace associate. We are passionate about existing to serve and help our communities.