By Anna Rose Welch, Director, Cell & Gene Collaborative
Subscribe to my blog ARW on CGT here!
Company sees mobile as integral tool to develop in-store employee-customer relationships
Lowe’s saw a 26 percent increase in net earnings for the 2013 third quarter, reporting net earnings of $499 million. Compared to Q3’12, when the company saw $12.1 billion in sales, the company experienced a 7.3 percent increase to $13 billion in Q3’13, along with a 6.2 percent rise in comparable store sales. Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock attributes the quarter’s growth to the slowly strengthening home improvement market, as people find the market more feasible for home improvement project investments, both large and small.
However, while the strengthening market could be a major reason the home improvement retailer is seeing strengthening sales, it is highly likely that some success comes from its ability to reach customers through its increasingly important mobile strategy. In 2011, the year dubbed by Niblock as “the largest single-year investment in IT in-store systems infrastructure in Lowe’s history,” the company made several key improvements to its in-store technology platforms. For one, the company equipped employees with 42,000 iPhones, complete with custom apps and add-on hardware. This was an important step to take considering, as Niblock says, mobile blurs the lines between in-store and web — something that increasing smartphone ownership suggests customers are craving more and more. Now, employees equipped with these iPhones can check inventory at nearby stores, look up a specific customer’s purchase history, share how-to videos, check competitor prices, and point people online to Lowes.com. And all this can be done without having to leave the customer’s side. According to Lowe’s director of mobile strategy and platforms Sean Bartlett, “Store associates are outfitted with technology and can give advice, and it’s really powerful for the overall relationship if we can tie customer and associate.”
However, besides streamlining customer service through employee technologies, the company has also made some key additions to its MyLowe’s mobile app to improve the customer’s in-store experience. The new updates to the app enable customers to view the location of any in-stock item in the specific store of their choice and create lists of products available at their store via the Quick List feature. Items from the list can also be viewed on an interactive map of the individual store, showing the location of each item on a customer’s Quick List. Customers can even zoom in to see the store aisles and other key places in the store, including customer service, and product pick-up and store returns stations. According to Bartlett, a lot of the store’s mobile decisions are made to enhance the customer experience and the store’s relationship with its customers. Bartlett says, “We are experience driven, and to the extent that we can tie our customer and our store experiences and store associates together, that is how we drive a lot of those [mobile strategy] decisions.”
Indeed, the strategies seem to be working, considering mobile now accounts for 20 percent of Lowe’s overall web traffic—a statistic Bartlett considers “incredible” considering “mobile didn’t exist” to the company just three short years ago. Overall, the company views its mobile initiatives as key to drawing online customers into brick and mortar stores. With mobile, the company not only carries customers from virtual to physical aisles, but it also improves relationships between associates and customers and creates a better overall shopping experience.
To read more on how mobility is changing retail, click here to read Matt Pillar's special report on maximizing mobility's potential in retail.
Are you a retailer that wants to publish your opinion?
Contact us to become part of our Editorial Community.