Interactive Search

This one is for anyone who has ever just wondered aimlessly around a hardware store. There has been many times where I have put good miles on my feet walking around either Lowe’s or Home Depot searching for one particular item. I swear that this item exists, but the reality is whatever I am looking for is buried in some deep dark hiding space behind a trap door. Then after about 20 plus minutes worth of searching, holding my foot right, and finding the secret code I am finally able to find what the hell I was looking for.

But, just because I was able to find that item in one store doesn’t mean squat when it comes to finding it at another one. Because these giant hardware stores insist on never having the same layout, and generally like to group their isles in totally different styles from one another. I imagine that there is some sort of strategy that is behind this that proves that if consumers get lost in their store for a certain amount of time the chances of them buying something goes up, because they don’t want their trip to the store to be a “failure.”

Now it is time to evolve away from that strategy. I feel that these places are in desperate need of an interactive search kiosk. So, what in the hell does that mean? For me it means not wasting your time trying to find that one magical associate working the floor in a giant hardware store that has some sort of idea of what is going on.

How would this come about? I’m suggesting it’s time to cut out the hassle for everyone and let the consumer get some searching access on the store’s database through an in-store searching kiosk. Which basically means there is a computer that basically just has one app on it that is dedicated to searching inventory and finding it’s location.

I would suggest setting it up by letting the customer swipe their customer card (currently only Lowe’s has this) on the machine and it automatically signs them in. On here you will be presented with an interface that will allow you to see your past purchases, your contact information, how much credit you have on your in-store card, in-store coupons and deals, and of course allow you to search by typing in what you are looking for.

The search could be setup with a predictive search feature. Once you get your results you would be presented a picture of the item, the isle number and shelf row that you could find this on. The user could also be presented with related items, to help show options for something else that they might want based on that search.

After you find what you are searching for you would be given the option to put that in your “list.” If you do this for multiple searches you could build a list of everything that you are searching for and could print out your list with all of the isle and row locations to find everything that you are searching for.

Then if it turns out your search item is not currently in-store, it will allow you to place an order for in-store pickup, or it could show you which other locations have your item. This could help keep more money in-house for the company. Because I know often times when a store doesn’t have what I am looking for I will just go to their competitor up the street, versus going to another store’s location. But, if I knew where the other store’s location had the item and it already told me where I could find it. I would be much more inclined to travel to that location, instead of just going up the street to a competitor and hoping they have the item.

The main goal of this interactive search kiosk is to cut down on customer frustration, and to get more people successfully to the check-out line with more items in a more efficient time. If you can provide the consumer in this situation with more efficiency through out their buying experience the probability of building brand loyalty goes up exponentially.

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