Emerging Technology, Retail

US retailer Lowe’s introduces in-store VR to let customers grout virtual tiles

Dominic Powell /

There’s no shortage of predictions about how virtual reality could transform the way we do business, but exactly what that will look like is not yet clear.

Could VR be a secret weapon in the competitive home improvement retail scene? US-based chain Lowe’s thinks so.

The home improvement chain, which previously partnered with Woolworths to operate the now closed Masters chain in Australia, will allow customers at some of its stores to immerse themselves in the process of fixing a bathroom through the use of VR sets.

Read more: Widespread use of virtual reality could take years, in 25% of households by 2021: Report

The sets will debut in Lowe’s Framingham Massachusetts store, reports Fortune, and the experience will reportedly let customers spend 20-minutes in an enclosure designed as a 3D replication of a bathroom. Instructions are then given to the customer about how to place virtual tiles on the virtual wall, presumably to prepare them as much as possible for the real deal.

The company says the experience will help address what it sees as a lack of knowledge or skills among many customers purchasing DIY products.

“People don’t know how to do DIY projects anymore,” Lowe’s Innovation Labs executive director Kyle Nel told Fortune.

“The skill set of being able to modify homes and do basic maintenance just isn’t being passed down from generation to generation as it did in the past.”

Lowe’s is reportedly looking to roll out more VR sets across its Canadian and US stores in the coming months, with the hopes of giving shoppers another reason to visit bricks-and-mortar stores.

Fortune reports the company has suffered at the expenses of the continued rise in online shopping, and revealed a slowdown in the number of people heading in-store in its third quarter earnings.

However, Nel told Fortune the VR exhibits will go a long way towards engaging and educating customers.

“People asked, ‘Can you show me how to put in a toilet?’” Nel told Fortune.

“I was shocked by how much it improved [knowledge] retention.”

Last year, clothing retailer Myer partnered with eBay to create a VR department store where consumers could shop if they were unable to get to a Myer store.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is a journalist at SmartCompany and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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