IKEA eat your heart out, Lowe’s is transforming the way we redesign our homes

31

October

2016

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5/5 (2)

Have you ever remodeled a room, or even only tried to imagine how a new colour on your wall would look like? Those of you who did know that this is not an easy process and that it mostly is accompanied with a lot of arguing, deliberation and high costs when it turned out not to be as you imagined. Lowe’s, a fortune 500 home store chain has the answer to all your remodel problems and will transform the whole way we will remodel our houses in the future. IKEA eat your heart out.

Lowe’s teamed up with Pinterest and Microsoft to improve the process of remodelling and here is how they did. The process of remodeling does not start in a home store but way up front on your pinterest walls. By giving Lowe’s access to your pinterest wall in the in store app, the cortana intelligence system of Microsoft can identify for example which kitchen of Lowe’s inventory matches best your pinned pictures on pinterest. The system provides you recommendations based on this match. If you would like to know how this kitchen look like in real life size, you can go to a Lowe’s store where the hololens of Microsoft provides you this experience. Moreover, you can change almost all features of the kitchen and see how they look like combined. When you are satisfied you can order all elements of your own designed perfect kitchen. The Hololens enables Lowe’s to capture the opinion on specific features of their customers by combining the eye-tracker with the Cortana voice recognition. This technology enables Lowe’s to continuously improving their services and products.

It is clear that Lowe’s has some strong new digital capabilities. First, the new technology improves the customer experience by helping tacit ideas in customers minds make explicit and by recommending products based on their true preferences. Second, the new technology shifts the core operations of Lowe’s from inventory management to recommendation and designing services. Less inventory and show models are needed since the products now can be visualized through the Hololens and the products can be made to order. The focus of employees now lies on recommending matching products and designing new features that best matches customer preferences. Third, the new technology changes the whole business model in a way that it becomes a pull rather than a push market. The Hololens and the partnership with Pinterest help customers determine what they want and give Lowe’s insight in what the customers want rather than they push a specific kitchen into the market.

Lowe’s has the potential to become a Digital Master but only time can teach us how Lowe’s will combine these strong digital capabilities with their leadership capabilities to make it an industry changing success. The pilot version was a hit and by the end of 2016 they plan to launch the experience in three more stores in America. When they can successfully roll out the concept in al their stores globally, Lowe’s will be a true Digital Master. IKEA eat your heart out.

What is your opinion on the way Lowe’s remodels the remodeling business? Do you see any complications in this approach? Do you think other firms can learn from Lowe’s or do you think Lowe’s needs to learn from other firms?

Sources:
http://www.lowesinnovationlabs.com/hololens

Westerman, G., Bonnet, D., & McAffee, A. 2014. Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Harvard Business Review Press, 2014.

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5 thoughts on “IKEA eat your heart out, Lowe’s is transforming the way we redesign our homes”

  1. Anne, thank you for this interesting post. I guess we will see a lot of very interesting applications with the Microsoft HoloLens in the future throughout various industries. The only downside I see here is that the Hololens is not a consumer product and you have to go to the store to actually see how your new kitchen would look like in virtual reality. In my opinion, an application that works with the more consumer-oriented solutions like the Google Daydream platform or the Samsung Gear VR would have been an interesting alternative. The VR devices just mentioned only require a smartphone and a $99 or cheaper set of VR glasses. So people can just design and explore their new kitchen at home whenever they want and then go to the store to get a professional opinion.

    I think it is particularly interesting to see whether this gets developed by Lowe as an extension to their current offer as well. There is also a realistic chance that a competitor develops an app like that and then the market is consequently going decide which solution works better. This is not only true for this specific field of VR but also in a more general setting. The question for VR is, in general, whether affordable VR solutions will have a high market share in the future and businesses just provide VR apps for the use at home or whether businesses will rather provide customers with more expensive and in terms of quality superior VR solutions in their stores. As VR is just at the beginning and big companies like Microsoft, Google or Sony only have their first generation devices out it will still take some time until we are able to answer that question.

  2. Hi Anne Merel,
    Thanks for your interesting post! I really like the combination of ideas and value that Lowe is offering. The system that matches your pinterest pins with Lowe’s inventory, building a personalized kitchen that can be viewed through hololens seems like a very solid combination to me. Normally, in show rooms, a customer does not see kitchens tailored specifically for their needs and wants, and usually they’d want to change a few things. I believe this could be a very successful disruption in the home store industry!

    Luca

  3. What is your opinion on the way Lowe’s remodels the remodeling business?
    – I would say that this project is an initiative that in my opinion seems to resemble KLMs social media intiatives such as being able to sit next to a Facebook friend on a plan. The value for the company is not clear. I am not sure if customers would decide for Lowe instead of IKEA just because they are able to redesign their house with HoloLens or other Virtual Reality tools.

    Instead I see opportunities for Lowe in digitizing the supply chain and operations. This could yield advantages such as faster production or opportunities for customizing furniture to each individual customers preferences.

    Do you see any complications in this approach?
    – The complication is that customers need to own virtual reality devices to make use of this technique. When looking at my friends of which many are early adopters of new technologies I have not seen many yet owning and using a virtual reality device.

    Do you think other firms can learn from Lowe’s or do you think Lowe’s needs to learn from other firms?
    – I would say Lowe should learn from other retail firms such as Decathlon or Walmart and focus on supply-chain instead of virtual reality tools. The value for improvements in the supply chain can be more easily assessed and is likely to be higher in my opinion.

  4. Dear Anne Merel, thank you for your blog!

    I think that Lowe is very innovative, but that the application also has some limitations. For example, you need to have Pintrest, which a lot of people do not have. Next to that, it says you need to go to a Lowe store. For some people, this is inconvenient. There are several applications out there that allow you to design a room using solely an app, without Pintrest or having to go to a store. Several of these were mentioned and explained on our Information Strategy blog.

    I also agree with Julius that many people do not have a virtual reality device yet, but if Lowe develops a mobile phone application, maybe this problem can easily be solved.

    I think Lowe can learn from other applications that allow you to model your home, and I also think that these applications can learn from Lowe. Who knows, maybe if they merge they can become a dominant industry player and disrupt the industry as Ikea knows it today 🙂

  5. Hello Anne, what an interesting post! I had not previously heard of this firm nor its new technology. I think that Virtual Reality is something that firms should definitely consider when looking at the future. Currently, VR is in the ‘slope of enlightenment’ phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle, which means that it will in a short type become a plateau of productivity. It is currently not a very widely used technology, so it seems wise for companies to invest in this technology and make sure that they use it as effectively as possible before it becomes a plateau of productivity. I think that Lowe is on the right track! When the Google Glass and other augmented reality devices become more widely used, the threshold of having to go to a store to use the hololens will be decreased.

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