How AR & VR are Transforming the E-Commerce Furniture Industry

August 4, 2022

By integrating existing e-commerce stores with immersive 3D AR/VR technologies, retailers can deliver compelling customer experiences unlike anything else.

As anybody who’s ever tried assembling a dresser or pivoting a couch that just won’t fit can attest, furnishing a home takes patience, lots of research, and a little help from your friends. To make this process easier and more enjoyable for customers, leading furniture retailers are increasingly utilizing cutting-edge technologies like augmented and virtual reality to take out the guesswork.

While AR and VR are a revolutionary leap in furniture and design presentation, the trend is not new. Over the last few years, retailing giants like Ikea, Wayfair, Amazon, and Target, among others, all have made large investments into AR/VR tech, quickly making it an industry standard.

The Swedish furniture retailer was one of the pioneers in this space when it launched Ikea Place in 2017. The innovative app let users place true-to-scale 3D objects in their own homes using just a smartphone. It followed this up with Ikea Kreativ, an even more powerful virtual design tool that lets users scan a room, remove the furniture, and add IKEA products in their place.

And consumers are loving it.

Products that feature AR/VR content have seen a 94% increase in conversions versus products without it. One particular success story saw home furnishings company Houzz boast an 11x increase in sales from customers who engaged with their AR tool.

61% of consumers surveyed by Deloitte said that they preferably choose stores with AR over those without it. What’s more, 40% of shoppers were ready to pay more for a product that they were able to test with AR.

The technology has been a huge boon for the furniture, design, and home décor industries, and is only going to get bigger. According to a report from Perkins Coie, retail is one of the top 10 industries expected to see the most disruption by immersive technologies. And AR topped the list of tech that makes users view a brand as innovative.

With furniture and design being an incredibly visual field, AR and VR have the most potential here to reinvent the industry by giving customers convenience, control, and confidence in their purchases. All while positioning themselves as technology leaders and innovators.

Enhancing the Shopping Experience with XR

The extended reality, or XR, covers virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and other immersive technologies that are redefining the way we deliver compelling customer experiences. And the keyword here is experience. Shopping is an experience as much as it is the act of getting what is necessary.

AR and VR give immense value to buyers by facilitating online product interaction and ensuring more informed purchase decisions. When brands can better manage customer expectations and fully present their products, customers get more satisfaction which leads to decreased returns and fewer customer support inquiries. Win-win.

Why do customers love AR/VR so much?

  • The virtual interaction with the product is a novel experience that can turn the mundane act of shopping into a fun and memorable activity.
  • The ability to try out the features and capabilities of products remotely. You can test and buy a new kitchen table… from your kitchen table.
  • The experience of augmented or virtual visualizations and sensations stimulates us and activates our pleasure sensors.
  • The possibility to configure products (change colors or patterns on a couch for example) gives buyers full control.
  • The boost of confidence when you have interacted with what you are buying and make better-informed purchase decisions.

More Buyer Confidence, More Conversions

On average, almost 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned. While purchases aren’t completed for a myriad of reasons, minimizing friction in the final stages of a purchasing decision is of paramount importance to online retailers. By tackling the problem of buyer confidence even before an item is added to a cart, shoppers are more likely to hit the check-out button.

Home Depot was ahead of the curve when it rolled out its AR feature before the pandemic struck and shoppers abandoned physical retail in droves. The 3D visualizer proved to be a powerful tool in sales, and the conversions tell the story. The home improvement giant says that consumers who engage with AR typically convert 2–3x higher than those who don’t.

Less Buyer Remorse, Less Returns

One of the biggest challenges facing online retailers is the rising cost of returns. The try-before-you-buy digital experience of AR significantly reduces returns and the accompanying cost for the retailer. This is especially pertinent for furniture, where shipping and return-shipping large or bulky items is a significant expense.

When expectations match reality, customers have less of a reason to experience buyer’s remorse. A VR environment lets people test out a product and have an idea of how everything looks and functions, which means less confusion and dissatisfaction when the item arrives. Companies can even use VR to assist customers in set-up and usage, further reducing returns.

Like an In-Store Experience, But Better

In-store experiences are specially curated and designed to create an aspirational environment reflective of the brand. Music, dynamic displays, and store associates create an ambiance that draws in shoppers and is hard to replicate online.

VR bridges traditional stores and online shopping by taking the familiar and desirable parts of brick-and-mortar and enhancing it with the unique aspects of extended reality. The resulting shopping experience is new, improved, and completely immersive.

VR does more than just show your products. You can build virtual environments that showcase not just how the product can be used, but the aspirational world the buyer will enter once they buy your product. Your store may not be as beautiful as a museum, but your virtual store can be.

Furthermore, VR not only makes e-commerce immersive like a physical store, but also enhances the in-person shopping experience. Buyers can still visit furniture stores and design studios to sit on an office chair or feel a granite countertop. But a VR headset can make them see how it would look in a variety of settings other than the generic showroom floor.

As any good salesperson knows, you sell an experience, not the product.

A Virtual Showroom That’s Always Open

Retailers and brands can cater to a global audience (without the cost of global stores) with a virtual environment that’s almost identical to a physical showroom or design studio. With a 3D web engine, customers can walk into your virtual showroom and explore your products without leaving their most comfortable place — home.

Moreover, customers who are looking to redesign their homes can walk around a virtual kitchen to see what the space will be like before they commit to installing it. VR technology allows designers and decorators to visualize an entire interior and walk a client through a 3D space. It’s the easiest way to visualize a perfect kitchen or living room.

There is a lot of appeal for antique furniture dealers as well. You can put any piece of furniture in a VR period room that’s reflective of the piece’s provenance and share it with clients from anywhere in the world.

Real-Time Demonstrations and Social Shopping with VR

As evidenced by the parking lot of any mall on a weekend afternoon, the social aspect of shopping can’t be easily dismissed. Here, too, VR can provide novel solutions. Customers can browse a VR store with friends, interact with 3D products and each other, and get assistance and advice from a virtual consultant, all in real-time.

People shopping together for a home or office can jump into a virtual showroom together and see how each piece of furniture or décor will look.

Furniture and design companies can demonstrate their wares without lugging them all to trade shows and exhibitions. And virtual product launches and demos can be conducted in real-time with multiple people.

Consumers and business buyers, in turn, get the full venue experience without leaving their chair. And maybe they’ll buy a new chair, too.

The Power of WebVR

Customer research from CleverTap found that nearly 40% of respondents delete an app that they don’t use or that is no longer needed, with almost 20% doing it because of lack of storage space.

People are less likely to install a new app that they will seldom use. And with furniture generally being an infrequent purchase, chances are that customers will be hesitant to download a single-use AR app.

To make the process as hassle-free as possible, retailers would be wise to implement a web VR feature that enables VR experiences directly in the web browser, making it accessible to everyone and drastically lowering the barrier to entry.

With a powerful graphical engine like 8XR, you can deliver 3D experiences over the web to any device instantly. No need to install any applications or know how to code, you can build your own VR space in a browser and allow visitors to immediately enter virtual reality environments from a regular web page.

Introduce AR/VR In Your Own Furniture and Design Business

Ready-made AR/VR solutions appeal to businesses of all sizes, as they save on in-house development costs (once you factor in all the complexity and challenges involved) and get you to market sooner.

To get started, you need photorealistic 3D assets of your product catalog that can be viewed and interacted with in an augmented or virtual reality environment.

The best strategy for a merchant is to produce 3D assets of their exclusive and private-label wares and pull in the other assets from suppliers in industry standard formats. Or focus on core or best-selling items first before enlarging the available catalog.

The 8XR builder tool is the fastest way to create an immersive 3D XR scene that customers can enter and browse as a showroom or furniture demo space, with or without a VR headset. Customers can also use models of their own rooms and place elements within it.

Designers and brands can create inspirational 3D showrooms and idea galleries in lifelike spatial settings complete with 3D product models, animations, dynamic lightning and shading, user interactivity and spatial audio.

The Future of Furniture Buying is with XR

With the increased demand for AR and VR-enabled experiences in the wake of the COVID-19 e-commerce boom, there is rapid market growth and an increased desire for unique shopping experiences that not just replicate the physical world but enhance it.

While the benefits of the technology have been quite apparent for a while, the value of XR for the homeware and interior design sector has only become more evident post-pandemic. There will undoubtedly be more innovation and a greater shift towards extended reality as companies seek to set themselves apart amid more competition and a shift in consumer behavior.

In a world where customers are looking for amazing experiences and businesses for a way to engage their audience like never before, AR and VR could be the solution.

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