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App helps Lowe's shoppers find products without asking

Mapping products in stores is an emerging app-based service, garnering interest from top retailers

November 27, 2013 12:41 PM ET

Computerworld - Lowe's Companies has upgraded its main shopping app to help customers find products once they are inside a store.

Lowe's app
Lowe's Home Improvement has upgraded its shopping app with new capabilities.

Its store app already provides a searchable listing of all its products, as most shopping apps do. But now, once a Lowe's customer identifies the product they want, the app will pinpoint its location on a store map specific to the store.

The map can locate a product to a "bay" level, which is about a two-foot area in an aisle. So if all goes well, the customer should be standing in front of the product he or she searching for.

The updated app also shows the locations of restrooms, call buttons and services such as carpet cutting.

The first question from customers,when they walk into store is, typically, "where's the bathroom," said Colleen Maiura, a Lowe's spokeswoman. The other question is "where is X product."

Greg Sterling, an analyst at Opus Research, said such in-store product location capabilities are not yet widely deployed by retailers, but big retailers like Walmart and Macys are showing interest. This in-store location ability can help with sales.

Sterling says that there is "a fair amount" of research showing that customers often leave stores "without purchasing anything because they can't find the product."

Lowe's is using Point Inside's cloud-based StoreMode technology, which maps products in each of Lowe's stores. In total, they are tracking some 100 million product locations, according to Todd Sherman, the CMO of Point Inside.

Point Inside has developed APIs which connect to Lowe's backend system, and get raw data on location information multiple times a week.

Not every single product will have a location associated with it, but Sherman said the technology will associate it with other similar products to provide a location.

Sherman said that that their tool has ability to help the retailer understand how customers use their store, and if customers create a shopping list a retailer could use that to connect the customer to product offers.

The Lowe's app, with the upgraded in-store search, is available for both Apple and Android.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter@DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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