Lowe's Mounts Multi-Channel Battle Plan

Lowe's deployment of 42,000 mobile devices to its 1,700-plus stores in the U.S. and Canada was a headline-grabber, but it's far from the only weapon in the company's competitive arsenal. As Lowe's faces off against perennial competitor Home Depot, the retailer is using technologies across multiple channels to set itself apart.

The retailer offered a clue that IT would be playing an increasingly important role in its business plans with its late May announcement that it would be hiring up to 300 IT professionals, including people to fill 150 new positions, to strengthen a department that already included 1,000 employees. At the time, Lowe's indicated it had open positions across the IT spectrum, including business analysis, engineering, communications network, e-commerce, application development, program management and project management.

Expanded Online Selection

The retailer's IT investments have started to pay off. In the e-commerce arena, Lowe's has increased the number of items available to 190,000, a 73% increase since fall 2010, "with significant expansion planned for the remainder of the year," said CEO Robert Niblock. The retailer has also launched a Spanish-language version of its e-commerce site and will be introducing its first mobile application "in the coming weeks," said Niblock during an August 15, 2011 conference call.

Lowe's is doing more than simply expanding to its digital offerings; it's also making them more efficient and cost-effective. The company has recently begun "shipping items to customers from service stores and regional distribution centers in addition to our dedicated Internet warehouse," said Niblock. "This means with more items available for partial shipment than ever before, we can provide faster delivery and reduce our cost to fill orders. We're also offering for the first time pre-printed labels for partial returns free of charge, a simple and convenient option for customers and a competitive advantage in the home improvement industry."

The retailer will also use personalization to enhance the e-commerce customer experience. "We will build on the fundamental capabilities that were delivered on this quarter, such as the ability
to create lists and reminders, as we develop My Lowe's, a set of capabilities that will revolutionize how customers interact with us to more efficiently manage projects and improve their homes," said Niblock. He added that the My Lowe's program would launch near the end of fiscal 2011, which concludes in late January 2012.

In the store environment, Lowe's deployment of 42,000 handheld devices is also designed to enhance the customer experience. The devices, which leverage Apple's iPhone technology, give store employees the ability to "check inventory availability, access how-to videos and utilize the e-commerce site from the aisles of the store," said Niblock.

While the mobile devices do not include a point-of-sale capability, Niblock said "we will continue to add functionality to these devices over time."

For related content: Lowe's Deploys 42,000 Mobile Devices to U.S. and Canada Stores

Lowe's Boosts IT Staff by 300, Including 150 New Positions