Stop integrating platforms!

If your company’s overarching online strategy sounds like this: “Integrate real-time platforms,” then your company is in trouble for two reasons. 1) The three words above were generated randomly by the Web Economy Bulls--t Generator; and 2) Few people know what any of those words mean individually, let alone in conjunction with one another.

You gotta have a plan, in English. 

E-commerce was one of the brightest segments of the recent Christmas retailing season, and online sales are expected to continue to grow in 2011, by all accounts. As a corporate New Year’s resolution, home channel players that settle on “improve online performance and efficiencies” can consider themselves in pretty good company.

Some of the very biggest players in our industry are taking a hard look at their online presence with a view toward bolstered branding, improved efficiency and turbo-charged sales. ProBuild Holdings recently unveiled the new Houston-based distributor Handy Hardware Wholesale dramatically improved its site. The advances at are explored on page 18. Even the Lumber Association of California & Nevada — with copy and photography from executive director Ken Dunham — has a cool new site.

(And yes, the new is up and running, too.)

For those decision-makers in a similar mind-set, here are enough e-strategy tips to last to the end of this column — some of them stolen from the most profitable businesses in home improvement.

• Have a plan (in English). Hal Lawton is online president for The Home Depot. To his credit, he doesn’t sound like a tech guy at all. “It’s our goal to stitch together all the assets of Home Depot to enable customers to engage and purchase from us when, where and how they want,” he said. 

• Know your competition. And your competition includes They’re good. If you don’t think you’re competing with Jeff Bezos’ A to Z empire, take this test: Run an Amazon search on some products that you sell. See what I mean?

• Speed it up, Part I. At, executives weren’t completely satisfied with their guaranteed 30-minute order-it-online-and-pick-it-up-in-the-store program. The new slogan tells the story: “Shop. Click. Pickup. 20 minutes guaranteed.”

• Speed it up, Part II. Here’s how I remember an early Web development meeting for the new HomeChannel

Developer: What would you like your new website to be?

Me: Fast.

Developer: What about the ability to deliver multimedia — videos or slideshows — alongside relevant news articles?

Me: As long as it’s fast.

Developer: Clean? Interactive? Navigable? State of the art?

Me: Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast.

• Keep it fresh. “Perhaps the worst sin is the failure to update website information quickly,” wrote Bob Vereen, author of “Successful Web Retailing.” When you’re not updating your company’s website, somebody else is updating theirs.

And stop integrating real-time platforms. 

— Ken Clark

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