Place-Visualize-Buy: How Augmented Reality Is Reshaping the Online Furniture Industry

There's never been a secret sauce to selling furniture ONLINE. In fact, the bigger the item, the more reluctant the customer is to buy-it-before-seeing-it.

Place-Visualize-Buy: How Augmented Reality Is Reshaping the Online Furniture Industry

Did you know that furniture is the #1 category (60%) that consumers in the US want to shop with AR?

Data Source

There’s never been a secret sauce to selling furniture online.

For far too long, the online furniture industry has been one of the slowest category of products to gain a foothold online. After all, it’s hard for shoppers to judge whether a piece of furniture will fit in their space or go with their room decor just by looking at it online, rather than in person. In fact, the larger the item or its price tag, the more reluctant the shopper is to make that purchase online. Especially when they can visit a store and actually see the product.

From a shopper’s point-of-view, it’s just easier for them to: measure their empty space with ultimate precision –> hop over to a nearby physical store –> spend hours picking the design, color and aesthetics of the item –> and make that purchase. Doesn’t sound all that simple now, does it?

Yet if furniture shopping behaviour proves anything, it’s this:

to buy a piece of furniture, customers would rather visit a physical store where they can actually see the product than go online and make a bad purchase decision.

With this, the need for a technology that has the potential to make more people buy furniture online becomes all the more obvious.

Enter Augmented Reality(AR).

Augmented Reality in the furniture industry: What is it and How does it work?

When it comes to the ecommerce space, some of the earliest adopters of augmented reality have surprisingly been household names in the furniture industry. And for good reason.

In simple terms, augmented reality allows furniture brands to deliver a try-before-you-buy shopping experience with realistic product visualizations. How is it possible? Wth AR, shoppers can now point their devices to any space in their home or office and choose the item they want to place there. A realistic 3D version of the item is them superimposed into their real-life surrounding- where they can play around with its colors and patterns or move it around to gauge style, fit and size.

Wayfair's popular android app, helps shoppers visualize products in their home

This is a huge breakthrough for furniture brands, big and small. Instead of just being a fascinating new technology to experiment with, AR addresses key objections customers face when trying to shop for furniture online, as opposed to in person.

App-less AR that works across all browsers

All early versions of AR enabled shopping required the use of a dedicated app. Without an app, you just couldn’t leverage the AR technology provided by the ARkit(iOS) or ARCore(android) engines.

Today things are a bit different.

Not to beat our own drum, a handful of platforms like Designhubz have made it possible for e-commerce brands to enable 3d and augmented reality product views directly on their online website- without any development or coding efforts.

For us, the biggest milestone so far has been the integration of Designhubz into the IKEA website. On the site, shoppers can now look at 3d versions of their products from all angles or ‘view in real life’ to check them in their surroundings.  

Why Are Furniture Brands Adopting Augmented Reality (And You Should Too)?

While most earlier adopters of augmented reality focused on the gaming and entertainment space, brands like IKEA, Wayfair, Target and Houzz showed us all that online furniture shopping stands to benefit equally, if not more from this disruptive technology.

IKEA's Place app allows shoppers to preview products in their room

Target's app with the 'See It In Your Space' feature

For starters, more than 2 million people have used Houzz’s ‘View in My Room’ feature. As reported, these people are 11 times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. On the other hand, IKEA’s AR-enabled app Place is officially the second most popular app built on Apple’s ARkit based on downloads and revenue from the app. No wonder, they’re headstrong about hitting $5.9 billion in 2020 as in-app sales, rising from $1.4 billion in 2016.

1. Boosts buying confidence

By giving online shoppers access to placing and visualizing products in their own space, furniture retailers are practically taking the guesswork out of online furniture shopping.

As customers interact with AR versions of your products, they get answers to key questions like– how big is it? Will this fit in my room? How will it look, will it match my walls?  Naturally, the more informed and confident the customer, the higher the chances of a purchase completion. As opposed to shoppers second guessing a purchase, augmented reality influences purchase decisions that come from a place of more certainty which leads to higher buying confidence.

2. AR allows furniture brands to reach more people

With AR enabled, furniture brands can now reach audiences who were previously unreachable: people who wouldn’t visit your store because of the distance. These are the people who don’t have the convenience of dropping by, but can still place an order for home delivery. Having tried out the product from the comforts of their home, the distance becomes irrelevant.

3. Drastically reduces returns

We all know that furniture brands see high return rates. With AR shopping however, this changes drastically. After all, AR transforms a customer’s home into a virtual showroom where they can be 100% sure of the style and size of items before purchasing them. This level of certainty leads to a reduced return rate as customers pick what they need the first time around.

4. The WOW factor

Last but not the least, augmented reality provides a new and exciting way to shop online. AR shopping attracts people and creates a sense of buzz that traditional shopping just doesn’t. As customers are drawn to this immersive technology, furniture brands that are tapping in are naturally getting much-deserved attention. Not to mention, AR also helps brands leveraging it stand out from the vast competition that are still using the same old ways to sell furniture online.

How to Implement Augmented Reality on Your Furniture Shopping Website?

In spite of the high number of adopters, most retailers are missing out on AR for a simple reason: they’re thinking of the costs or the development efforts that go into building an AR-enabled experience.  

But here’s the thing: it’s much easier than it seems to implement an AR-enabled shopping experience on your website or app.

Currently, there are two viable ways for you to create and deliver augmented reality shopping:

1. In-house development

The more expensive and technical method of the two, like most early adopters you too can invest in a dev team that is equipped to leverage the ARkit and ARCore engines. Typically they would start by using a 3D modelling and rendering software to create realistic 3D versions of your products. Then they would create overlay versions that enable augmented reality.

2. Choose a ready-to-use AR commerce platform

At the moment, a handful of platforms like our very own Designhubz offer the option of easily converting your physical inventory into 3D and AR product views- without any technical knowledge.

While everyone has a different approach, at Designhubz we’ve taken a quick and scalable route. It’s simple: we send you fully automated and portable robotic rigs which scan and convert your physical products into 3D views which get automatically uploaded into your account on our platform. Our platform then makes your 3D product views compatible for AR visualization. Once you login, you can publish or share your 3d and AR-enabled product views on your website, app or social media channels. Simple isn’t it?

Want to deliver an unsaturated shopping experience that boosts conversions and reduces returns?

Schedule a quick demo here to see how our platform can easily help you offer AR enabled shopping.

To Wrap Up

It’s no secret that augmented reality is proving to be a great asset for online furniture commerce, and we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. The potential of this disruptive technology is widespread and everyday more and more brands are adopting it to grab attention and grow online.

We think the future of AR shopping is bright as ever, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or can’t help but disagree? Let us know your opinions in the comment section.

Raya Mehri

Raya Mehri

Designhubz Growth Manager