Lowe’s Iris thriving two years after launch

The home improvement retailer also is testing an installation option for customers who need assistance with the DIY smart home product
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MOOREVILLE, N.C.—In the two years since Lowe’s launched Iris, the new do-it-yourself home automation/home security product is doing so well it’s offered in Lowe’s stores nationwide and the company is trialing a professional installation option for customers who need extra help.

The home improvement retailer, based here, also recently announced the launch of some new Iris home automation products, including a smart garage door controller, an electronic pet door, a window blinds controller and a hose faucet timer, which make it easier to cut energy and water costs.

How many customers now have bought Iris? Kevin Meagher, Lowe’s vice president and general manager, Smart Home, declined to reveal specific figures but noted there’s a reason the company has been expanding its Iris offerings.

“All I can say is, we didn’t extend to all stores and increase the footprint in all stores because it was going badly,” Meagher told Security Systems News.

A little more than a year ago, Iris was offered in 500 Lowe's stores, but now it’s in more than 1,500 of Lowe’s approximately 1,700 stores nationwide, Meagher said. And the stores have devoted more floor space to showing and demonstrating the product. “So, we’ve made a huge investment and we’ve also extended the size of the footprint,” he said.

Iris is not professionally monitored. But now, Meagher said, the company is trialing a professional installation option, tapping local installation companies to help Lowe’s customers who request that service.

Most of Lowe’s Iris customers like DIY, Meagher said. “One of the reasons we don’t have a problem is because we’re Lowe’s. And what I mean by that is … most of our customers are doing jobs round the home and most of them are walking in to pick up the stuff and do it themselves.”

Also, he said, Lowe’s has made DIY installation easy. “If you look at our customer feedback, if we’ve done one thing really well, it’s that we’ve taken what was a fairly complex proposition and made it very simple to install. It literally is pull tabs out of sensors, go to a Web page, tell us what you’ve done, [and] access your app to control it.”

Still, he said, some customers do want assistance, particularly with thermostats or door locks. To get that help, he said, “they simply go online to our website and they click, give us their post code, tell us what they want installed and we automatically will find a local installation company and give them a fixed price for the installation. The price for installation depends on what they want installed.”

Meagher noted that installation is not a new concept to the company when it comes to other home improvement products. “Again,” he told SSN, “it comes back to that we’re Lowe’s; we have installation service already as part of our core business.”

Iris offers customers two levels of service. The basic one is free and customers can do such things as open and close their door lock and arm and disarm their security systems, Meagher said.

The other level costs $10 per month and “gives you a lot more in terms of messaging capability,” he said, warning you and, if you so chose, friends, family and/or neighbors if an alarm goes off.

Also, he said, “It allows you to start programming your home with what we call Magic. And Magic is basically writing rules. So, for example, in my house, whenever I leave my house and select my ‘away’ mode, it deadbolts my front door and my back door, it turns my security system on” and also adjusts the thermostat and turns light off. “It has all those safety and convenience features with the press of one button,” Meagher said.

The company said that the recent product additions in July join “the 50 existing devices currently available for Iris – including security cameras, smoke detectors [and] water leak detectors.”

The company also claims, “Lowe’s was the first to target the mass consumer market with a broad home automation solution in Iris and the first to introduce a truly open platform—allowing devices across its stores to connect with one another.” Iris’ open platform also supports dozens of other Zigbee and Z-Wave-enabled devices, the company said.

Meagher told SSN, “We don’t want to lock customers into one proprietary wireless, so we’re very much around open platform, open standards, and that’s what allows us to really scale in the way we can, because we don't need to invent everything. We’ve got people now coming to us with a whole bunch of Zigbee and Z-Wave devices that they’ve invented and we just go, ‘Great’ and bring it into our ecosystem.”

He contends that Lowe’s and other new smart home players such as Google, Dropcam and Apple are “reinventing” the industry. “The future for the security industry is in home automation, the smart home,” Meagher said. “You’re not going to be able to get $30 to $50 a month from consumers for simply monitoring the house for burglars. The world has moved on and it’s going to be a challenging time for those [traditional security] folks in the industry. And while they can look across and pooh-pooh self-install and talk about it as being a toy or whatever it might be, this stuff is serious and it’s selling in volumes and it’s where the market is going to grow.”