The answer, Sharma said, is to have search in your hand and be in a physical or another more immersive environment. In the new world, she said, a lot of inspiration is coming digitally – whether the transactions get converted online or in the physical realm. In case of home improvement, most of the purchases customers make are complex – be it remodelling the kitchen, changing the flooring, or repainting the home. These are family type purchases, involving a lot of research. About 75-80% of these store purchases start online, and then family members go into the store to validate. So it’s critical for Lowe’s, Sharma said, to use technology to make sure that “not only do we understand the customers’ intent, but we can also create and curate an experience that is personalised for that customer.” Lowe’s has a massive technology centre in Bengaluru with more than 3,600 people that is central to the company’s global operations.
Shishir Saxena, Asia-Pacific head of client strategy & transformation at digital engineering services company Altimetrik, said every retail touchpoint has a role to play. “There is a whole different aspect to being able to experience the product the way it is presented to you in the real world. At the same time, the purchase or search journey more often than not starts in the digital realm and at some point the two merge. It’s about carrying your Saturday to your Monday kind of feeling,” he said.
Lowe’s, Sharma said, is helping customers visualise in 3D and augmented reality. It is building massive platforms for personalisation, intent extraction, it is building search platforms leveraging AI and ML. “We have visual commerce, voice commerce, even image commerce – where you see a picture and we find the product for you, and you can order it. We provide real-time updates to customers about where the product is, and once the product reaches your place, we send you a picture of the delivery person so that you can safely open the door,” Sharma said.
Saxena said architectures like micro frontends – which break up monolithic frontend codebases into smaller apps that work together – are aiding personalisation. “Micro frontends are highly customisable pieces that can be personalised towards a certain kind of customer journey,” he said. Sharma said Lowe’s is using micro frontends to dynamically change what the customer sees as the intent becomes clearer. “These micro frontends can be built once and used on every channel,” she said.