Categories: Fresh Thinking

Silicon Valley store is proving ground for innovation

The Lowe’s store in Sunnyvale, California, is a neighbor to some of the world’s most recognizable tech companies: Google, Facebook and Apple, just to name a few. It’s a short drive to ultra-high-tech Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a store that stays ahead of the times and is right at home in world-famous Silicon Valley.

“You have to be (tech savvy) for the customers here,” said store manager Renardo Page. Page and his 155 employees serve a diverse demographic of customers from all over the world, many of whom work in the tech industry. The Sunnyvale location has been one of the first Lowe’s stores to launch several concepts from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, including an additive manufacturing facility that mirrors one on the International Space Station, built in partnership with Made in Space. The store is currently testing Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation and LoweBot, both of which are designed with the customer in mind.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the company’s disruptive innovation hub, has collaborated with Google to develop a suite of augmented reality-powered customer solutions known as Lowe’s Vision. The In-Store Navigation app, which is powered by Google’s augmented-reality platform called Tango, is one app within the Lowe’s Vision suite available on the Google Play platform. In-Store Navigation guides customers to find merchandise in the store through detailed in-store maps, just as Google Maps guides them through the outdoor world. Customers search for the product they’re looking for within the app, and In-Store Navigation leads them directly to the item by “drawing” a yellow, GPS-style path over the real world as seen through their phone’s screen.

“Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation is one way we aim to make the shopping experience easier for the customer, while allowing employees to spend more time working directly with customers on project solutions,” said Kyle Nel of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “By using the app, customers can search for all the products they need, create a shopping list and then get turn-by-turn directions around the store to pick up the items in the most efficient manner.”

The app is the first of its kind to be introduced by America’s major big box retailers.

“This technology is going to be huge for the customer,” Page said.

The Sunnyvale store employees have embraced the opportunity to launch the new technology from Lowe’s Innovation Labs. While the store’s location is important, the attitude of Page and his staff has also been a big reason the store has been chosen to launch these initiatives.

“There are a number of reasons we chose the Sunnyvale store to be one of the first stores to roll out this app, including proximity to Google, where we worked very closely with the Tango team to develop In-Store Navigation,” Nel said. “In addition, the manager and team of associates at the Sunnyvale store are eager to support our innovation initiatives; they’re great partners.”

Page is proud that his store was chosen as a test site for the app and LoweBot. It reflects his vision for constant innovation. He began to realize several years ago that embracing technological advancements was a way to stay connected to his customers’ needs.

“With millennials coming of age over the last four to five years, I realized it was time to get on board,” Page said. “If not, you’ll get left behind.”

The app will be available to customers in April, at which time those with a Tango-enabled smartphone will be able to use it in select stores across California.