Science fiction can be a powerful tool. After all, what we consider standard today was pure fantasy not too long ago. It contributes to the look, feel and sound of virtually every item we own today, from Bluetooth-enabled toothbrushes to vacuums controlled by smartphones.
Lowe’s understands the power of science fiction. At SXSW this week, it is showcasing its partnership with SciFutures, an organization that works with move than 100 science-fiction writers, to help create what customers want.
Since 2013, Lowe’s has shared its consumer research with the sci-fi writers, who then churn out comic books with the info, Canada’s Marketing Magazine reports. Lowe’s Innovation Lab then turns some of those ideas into reality.[more]
“How do you tell a story that will show how new and disruptive technologies might change, or might actually show up, in the real world?” asked Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, as reported by Warc. “That’s when the science-fiction prototyping came out.”
Even if the products featured in the comic books are not produced, the comic books help extend the customer relationship, notes Nel.
One popular comic book features the Holoroom augmented reality experience in Toronto, a concept that was produced more than a year before consumers began discussing AR. Another portrays Lowe’s OSHbot customer service robot test in South California, which scan items and help customers locate them in the Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) store.
Just as Google crowdsources idea to spark its “moonshot” innovation program, Lowe’s likes having science-fiction writers on the payroll. They’re keeping its techies and engineers focused on the future.
“People still think it’s crazy. That’s half the fun,” said Nel. “If something is perceived as crazy and out there, then people look at it more closely and give it a little more latitude. They look at it with a different frame.”
The comic books and the work of the Innovation Lab help consumers see Lowe’s as being more tech-savvy than its competitors. Nels says that a number of startups have brought their ideas to the Innovation Lab to discuss partnerships with Lowe’s before the product goes to market.