According to Bloomberg and TechCrunch, Lowe’s® is equipping store employees with iPhone 4s to answer shoppers’ questions and ring up purchases. Last year, rival The Home Depot® deployed 30,000 MC75 handheld mobile computers from Motorola Inc.® so that those employees can spend more time helping customers and less time on behind-the-scene duties.
To accommodate employee iPhones as well as shoppers’ smartphones, Lowe’s will increase the bandwidth of its in-store Wi-Fi® networks. The iPhones will replace antiquated scanner guns and computer terminals. Rather than jotting down item numbers and then logging into the terminals, Lowe’s employs now can check product information, view how-to plumbing videos, and connect to lowes.com as they help shoppers, said Lowe’s CIO Mike Brown.
Each of Lowe’s 1,700 stores is getting about 25 iPhones, which eventually will be enabled for mobile calling, e-emailing, and text-messaging as well as processing credit and debit card purchases, according to Brown.
Is the iPhone the right device for Lowe’s? The TechCrunch article characterizes the iPhone as the “cool” alternative to the Motorola device chosen by The Home Depot and postulates that Lowe’s is trying to position itself as a modern, forward-thinking hardware store.
Looking up information may not require a secure and reliable Wi-Fi connection, but processing purchases will. Will the iPhone Wi-Fi radio be up to the task?