A recent article was sharing how Lowe’s is helping customers find items on their smartphone app while in the store. Apparently 20% of Lowe’s online visits are from the mobile. The snip below was what set me thinking. On reading it, I had this feeling that this is very much last year’s solution and Lowe’s is positioned to move faster than you may think. In a moment I’ll tell you why.
“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.” Read Original Post.
- Search for store (which is set with first log-in unless you want to change)
- Search for item
- Choose item that you want that is stock (is priced)
- Tap on aisle number
- Look at the tiny aisle map to find the product….. (can zoom with fingers)
All on a tiny screen, this type of thing doesn’t work as much of a time-saver. Yet it is an important piece in getting to the next stage.
So what’s wrong and why do I think this is dated. The problem:
- I want the mobile to guide me to the right location. I don’t even need a map – just a direction pointer and a little encouragement. This could appear on the result of screen 3 shown. The whole UI thing could be simplified.
- Lowe’s has all the information by store. It’s all planogrammed out, with maps on where stuff goes. The problem is the product doesn’t have any sort of signal saying to the buyer, “I’m here, I’m here”. So we have these manual maps.
- The product I’ve chosen may well have some other related products to get the job done. Will I see them or forget them on the way to pick up the item I’m searching for.
The potential solution:
- Put an iBeacon (actually a BluetoothLE transmitter) at the end of each aisle. (If the aisle is too long, put one in the middle too.) Think triangulation and it may be simpler than this.
- Now we know the exact distance between two transmitters and then between aisles etc.
- As we have the planogram we can actually point the user to within approx a foot of where the item is.
- With a level on the “arrow tracking finder” we can actually guide the direction of the persons eyesight up or down. There are various UI ways this could be done
- There are probably some other things we could do too… you get the drift
- Now every product can “talk” or “message” (not that we will want them to)
The benefits of this are immediately obvious:
- Every Product in the store can now direct someone to it. No electronic label required.
- It means that the shelves are potentially alive with interest and reminders. As I walk by I may get offers. (This is a selling opportunity for retailers to suppliers – more profits)
- Offers and discounts can be personalized to the individual shopper (repeat purchases, associated items etc.).
- Obviously the market for smartphone holders on shopping carts / trolleys could be huge.
- The mobile can become the product scanner.
- Self-checkout is simplified as the trolley and goods are weighed on the way out
- Lines and staffing requirements at retail counters disappear
- The customer effectively has the cash register on their trolley/shopping cart.
- The retailer can more effectively optimize in-store traffic and shopping paths.
- “Savings” will likely encourage other customers to adopt the Lowes app.
- Builders and Contractors never have to wait in-line again at checkout – saving time and thus money.
- Staff can be re-deployed back into the store.
- Payment Relationships can be renegotiated. Eg an auto direct debit rather than a Visa.
There are some issues we will address below. However the cost of this installation need not be large. Lowe’s are very large stores. I used the example of Bluetooth LE beacons on each aisle – 2 or more. However, in a highly planned store like this, “triangulation” may actually cover a much broader area reducing the number of beacons actually required. There will be interference too. There’s perhaps a reason Estimote is selling developers a pack of three. The cost of these beacons is low. The software development cost is also relatively low and certainly minuscule by comparison with installing self-checkouts, new registers or adding new staff. Lowes has already provided their staff with iPhones (42000!). So they already have a beta test task force in place.
The customer has a trade-off. Effectively privacy and cash, or a better more efficient relationship that may save them both money and time. There has already been some outrage over WiFi and Mac tracking by retailers. Retailers will have to be very smart about how they use or request location information. It’s one thing to share in the store, another to continue sharing once outside with an app running in the background. I think we will shortly see some interesting statements in plain english to address consumer fears.
The benefits simply outweigh anything else. In a year Lowe’s, Safeway, Tesco Ikea etc. should begin rolling out solutions like these. It will also generate new apps that help stores set them up.