Wayback Machine: The Past, Present, and Future of eCommerce at Lowe’s

What’s in this article:

  • In this series, we take a look at how various brands’ website and digital efforts have evolved over the years
  • Lowe’s has experienced some major growth by improving its online presence over the last twenty-plus years in order to best serve its customers
  • The brand’s current website now offers a variety of user-friendly modern features to further enhance the on-site experience

On March 25, 2021, Lowe’s celebrated its 100th year in business.

Needless to say, the popular home improvement retailer has experienced some major growth over the last century. From rather humble beginnings — six stores in 1955, 21 stores in 1962 — Lowe’s now owns nearly 2,200 locations throughout the US and Canada.

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Though typically runner-up to Home Depot from a financial standpoint, Lowe’s has recently come into its own — due in large part to its efforts in the eCommerce realm. In fact, its Q4 2020 online sales spiked an astounding 121%, contributing to a 41% overall increase in earnings.

To be sure, Lowe’s has made the most of the “home projects boom” brought on by the pandemic. But it’s not as if the team has only recently begun using its online presence to spur sales and overall engagement.

Really, Lowe’s’ website has been a driving force in the home improvement industry since at least the late ‘90s.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Lowe’s has improved its online presence over the last twenty-plus years in order to best serve its customers.

Let’s dive in.

(Quick note: Many screenshots from the early days of Lowes.com may not appear exactly as they had back in the day. Still, we’ll provide an authentic look back on the site’s previous iterations to the best of our ability.)

Lowes.com 1999-2000: A Focus on Content

Let’s start back in 1999, when Lowes.com was highly text-based:

Again, you can see that the homepage did include images within the sidebar and elsewhere. But, for the most part, the site used plaintext to inform and direct the user to the proper web page.

What immediately jumps out, here, is the heavy focus on home improvement-related content. From home renovation help, to gardening and landscaping assistance, to content on home safety, Lowe’s’ website has been all about keeping the customer prepared and informed.

Lowe’s also worked to update its online content even back in the early days — providing featured how-to’s and articles on news, events, and trending topics on a rolling basis:

The site also delivered customer service info to contractors and consumers alike through its website:

At this time, online ordering was not yet available — but customers could use the site for transactional purposes. Contractors, for example, could use the website to request a product catalog, and could also find information on how to make orders for pick-up by telephone or fax.

Though the original version of Lowes.com was pretty rudimentary, the seeds for a thriving future had been planted — and would continue to grow stronger in due time.

Retail Pulse

Lowes.com 2001: A Modern Makeover

Just a couple years later, Lowes.com took on a much more modern

The difference is pretty striking.

From clearer branding and a cleaner aesthetic appearance, to improved navigation and user-friendliness, the site had obviously improved, overall.

As expected, Lowe’s doubled-down on on-site content throughout this initial update. With just a quick glance at the homepage, users could easily find:

  • How-to and instructional content
  • Information related to customer service
  • News about promotional events, contests, and more

The navigational header — coupled with improved site structuring — also made it incredibly easy for users to find the information they needed:

At this point, customers could use Lowe’s’ website to make select purchases online — but this ability was subject to product availability in local stores.

Perhaps the biggest advancement made here is the advent of a more personalized shopping experience for logged-in users.

Using info gathered from cookies, Lowe’s would deliver highly relevant content and product recommendations to site visitors. While this is par for the course by today’s standards, it was pretty revolutionary back in 2001.

Across the board, the 2001 version of Lowe’s website shows a clear path as to where the company hoped to bring its online presence moving forward.

Lowes.com 2005: A Shift Toward eCommerce

Come 2005, Lowes.com saw some major improvements over its past iterations.

First things first, the site’s branded and aesthetic appearance had been honed even further — as did its navigability.

  • Sections became more clearly-labeled
  • Sidebar links became more structured and comprehensive
  • The addition of a drop-down menu within the header added another layer of navigability

This iteration also showed a much clearer focus on products and online ordering. This includes:

  • A deeper online product catalog
  • A more streamlined and convenient purchasing workflow
  • Options for delivery, installation, and order fulfillment

(Note: The previous versions of Lowe’s product pages are no longer available, as they’ve been dynamically updated to reflect the store’s current offerings.)

That said, Lowe’s on-site content also continued to evolve in a few key ways.

First, the home improvement and project-planning sections got way more comprehensive and navigable:

The site also began offering buying guides to ensure customers found the exact products and equipment for their needs:

The team at Lowe’s also began developing microsites to deliver comprehensive information on multiple topics in a more structured, user-friendly way:

At this point, we’re starting to see Lowe’s use content not just to engage and inform visitors — but to actively spur sales. Paired with the team’s newfound logistical abilities, this is where Lowe’s’ eCommerce efforts really begin to take off.

Lowes.com 2011: Interactivity Takes Center Stage

By 2011, Lowe’s’ website had become a main focus for the company — as shown by the numerous updates it had seen over the course of the year.

Here it is in February 2011:

And again in November:

The point is the Lowe’s team was no longer thinking of their website as an afterthought, and had become dedicated to keeping it updated on at least a seasonal basis.

(Yes, they had done so in the past to reflect certain holidays and the like. But it now seems like the site is being continually updated as a matter of course.)

Note that in both of the above versions, the homepage structure and content remain relatively uniform. This allows loyal visitors to quickly orient themselves when on-site — while also being presented with enough variety to keep the experience fresh over time.

Speaking of keeping the on-site experience fresh, Lowe’s began delivering highly engaging content within its how-to guides and other parts of the site.

For example, the team developed a ton of how-to and instruction videos on a variety of topics:

(Here’s another spot where the actual images are no longer available.)

In some cases, interactive calculators and helpful multimedia content allowed customers to better understand their exact needs:

Finally, Lowe’s’ Virtual Room Designer allowed visitors to visualize their homes post-renovation:

(Side note: RIP Flash…)

As for fulfillment, Lowe’s continued to add more user-friendly features to the overall experience. Most noticeably, Lowe’s developed its “Shop. Click. Pick Up.” BOPIS service — allowing customers to collect their online orders in-store within twenty minutes of their purchase.

As we’ll discuss in the following sections, Lowe’s’ future eCommerce efforts all point back to this era of multimedia content, interactivity, and convenience. Once the team was able to figure out “what works” for their customers, they could then focus on perfecting the experience moving forward.

Lowes.com 2017: eCommerce, eCommerce, eCommerce

By 2017, Lowe’s had essentially gone all-in on its eCommerce efforts.

First of all, its homepage was almost entirely dedicated to promoting products and premium services — or showcasing ways in which customers could make a purchase.

From promotional sales and “deals of the day” to credit card offers, nearly every piece of information located above the fold relates to purchases in one way or another. Even the navigational sidebar had become completely dedicated to product and category pages.

Still, Lowe’s didn’t completely do away with its instructional and informational on-site content. Though no longer the main focus of the site, users could still access how-to guides, microsites, and the like directly from the homepage.

Note, though, that the information provided above-the-fold on these separate web pages were still more focused on products and purchases:

That said, Lowe’s had clearly dedicated a ton of resources to creating these how-to sections — even going so far as to create seasonal guides for timely projects. As with 2011’s website, Lowe’s continues to provide personalized on-site experiences to the user, from interactive guides and price calculators to individualized virtual tours.

All in all, 2017’s version of Lowes.com is the company’s most refined effort up until this point. With improved technology and a better understanding of customer needs — and how to best lead them to conversion — Lowe’s was in a prime spot to supercharge their online efforts, overall.

Lowes.com 2021: A Modern-Day Overhaul

Now, let’s check out what Lowe’s’ website looks like today:

Like many modern retail websites (e.g., Best Buy), Lowe’s offers a longform homepage that covers pretty much every part of the branded experience in some way or another.

While there’s certainly a lot of information packed into one page, the homepage isn’t cluttered or “busy” by any stretch. Rather, the use of white space, scrolling, and image carousels makes for a user-friendly experience from the get-go.

Also, worth noting is that the nav-bar’s focus has returned to services and content — and isn’t just aimed at moving the customer to a given product page.

On that note, how-to content and such is also presented in a more economic manner, again through the use of carousels.

Interactivity is back in a big way, with Lowe’s Color360 app allowing customers to preview paint colors in an actual home setting directly from their web browser:

The app will also provide additional color suggestions to match your palette and other customizable choices:

Lowe’s’ current website now offers a variety of user-friendly modern features to enhance the on-site experience.

As you may have noticed, recommended search terms are provided at the top of the homepage near the search bar:

This will allow frequent visitors and logged-in customers to quickly find what they’re looking for — and may even point them to new products or services they may not have been aware of.

Similarly, Lowe’s’ chatbot (shown on the bottom right of the above screenshot) provides quick-hitting info and answers to customers as needed. Again, this can help point them in the right direction without the need to browse the site’s various subsections. Users can also quickly connect to a live chat agent if they can’t find the answers they need via chatbot.

Site visitors can also quickly deliver feedback to Lowe’s’ customer support team based on their on-site, in-store, or delivery experience:

Though this feature isn’t necessarily new, the ability to deliver this feedback with ease makes customers much more likely to do so as they peruse Lowe’s’ website.

Now, as we mentioned in the intro, Lowe’s has done an incredible job of using its eCommerce platform to cater to their customers throughout the global shutdown.

Over the past year, Lowe’s has:

  • Added various DIY products and projects to its catalog
  • Positioned itself as a “gift-giving destination” during the holiday season
  • Provided multiple minimal-content options for pickup, delivery, and returns

In staying agile — and using its website as a central hub for the customer experience — Lowe’s has managed to outdo its biggest competitor for the time being. As we begin moving toward a post-COVID world, we’ll keep a close eye on what the Lowe’s eCommerce team has next in store for its customers.

The post Wayback Machine: The Past, Present, and Future of eCommerce at Lowe’s appeared first on Post Funnel.

tomas

Online enterprenuer. Lean leadership consultant.

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