Case Study: Lowe’s Builds On Mobile Strategy With In-Store Item Locators

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LowesMerchant: Lowe’s
Location: North America
Size: 1,800+ stores
Platform: Mobile App for the iPhone and Android
The Bottom Line: Beefing up their mobile apps with product reviews and in-store location features can help national retailers combat the showrooming effect.

As consumers get savvier in the way they use mobile technology while shopping at brick-and-mortar stores—39% now use smartphones and tablets to research products and compare prices in-store—retailers are beginning to provide their own tools to combat the showrooming effect. For Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer with locations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, that means offering mobile tools that shoppers can use to locate items in-store, scan barcodes, read product reviews, check out image galleries, and manage their own loyalty program accounts.

According to Sean Bartlett, director of mobile strategy and platforms at Lowe’s, adding upgraded location features to the company’s mobile app was a strategic “roadmap decision” driven by the interactions that store associates have with customers on a daily basis. “We have a very big footprint from the store perspective — a lot of products with a lot of customers,” says Bartlett. “The ability to see the customer’s trip to the store, whether it is planning or starting to use the location features in the store [is important]. Anything we can do to make it more efficient.”

The company’s in-store product locator feature allows customers to find the location of in-stock items at Lowe’s stores using their mobile phones. When a consumer selects his “home” store on the Lowe’s app and searches for a specific item, the associated aisle number pops up alongside the item image and description. Users can then tap on the aisle number to view an interactive map of the specific store that shows where the product is located.

Although the feature isn’t true navigation, in the sense that it is not providing customers with real-time route mapping based on their current locations, it does represent a major push by Lowe’s to include more hyperlocal technology at the consumer level. “As you look at new capabilities that you role out, it always comes back to enhancing the customer experience. We are experience driven, and to the extent that we can tie our customer and our store experiences and our store associates together, that is how we drive a lot of those [mobile strategy] decisions,” says Bartlett.

Mobile now accounts for 20% of overall web traffic at Lowe’s, which Bartlett sees as an especially impressive statistic given that “mobile didn’t exist” to the company just three years ago. “To see that evolution over a short period of time is pretty incredible,” says Bartlett.

While Bartlett is tight lipped on which mobile initiatives he’ll be working on next, he does say that Lowe’s has been impressed with the success of its MyLowe’s digital loyalty program. The company has brought more than 42,000 iPhones to its 1,800+ locations, which store associates can use to look up a customer’s purchase history from anywhere on the sales floor. Integrating the MyLowe’s program into the Lowe’s mobile app has made it easier for the company to remind customers to consider making seasonal purchases (like hoses in the summer, or electric heaters in the winter). Customers can also save items to their shopping lists and pull up information about recent purchases, like specific paint colors. “There is a lot of work from teams, whether it is store operations, marketing training, or our associates,” says Bartlett. “It is cross-functional in every sense.”

The Takeaway
By offering a way to quickly locate products and read reviews from inside their stores, Lowe’s is decreasing their customers’ reliance on external websites and shopping apps for research potential purchases. The features that Lowe’s has introduced as part of its latest mobile app upgrade are helping the retailer combat showrooming without falling back on discounts or coupons, proving that hyperlocal features can provide a significant ROI regardless of the size of the retailer.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.