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Exclusive Q&A: Home Depot equips employees for holidays with app

Home Depot Sidekick
Home Depot's Sidekick in-store employee app.

The Home Depot Inc. is leveraging its Sidekick store associate app to ensure holiday shoppers can find the products they want, when they want them.

Home Depot rolled out its proprietary mobile in-store app, called Sidekick, in January 2023, in addition to mobile devices it provides store associates called hdPhones. Leveraging a cloud-enabled machine learning (ML) algorithm, the app guides associates to prioritize the highest-demand products. Sidekick also utilizes machine vision to identify which shelves associates should restock, and the location of excess product on overhead shelves.

In addition, the app alerts specific associates which tasks need to be completed first via a common tasking engine, and showcases where and how to complete a task in a dashboard with associate and manager views.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Andrew Fritts, technology senior director of The Home Depot, to find out how the home improvement giant is utilizing the app to make the holidays less stressful for both shoppers and associates.

How are associates using the Sidekick app to support holiday shoppers?

Sidekick helps associates prioritize tasks that are focused on getting the customer the product that they need. Previously, we had associates and customers looking for products and associates trying to fill holes on shelves that they or the customers noticed.

Now, the Sidekick app helps them find where a missing product is and then prioritize those holes in the in the sales floor. Those two capabilities are helping associates get better on-shelf availability for the products that our customers need. This relates to holiday shopping in a couple of ways.

The holidays bring a brand new set of products that the store associates are not used to working with day in and day out. So Sidekick can assist associates in recognizing one of those products in the overhead and then understanding exactly where it belongs, with not just a bay location but also a picture that points them into a specific location inside of that overhead.

This gives the associate more confidence that the product they’re looking for is actually there. They can then bring that product directly to where it's needed on the sales floor and available for the customer. Sidekick uses machine learning (ML) logic to tell associates that there is a hole and then also tells them where to go and find the missing product and pull it down to the correct location.

And once an associate knows what product they are going to pack down, the app provides them a more specific view of where that product is so they can get to it more quickly. Sidekick handles both the prioritization and the acknowledgement, and also gives employees the speed so that they get the product faster and can get back to helping our customers.

Are there other tasks you’re using Sidekick for this holiday season?

At this point, holiday inventory is packed down, so Sidekick is also going to be used as an interface that helps associates pack out. During the freight process where associates are moving products to the sales floor, the app is directing them to where that product needs to go.

There are other tasks that Sidekick will manage. But the ML algorithm that runs all of those tasks behind the scenes is a combined algorithm as well, now.

Why did Home Depot decide to develop Sidekick internally?

Home Depot has unique constraints in the stores with the overhead and the amount of product that we have in the overhead. We felt like there were enough unique problems to solve that was it was more likely that we could build a solution that is custom-made for our associates in their environment and for our customers. We think that this is a platform that is going to be highly valuable in a number of areas in our store.

What has store associate response to Sidekick been?

Associates have given us a lot of feedback on the prioritizing as well as the pictures, and it’s obvious they are very engaged. That's been very helpful and our connection with our associates has been really tight with this app.

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