Lowe's next month will launch Lowe's Vision: In-Store Navigation app, a new augmented reality tool allowing the home improvement chain's customers to use smartphones enabled with Google’s Tango augmented reality technology to search for products, add them to a shopping list and locate the item within the store.
The app — the latest of several augmented reality tools to be offered by Lowe’s, and like the others, spearheaded by the retailer’s Lowe's Innovation Labs — initially will be available to customers visiting Lowe’s stores in Sunnyvale, CA and Lynwood, WA.
"Our research shows that helping make it easier for customers to find products in stores not only makes for a better shopping experience, it allows our associates to spend more time advising on home improvement projects," Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, said in a statement.
At a time when most retailers remain uncertain about the role augmented reality and virtual reality will play in their stores and marketing, Lowe’s continues to be busy exploring all the angles. Just prior to the announcement of this app, Lowe’s announced a test of its HoloRoom virtual reality tool to help customers plan their DIY projects, and late last year the retailer expanded a pilot project involving Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality technology.
Lowe's was among the earliest retailers to test these technologies, and we're just now starting to see some others follow suit. For example, Williams-Sonoma just announced an augmented reality test app for its Pottery Barn brands.
Lowe's new app might be the first AR solution we have seen to aid navigation around stores (and that's exactly what Lowe's is claiming), but it seems like a natural application for the big-box retailers. Lowe's also seems to want to give it a whirl as something that might reduce the amount of time their store associates spend helping customers find things in the store, and increase the amount of time associates spend advising the customers on projects after they have what they came in looking for.
The retailer should get some credit for being the first one to push a new kind of AR app that could enhance customer experiences, though it is not completely clear how much competitive edge or value there is in doing that right now. Ideally, Lowe's and others can use these technologies as one aspect of broader marketing and customer service strategies, but we're not aware of any data yet that shows they are having positive effects on the customer experience.
Of course, when the technology is available in only two stores, that does limit the number of customers who potentially could get excited about it. While virtual reality and augmented reality activity is increasing, tiny trials and limited rollouts can only tell us so much about the real impact they can have.