Smart homes can make a lot of consumers feel dumb.
Simply asking Alexa to turn up the music or turn down the heat sounds easy, but the prospect of setting it all up can be daunting, especially when customers may not be sure what to expect from the final experience and whether that is what they really want for their homes.
However, that hasn’t put a damper on consumers’ interest. They just have a lot of questions about it. That’s why Lowe’s has teamed up with b8ta to create a smart home store-within-a-store at 70 of the retailer’s locations, with the goal of helping customers feel more at home in their smart home.
After all, Lowe’s tagline is “Never Stop Improving,” and making homes smarter is certainly one way to improve them.
As customers enter the mini-store, they’ll find themselves in a dedicated space with counters at the center, displaying 60 smart home products out of their boxes where customers can play with them. At peak hours, a b8ta expert will be on-site to answer questions, but customers are also free to explore the products on their own.
“We’re not a tech store,” said Ruth Crowley, Lowe’s VP of Customer Experience Design. “But we are in the business of serving customers, and the customer has said that they want to connect their home and protect their home with products like these. We want to help them love where they live.”
According to Crowley, that’s the philosophy that has carried Lowe’s through its 80 years in business. Evolving with the customer has enabled the retailer to stay relevant, even through the struggles that so many brick-and-mortar companies are facing — though, of course, Lowe’s is not a pure brick-and-mortar business, with its robust web presence and mobile app.
Crowley said it’s important for someone to help customers understand the elements in their home and guide them on their home ownership journey. If these are the elements that customers want in their home, then Lowe’s must evolve to serve that need, she said.
She said that b8ta was an attractive partner because of the early access it had to industry products, giving the tech company expertise that Lowe’s felt would benefit its customers.
However, this wasn’t the first time Lowe’s and the b8ta team had worked together: Back when b8ta’s founders worked for Nest, that company had also worked with Lowe’s, which familiarized it with the retailer’s track record in the connected home space. Phillip Raub, co-founder and CBO at b8ta, said that history made it an easy decision to join forces again, when Lowe’s showed an interest in improving its smart home experience.
The partners conducted a three-store pilot last year, an experience Raub said proved they were on the right track.
“We learned that customers are interested in smart products but often feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the technology and extensive product offerings,” Raub said. “Through the ‘Smart Home Powered by b8ta’ experience, we gained a greater understanding of how to break down these barriers.”
Raub and Crowley expect the new offerings to attract some additional foot traffic during the holidays, but Crowley said that Lowe’s is motivated more by responding to customer research.
“The real intent is to serve the customer in the best way possible and stay ahead of their needs,” said Crowley. “We’re here to help them discover and continue to build our relationship with them so they continue to come back to us.”
“Smart Home Powered by b8ta” is available in select major U.S. markets, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Tampa, Raleigh, Charlotte and Washington, D.C. Additionally, 1,000 locations have introduced smart home displays just in time for the holiday shopping season.