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The Product Management Blog

Tips and Free Resources to become a Great Product Manager
Tips and Free Resources to become a Great Product Manager

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

There are as many explanations for what a Product Manager does as there are companies. The job description changes considerably from business to business. With this in mind, how different is it jumping from fashion retail to home repair as a product manager?

Product Manager at The Home Depot joined us for a live chat with our PM Slack Community and answered their questions about switching fields, prioritization and more.

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

 

Jordan Jordan
Jordan Jordan graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology. She worked as an Online Merchant at The Limited and jumped from there to an online startup called ELOQUII. She then headed to Abercrombie & Fitch to be a part of the new Product Management team and was the Product Manager for the Product Information Management tool, as well as the Product Details Page. She most recently joined the Home Depot as a Product Manager for the Product Details Page.

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How do you prioritize which features to build first? Do you use any standard methodologies?

I have used a few methodologies in the past, and the one that typically gets used the most is prioritizing by $ value. This is really hard to come to, but you typically start with your revenue per visit metric and try to understand how your feature will move the needle on conversion and make an impact on the traffic numbers you are getting. Then you start to get baseline numbers that make it easier to prioritize the biggest value ones first.

Can you talk a little bit about how you are integrating the digital and physical world shopping experiences?

We think about the store experience first, and a lot of my integration ideas come from being a customer! I visit our stores all the time and work on projects at home so I can easily relate to struggles that our customers will face and figure out how I can translate them into some solutions online. I heavily focus on the mobile experience (not the app).

How did you prioritize what features to port-over vs. new feature sets as part of the migration?

Every part of the Product Page got broken down into individual features. You start with the question “what is the absolute minimum that the customer needs to purchase a product on the site?” Then you work on those first and typically start with the toughest piece. For us, that meant pricing/fulfillment options first.

Then you start to tick away at the easier ones that are needed like Name/Image. New features come last, as you want to have full parity. If there is a new feature that is absolutely going to bring more value than any existing ones, then you’d prioritize that higher.

What’s your process for prioritizing features? What do you take into account?

You want to look at the incremental revenue your feature will deliver to help prioritize against other features, but then there are other factors to go up against outside your space – like what executives are asking for. As a Product Manager, you have to find the right balance and see what can be built quickly and possibly in tandem with other features your team is working on. It’s a constant negotiation. 

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

How did you move from fashion retail to home repair? Have there been any big differences in how being in that sphere impacts your work?

Surprisingly there isn’t a huge difference. While yes, the products we sell are very different than in fashion, the technology to sell these items online is the same. It was easy transitioning because the Home Depot uses the same Agile principles you will find on most e-commerce sites. Here we are on a much larger scale and at times may move slower because of that, but we are reorganizing now to become even faster.

Do you utilize design-thinking along with agile development – aka design sprints then code? What are your feelings on design sprints?

Design sprints are a great tool for ideas that don’t have a clear path yet! We use them a lot when coming up with a new POC for something to help us find the answer and possibly come up with a roadmap for new ideas. We use design thinking to iterate and test. Design sprints are for the unknown.

Does The Home Depot subscribe to a particular scaling method such as SAFe, DAD, etc.?

We do not use a particular scaling method (by book standards) – each team is given autonomy to figure it out on their own and do what works best for them. Each area or journey of the site is given that freedom, which is nice!

I’m frustrated by the inability to search for what I want. The options shown to help me choose are not always relevant. How are these decided upon?

We are constantly trying to improve this – and I’m sorry to hear about your frustration! We try to approach this in different ways. We listen to customer feedback from online, phone calls, chats, etc., and also go into our stores and discuss these issues with customers face to face.

We try to figure out where the biggest problems lie and then tackle those first and see if we can scale a solution to other smaller areas from there. Some categories require very specific knowledge, and we partner with our merchants to understand what that looks like.

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

How have you been tackling the older generation users for the mobile app?

I can’t speak too well to our app, but I know that there’s a large focus around the pro-consumer, which is more of a B2B model. We are focused on all customer segments/ages but don’t have a specific strategy for an older customer base, per se.

How do you coordinate with the page design/features and the performance and functionality that others are working on?

We recently just re-organized our team structure so that we don’t need to be reliant on other teams to get work done. If there is something new that I will need search to change, my developers will be able to make those changes themselves.

We will, of course, partner closely with Liliya McLean’s Enterprise Search team so that we are following best practices. Coordination help also comes from our Project Managers – who are super helpful in getting all the right people in the room together!

How does the Home Depot connect with consumers for user-testing or user-research?

We have lots of outlets for this. We start with our “problem” or “question” and then determine what customer segment we would want to reach. Sometimes it’s a specific customer base and other times it’s just an average consumer. Then we do in-home visits, online user testing, in-store testing, surveys, etc. We go everywhere.

Do you conduct your own testing for bugs and how you approach that? Who do you engage, how long do you set aside for testing before release?

Luckily, I have an amazing QA team that understands our pages and features well and they have set up all the testing or devices for us. When we have people this good, I can instil my trust that they have done very thorough testing.

However, when I have a major feature about to be released, I usually set aside at least an hour or so where I can test on multiple browsers or devices before giving my sign off. I typically do not go bug hunting in product though. We will find out very quickly from our customer operations team if there is an issue on our site.

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

How is the Home Depot set up organizationally and how does that shape your cross-functional interactions with other teams? 

We have just restructured to be focused on end-to-end journeys for the customer. We no longer have product managers in charge of a certain page on the site (like the product page). Instead, they are focused on an entire customer journey. My new area of focus is “browse foundational” and I am laying the ground work for other teams to use.

How are your teams organized and what is the typical composition of a team?

All teams are organized with roughly 4-8 developers (front-end/back-end) depending on need, 1 product manager, 1-2 UX resources, and 1 project manager. We are now organized by customer journey to help solve the needs of our customers. Think of an appliance shopper – we now have a team dedicated to solving the appliance shopping journey. There is a heavy focus on translating the store experience to online, and vice versa.

How should one use machine learning in a service such as The Home Depot to deliver more value to the client across the user journey?

This is a huge unknown space that we are just getting our feet wet now! We are using machine learning to power personalization, and image recognition to then serve up better product recommendations and more relevant content to customers.

How do you work with engineers and designers?

I work closely with them daily, and we have stand-ups every morning to understand where we are blocked and what next steps are. I spend the majority of my time with them, honestly. They are building/creating the experiences for our customers – so I am a servant leader for them!

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

Do you handle hiring? If so do you follow any frameworks for hiring best talents?

I conduct interviews along with other people on our team, but I am not a hiring manager at this time. We typically look to follow the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) framework when asking behavioral questions.

I am looking to transition into a Product Manager role. Is the role more of a marketing role at times?

We have Product Manager roles in marketing, so it just depends on what area of the site you would go into. Some are heavily involved, and others are not.

I’d like to work at the Home Depot. I have a web development background. Would starting out as an Associate Product Manager be the route to go?

Yeah, that would be amazing! We love to have people with a technical background. Going for an associate level role would be perfect!

How do you deal with A/B experiments that take a long time to conclude? What do you do when a feature that you want to ship goes negatively?

Luckily we haven’t had many experiments go negatively. If we are concerned about something, we typically user test it first, and then go into A/B testing. User testing should indicate ahead of time if there will be a negative impact. We have a really amazing team of Product Managers here and over time you get to know your customers well and how the site operates that you have the intuition to know if a feature will be a good fit.

Like I said though, user testing ahead of time is our best indicator and has saved us from launching failing tests. We usually see flat tests or positive ones. If we do have a negative one, we will abandon it and reiterate if we feel strongly about it.

From Fashion Retail to Home Repair by Home Depot PM

How has your retail experience helped you as a Product Manager? Has your experience of being on the floor with customers given you better insight?

Absolutely! If I hadn’t had face to face interactions with customers previously, I would have a harder time understanding their problems. You got to get out there and see people in person so that you can understand how they use sites to help them shop!

What do you think are the three companies that are consistently perceived as cultivating the strongest Product Managers?

Amazon, Google, and Abercrombie (had to). But Amazon is the strongest by far.

What is the most challenging part of a Product Manager role? How do you influence people/stakeholders especially those higher up?

Influencing others is challenging. It can take a long time to build those relationships. I influence people by getting to know them! Then we start to see what motivates each other and come to compromises.

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