The Reddit Influence: How Altra Running and The Home Depot Capitalize on Community and Context

Executives from the Home Depot and Altra Running recently shared how they're advertising on Reddit to build consumer trust and connect with context.

Digital channels and platforms — especially social networks — have democratized product discovery and access. Through algorithm-powered feeds, consumers receive a curated selection of accounts, brands and products that they can interact with (and buy from) all over the world. But although consumers can easily use social platforms to discover and buy from new brands, it doesn’t mean they will. In fact, more than half of U.S. shoppers are concerned with the quality and legitimacy of the product discovery channels they use most, according to research from Reddit

“Trust is a hard thing to come by,” noted Bob Ferdman, Reddit’s Head of Retail during the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo this past June. “It’s hard to trust what you’re seeing online from brands— and trust is a hard thing for marketers to gain from buyers — and this problem is growing. We’ve all seen headlines about scams, clickbait on social media and maybe things that don’t look like they actually do once they’re in your hands.”

Influencer marketing has played a part in diminishing consumer trust, especially among Gen Z. These consumers know influencers are paid to interact with and promote these products, which makes them more hesitant to trust their praise. Even basic online reviews are being closely scrutinized as brands and retailers have started offering perks and incentives to consumers who leave positive ratings on Amazon and other platforms.

This volatile climate reaffirms the importance of context, according to Ferdman: real stories, real photos and real examples that consumers can access to glean whether a brand or product is right for them. With more than 507 million monthly users worldwide contributing to more than 16 billion posts and comments per year, Reddit provides a repository of rich context that helps ensure consumers get the answers they need to make informed decisions.

Ferdman added that because Reddit is a community platform, users can gather into micro-communities based on their interests, which not only fosters authentic connections but also inspires learning and exploration. Together, these attributes drive influence and intent, which is invaluable for consumer brands and retailers.

“We’re a place where real people gather to talk about real things,” Ferdman said. “We’re unmediated by algorithms, and largely free of mindless engagement bait, which is a real need in the world, we think. People are craving this.”

How Brands Can Capitalize on Community Context

Executives representing brands of various sizes, categories and maturity levels also shared how they use Reddit — not just personally but professionally — to support their goals.

Amanda Morris, Director of Media at Home Depot, turns to Reddit to get some juicy drama and “reality TV.” She especially loves to dig into timely debates, such as whether it’s appropriate for people to leave their chairs back on an airplane. But she added that Reddit is especially valuable to help her team understand consumers on a deeper level than other platforms allow.

“It is our job as marketers to really know and understand our customers in this evolving digital landscape,” Morris said. “It’s fragmented, you are receiving multiple messages across multiple screens all throughout your day, so how do we really get our hands around customer behavior? And how do we take that idea of what customer behavior is evolving into and use that to build media strategies to reach our customers with the right messages more effectively? Part of that is being contextually relevant to their needs state. Are they in a shopping mindset? Are they in an informational mindset? Are they in a consideration mindset?”

Other brands are embracing Reddit to adopt a test-and-learn approach. Because the platform is conversation-based and rooted in authenticity, it is an ideal place to try different things and see what resonates with users.

“Whether that’s reaching a new audience with a broader targeting strategy than you’ve used in the past or trying out a different objective within the marketing funnel, just adopting that test-and-learn mindset and taking what’s been successful for your brand and iterating — that’s a great way to move forwards the future,” explained Grace Weselak, Paid Social Director at PMG Advertising Agency, which has Nike as a client.

Brianna Hernandez, Senior Digital Media Manager at Altra Running, agreed, noting that this is a big focus for the emerging brand. “We have a ‘fail fast’ ethos,” she said. “Part of that is diversifying our media mix, so it’s been really beneficial for us to lean into Reddit because it is a newer advertising platform and there’s so much that we can test there.”

Many social platforms have significant limitations, especially related to segmentation, Hernandez added, forcing brands to target more broadly within these communities. However, Reddit has highly specific sub-channels that allow advertising and marketing teams to integrate contextual advertising into the most relevant spaces and conversations. This not only helps ensure consumers have a personalized ad experience but that they ultimately trust the ads they see.

“At Home Depot, one of the things we prioritize is, how do we become radically helpful to our customers as they engage in projects that they may not know how to complete,” Morris explained. “Showing up in a space like Reddit, where folks are giving each other advice on their home projects, allows us to show up in a contextually relevant way, with helpful information to help them complete those projects.”

Morris shared an example of a consumer reading an interior design subreddit to look for information about wallpaper, including how to choose it and how to install it. Home Depot can integrate contextually relevant ads and content into those conversations to make finding and buying the products the consumer needs much easier.

Want to learn more about how Home Depot, Altra Running and Nike are leaning into contextual commerce through Reddit? Subscribe to the Retail Remix podcast, where we’ll replay the full conversation from the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo.