Lowe’s is on a mission.
The Mooresville, North Carolina-based home improvement store is not unlike the other major American retailers who are facing challenges and unknowns heading into 2018. In an ever-changing retail climate, they’re still looking at retaining customers and finding new and innovative ways to keep them coming back.
A year in which weather dominated the headlines saw a helpful bump in Lowe’s bottom line. Two major hurricanes hitting America helped propel a surge in sales beyond even those of Wall Street expectations -- up nearly 5.7 percent.
Sales were already increasing before natural disasters struck. A steadily increasing housing market entrenched before the hurricane season and a “do it yourself” (DIY) market among first-time and younger homeowners both were important factors the past season.
This is where the challenge lies. While Lowe’s has made marked improvements in the DIY landscape, they still are facing challenges of competitors who are competing for property owners seeking casual home updates and professionals in the home improvement space.
The incredibly rapid advances in technology and mobile have helped usher in a new era for home improvement retailers. It’s not just about meeting the needs of intrepid homeowners intent on undertaking a remodel -- it’s about meeting the customers and addressing their concerns not just within the store, but outside of it as well. Often, that requires a multi-channel mobile experience.
Lowe’s has invested in focusing on the experiential side of the home improvement space -- becoming a destination for homeowners and professionals alike.
In a move to attract younger shoppers, Lowe’s has opened up “smart home centers’ at some of their locations in time for the holidays.
While lumber, appliances, plumbing, and electrical materials were the biggest sellers of the past year, Lowe’s has seen a big opportunity in leveraging mobile and virtual reality (VR) to improve on the DIY market. In addition to nearly seventy stores that saw the installation of “smart home” centers showcasing the latest in gadgets and product offerings from the likes of Google, Sonos, Nest, Ring, and Samsung.
In addition, Lowe’s also unveiled VR experiences that take the ‘DIY’ ethos to an entirely new level. From augmented reality apps to tutorials, Lowe’s is banking on creating content and experiences that help answer questions for homeowners about everything from measuring objects or using a smartphone’s camera to view images of furniture in their place at a user’s home.
Ultimately, if these efforts are successful, Lowe’s hopes they will drive users into the stores where the experiences will translate to interactions with associates and hopefully, purchases.
And, who helps these intrepid buyers?
We recently spoke to one manager at a Lowe’s in Texas for some insight into how technology is helping him work smarter and more efficiently to meet the customer’s needs.
Working With Employees Where They Are
For the crew of the North Abilene, Texas Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, Branch has been a huge asset to their team, especially improving the daily scheduling management of people like Michael Gregory.
Michael is a Service Manager in charge of the Inside and Outside Lawn and Garden section of the North Abilene, Texas Lowe’s.
Name: Michael Gregory Role: Services Manager Vertical: Retail, Home Improvement
Branch Messenger Features Used:
- Time-Off Requests
- Schedule Reminders
- Instant Messaging
- Group Messaging
- Shift Swap
- Streamlining Scheduling
Michael oversees a specific area but also helps to open and close the store. His location is in zone one -- inside lawn and garden, outside lawn and garden and plumbing. Ultimately, he uses Branch to extend conversations with customers and help them out when they need it most.
“It helps us not only build relationships with customers but our own employees, too,” Michael says.
What are some of your biggest challenges in your role?
Biggest challenge is making sure the customer is happy when they leave our store. Sometimes when we're busy they have to wait but we do our best to get to them in a timely manner.
I actually do employee scheduling for my area.
You cover scheduling just for your zone?
It’s just for my area. I schedule for about 30 people. That’s just my area and I have to create the schedules every week, -- every week we do scheduling.
It’s all done on the Lowe’s website that we have at work, They're allowed to pull their scheduling stuff up there.
How did you start using Branch?
I am the one that found the app. Our store manager told us to find an app for us managers to use -- chat back and forth, do coverage. I pulled it up on the iPhone and that was the first thing that popped up on manager apps.
In what ways do you use Branch at work? Purely for scheduling?
We use it for scheduling and if we’re walking down an aisle in someone else's area we see a problem, we’ll take a picture so they’ll see it. We’re always looking out for each other.
What was scheduling like before Branch? What’s it like now? Time savings?
Oh yeah, before we had to take a picture of it or pull it up on our phone, log in before we could see our schedule. Now it’s a notification -- your shift starts in two hours. That’s been so helpful to us. We don’t have to worry about pulling up our schedule or being late. That’s what we love.
Do other zones use it at your Lowes?
All the service managers do and we have a few of our assistant store managers that use it too.
Do you have idea of how much time is saved from using it?
Oh man, it saves a ton of time. It probably saves us like ten to fifteen minutes each time we look at it. Two clicks and it’s there.
You use it to address other issues in the store? Any other ways to use it?
Yeah, before we had to send emails. That took a lot of time you had to resize all the pictures and then send an email. Now, we just pull out the Branch app, take a picture of it, put a description and send it and it’s right there in the app.
It saves so much more time.
What do other employees say?
They love it. They say it’s a really great way to communicate with each other. They’re always putting motivational speeches on there for us to get us through the day.
Have you noticed improvements in collaboration and team morale?
It’s done a lot. They’re not having to wait and do everything through email. As managers, we carry our phones with us we can communicate on Branch back and forth all day long without logging into email. We don’t have to send anything through email. Before, it took us about forty minutes. On Branch, we can do it in less than five minutes.
Have you seen a difference in store performance changes?
Oh yeah! We put stuff on there that needs to be done and it’s done that day. Not everyone gets their email. Now we send a notification and it’s done that day.
Did you notice any employees using it outside of work?
Oh yeah, I use Branch on a just about a day to day basis. Even when I’m off. This morning, I sent stuff out on the thread I didn’t get to yesterday and they quickly responded and today got a three-hour notification on when I’m supposed to be there.
Before, how did you collaborate with your team?
It was all through email. They didn’t send as many motivational speeches through email, now each one of our service managers -- he’s a pastor of a church and puts motivational speeches on there and it’s really nice.
Has it been hard getting other employees using it?
Once they get familiar with Branch, they’re hooked on it because it’s so much easier.