Augmented reality went from being a sort of fringe part of retail to a very important new way for retailers to try to net up conversion, particularly those in the business of selling home goods or home improvement products. IKEA is into it, Wayfair has been exploring a variety of options and even HSN seems to be getting in on the act.
Which should make it no surprise that Lowe’s is jumping on the trend. The home improvement and hardware megachain has emerged this year to be one of the major leaders in bringing AR to retail. Now, with a big assist from Microsoft, Lowe’s is looking to expand its pilot program for the HoloLens.
The HoloLens is Microsoft’s augmented reality technology that enables shoppers to virtually design and plan renovations. Currently in two stores, AR is more than doubling up, all the way to five locations. But from small acorns big trees grow, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that this small pilot could be the beginning of big things when it comes to home improvement shopping.
Lowe’s stores in Seattle and Raleigh, NC, were the first two testing zones for the HoloLens. Customers were able to use it to help them design a new kitchen.
Neither Lowe’s nor Microsoft has said yet which three stores are included in the expansion.
And Lowe’s AR is about more than visualization — it is also about curation. Tied into Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite, HoloLens is designed to analyze a customer’s specific taste in decor and provide recommendations from a Pinterest board of relevant ideas.
The HoloLens — as opposed to, say, the Oculus Rift — is designed less as a consumer gadget and more as a commercial tool, particularly for developers. Priced at $3,000, this is not the newest Xbox.
But that expense comes with robustness. The device’s holographic 3D modeling scheme allows users to do some interesting things, such as “pinning” a holographic image so that it can be moved around in a field.
Analysts note the idea has lots of potential — as does the tech — but without it being rolled out widely, it is hard to see what, if any, difference it can make to the retail landscape.