LAS VEGAS — Lowe's is doubling down on augmented reality with the launch of a new feature on its mobile app — "View in Your Space" — which is now available for Android users with ARCore-enabled devices, Gihad Jawhar, head of digital development at Lowes, told Retail Dive in an interview at Shoptalk in Las Vegas on Monday.
Using the app, shoppers can sift through products in its spring collection and tap the "View in Your Space" option to enter the feature, which then prompts users to scan their surroundings — be it a living room, back porch or anywhere else. Within a few seconds, the item, like a grill for instance, should appear in a virtual yet actual size and can be dragged and dropped anywhere. Once it's placed, users can walk around the three-dimensional image, which remains the actual size of the grill from various angles.
According to Jawhar, the home improvement retailer is using the feature to zero in on "the $60 billion sitting on the sidelines because customers can't envision products in their home and don't pull the trigger on buying."
"It's about hanging on, placing your bets in the right places and I think AR and VR is one of those places, and keeping focused on the customer will keep you relevant."
Lowe's head of digital development
"There are a lot of returns driven by a product not actually fitting in a space," he added. "Many times it doesn't look like what it looked like it did in the picture, because you're looking at this two dimensional picture on a small screen even if it's on a desktop."
This is far from the company's first foray into AR-enabled features. Among its portfolio built on Apple's ARkit development platform is a digital tape measuring tool called Measured and a separate app called Envisioned, which also allows customers to see 3D images of products in their homes. Both features rolled out in October.
When Jawhar started at Lowe's seven years ago, he couldn't have known the impact of mobile, which he said was barely a part of the equation when he took the job.
"I couldn't anticipate any of this. I think the amount of change the industry has had in that time period just blows everybody's mind and it's just accelerating," he said. "They say the amount of change that has happened since 2000 outstrips the amount of change that's happened in the entire last century, and I think in the next eight or nine years we'll see the same amount of change. So it's about hanging on, placing your bets in the right places, and I think AR and VR is one of those places and keeping focused on the customer will keep you relevant."
Jawhar said the next 12 to 18 months will only prove to become more interesting when it comes to these technologies. And they may extend well beyond phones. While we still measure in screen size for now, in the future glasses or even contact lenses may be the new home to AR and VR technologies, he said.
While technology is the centerpiece to Jawhar's job, he acknowledges that Lowe's doesn't have a competitive advantage when it comes to technology — but companies like Google and Apple do, so partnerships are a critical piece to staying ahead of the retail competition.
Stores are an important piece of tying everything together. Roughly 60% of all in-store sales are influenced by digital, Jawhar said. Where Lowe's hopes to continue to differentiate from online players like Amazon and other brick-and-mortar companies that haven't invested much in technology is with the interplay between channels — allowing customers to research online or on mobile and then come into stores to get advice and browse materials and potentially buy them.
As the home improvement retailer continues to push into AR, VR and other technologies, the focus is on customer convenience rather than conversions.