At Lowe’s, associates go out of their way to serve customers. Sometimes that commitment leads to unexpected places… like the world’s largest private hackathon. Last month, Lowe’s associates participated with 27,000 others at the Redmond venue of the Microsoft global Hackathon, where they explored breakthrough technologies that may reinvent how customers engage with Lowe’s.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs and the Lowe’s Technology Group sent three teams to the week-long event, where engineers, product managers and creatives from around the world ‘hack’ on ideas that inspire them. The intense focus, diverse expertise and access to emerging technologies were the perfect combination for finding unexpected solutions.
The teams from Lowe’s focused on three main projects aimed to make customers’ lives easier, whether shopping in our stores, online or in their home:
- Product Recommendation Bot: A chatbot that ‘speaks with’ customers to assess their needs and generates personalized product recommendations.
- Advanced Store Navigation: An augmented reality app that helps customers find what they’re looking for in Lowe’s aisles.
- 3D Product Scanning: A robotics-oriented project focused on advancing how Lowe’s captures every detail of the products it sells to give customers a more ‘tactile’ e-commerce experience.
Hackathon participants included associates with expertise ranging from AAA videogame development to internet security to computer vision and robotics. To help them accomplish their ambitious projects, the Lowe’s associates teamed up with Microsoft engineers with expertise in machine learning, mixed reality, and conversational experiences.
Despite their varied backgrounds, they all share an interest in applying leading-edge technologies to everyday problems.
“The dream is to see what you’ve built in the customer’s hands,” said Josh Durst from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, who has a background in hardware engineering. “That process can take a long time in a large organization. Coming out of the Hackathon, we’ve already made great progress and we have momentum that will help carry the concepts to scale quickly.”
“Our customers expect us to understand their needs,” said Cheryl Friedman, vice president of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “Programs like the Hackathon give us early access to technological breakthroughs that bridge the gap between customers’ expectations and reality.”
By the end of the week, Lowe’s teams hacked their way to several working prototypes, which were selected to be shown to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
The time allowed Lowe’s innovators to engage with other industry leaders in technology, discover learnings to advance their day-to-day work and continue developing real-life solutions for Lowe’s customers and associates.
“We went into the Hackathon with an open mind and a goal of meeting our customers’ most pressing problems in new ways. The teams came home with potential solutions, and we’ll continue exploring them until we get them right,” said Friedman.
Lowe’s has technology teams based in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, Kirkland, Wash., Boucherville, Canada, and Bangalore, India. Last month, Lowe’s announced plans to employ up to 2,000 additional technologists at its new 23-story global tech center in Charlotte.
Learn more about technology at Lowe’s and apply for available jobs.