Is Augmented Reality the New Reality for Home Furnishings Retailers?

Augmented Reality: Solving a Shopper’s Woes

“If only I knew how this would look in my room…” is a phrase many home furnishings shoppers have murmured with a sigh. And quite often, this ambiguity dissuades or delays shoppers from making a purchase– of course they don’t want to risk buying a misfit item that maybe looks great in store, but just doesn’t work for their space. But thanks to increasingly attainable technology, this could very soon be a worry of the past.

Augmented reality is picking up steam in 2017, particularly thanks to new, more affordable technologies. This uptick also parallels customer expectations. A recent survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers found that 55% of respondents want to virtually view how home furnishings and accessories fit in a home before buying.

In reality, augmented reality is already part of our everyday lives. For example, you’ve probably heard about the Pokemon GO app. Pokemon GO lets users “catch” virtual creatures that appear on the screen in the user’s real surroundings. This app (and its immense popularity) showed us how powerful an experience can be when you combine software with the real world—and then let people interact with it. In fact, the first fully capable augmented reality smartphone started shipping at the end of last year. It comes fully equipped with Google’s new Tango Augmented Reality technology.

A New Fad, a Seasoned Technology

While augmented reality is a new experience for many retailers and shoppers alike, it isn’t exactly new technology. Ikea implemented augmented reality back in 2013, with an app that allowed shoppers to view items in their own rooms. And retail giant Alibaba just launched their own virtual reality store called Buy+. Now shoppers can browse a virtual mall where items jump to life on the screen. But these days, even smaller retailers are getting in on the action.

Jerome’s furniture is one of these retailers, having launched a Jerome’s augmented reality experience. Jerome’s lets customers click a “see it in your home” button on its website products. Next, a mobile app is launched that lets users place items in their home. This means they can gauge whether the pieces are a fit (from both a design and measurements perspective).

So, is It Worth It?

But is augmented reality where Home Furnishings & Furniture retailers need to invest? Or is it just another fad that will fizzle out by next year? The answers to those questions are still up in the air. What we do do know is that the combined virtual and augmented reality market is estimated to be grow to $150 billion by 2020.

In terms of improving that bottom line, the big companies that have implemented these technologies are claiming big benefits. Take Virgin Holidays, who recently implemented a virtual reality in-store experience with great success. And while they never gave specific numbers, they claim it increased a customer’s propensity to buy and that the results were “phenomenal.” It makes sense that implementing augmented/virtual reality technologies improve sales, assuming these technologies are drastically improving a customer’s experience with a brand.

As augmented reality technologies become more mainstream, the ability for smaller retailers to implement these experiences  increases. The key is to ensure you’re creating experiences that are helpful for customers, experiences that are also resources– and not just flashy sales gimmicks.