Lowe’s is testing augmented reality and virtual reality tools it says help customers visualize and “feel” a large home improvement product in the context of the customer’s living space.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs, with offices in Kirkland, Washington, Mooresville, North Carolina and Bangalore, India, were established four years ago to delve deeper into these questions, said Shabtai. Often working with startups, the company has since rolled out several pilot projects to test customers’ comfort with virtual and augmented reality, including Holoroom How-To, which immerses a customer in a DIY project – such as tiling a shower – and gives them step-by-step instruction to complete the task; employee training programs that involve virtual reality; Holoroom Test Drive, a feature that uses VR to offer customers a chance to sense the feeling they are actually holding and using a power tool; and “View in Your Space,” a mobile app feature which lets customers visualize how a piece of furniture may fit within the physical dimensions of their own living spaces. Of these pilots, two currently are still in market, including Holoroom Test Drive in Charlotte and the AR feature which went live for Android users in March.
While quick turnaround trials may suggest there are challenges getting customers to comfortably use the technology on a regular basis, Shabtai said the timing is part of Lowe’s approach to test new use cases, study the outcomes, and apply the lessons to future releases. Other retailers are also jumping on the VR/AR bandwagon, including Home Depot and Walmart.
The mission is helping customers better navigate how they’ll use tools or whether products are physically compatible with their homes; and helping employees learn more quickly to offer more personalized expertise, and ultimately, add more value to the in-store experience.