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Interior design is a huge and growing sector, with US customers alone spending over $530 per head every year on furniture and home decor. Standing out as a furniture retailer or design studio can be tough in such a crowded space. But as we’ll see, AR is providing new tools to attract attention and empower both customers and designers.
Augmented Reality has been a factor in home decor for a number of years now, but it really hit the big time when Swedish giant IKEA launched IKEA Place in 2017. Place changed the rules of online shopping, offering smartphone users a way to place virtual IKEA products inside their homes.
In seconds, customers could get an idea of how those furnishings would look and function in their chosen environment – something that’s not easy to imagine without AR’s help. Even with the best in-store customer service around, actually allowing customers to see potential layouts adds a powerful layer to the customer experience.
Since then, many home decor companies have followed suit. Most recently, social network Pinterest entered the fray with its Pinterest Lens Camera and Try on Home Decor service.
This service enables Pinterest members to take snaps of physical spaces and add a vast array of items from Pinterest sellers, including big brands like Walmart and Wayfair. According to the network itself, AR viewable Pins are 5 times as likely to generate conversions – a massive boost to small and large furnishing sellers.
This isn’t just about linking individual products to living rooms. As Jeremy Jankowski, Pinterest’s Creator Management Lead for Home and Design puts it, “It’s about inspiring new ideas and speaking to new projects”.
In other words, product visualizers create a totally new customer experience based on creativity, interactivity, and freedom. That is also in keeping with changes in customer expectations. 60% of customers want to scale up their use of AR when buying furniture – a huge chunk of the market.
Stats like this are leading more and more brands to latch onto AR visualization. Apps like Houzz now focus on flooring to show how tiles or carpets would fit into homes. Anwis does the same for curtains and blinds, while Primer is all about wallpaper and paint.
Put together, these services can smooth out the design process and link customers to the products they need. A major step forward for creative homeowners - powered by the growing accessibility of augmented reality technology.
Visualization isn’t the only way that AR is powering improvements for home decor customers. It’s also providing the tools they need to measure their space and slot sofas or tables in and out without a hitch.
AirMeasure is a great example, using AR to create a virtual tape measure that can be dragged across spaces via smartphone lenses. Users can also drag virtual cubes around objects to create 3D dimensions, measure walking distances through interior spaces, and get precise measurements for TVs or couches.
This saves time and ensures accuracy, allowing homeowners to map out their new furnishings or layout changes with total confidence. And with that data, they can head to digital furniture stores confident in how to make the perfect purchase.
Again, AirMeasure isn’t alone. Apps like Amikasa allow you to take virtual tours of 3D designs to get a sense of how everything fits together, while RoomScan Pro automatically scans rooms and suggests workable floor plans. Added together, tools like this put some of the expertise of interior designers into the hands of customers, saving money as well as time.
Measurement apps could also be used by retailers to reduce return rates from their online store – one of the great bugbears of the design sector. In the digital world, average return rates for furniture are between 5-7%. But when Macy’s experimented with AR, those rates dropped to under 2%. From a cost perspective, giving customers more information about the products they buy is a no-brainer.
Virtual Showrooms are slightly different. In this case, they represent ways to harness AR to promote products and services that would not have been possible a few years previously.
These tools tend to feature extensive 3D virtual worlds that resemble bricks and mortar retailers, down to the photorealistic quality of the models they use. And became a lifesaver during the Covid pandemic when physical stores were closed and gatherings suspended.
Dutch brand MADE.com is a pioneer of this approach, introducing a virtual store back in 2019. Featuring a “virtual apartment” supposedly located above MADE's physical store, this store provided a way for home-bound customers to explore new furnishings. For the company, this was about more than just selling chairs.
The pandemic...made us – as a digital-first brand – work even harder to offer our audience something innovative and inspiring to experience, [while the app introduced MADE] to a much wider fanbase beyond what a physical space can offer. Jo Jackson, MADE chief creative officer.
AR showrooms and similar services help fuse the shop and the home in new ways, offering much more than traditional real-world environments ever could. New product releases can be beamed into living rooms. Digital assistants can be available to make recommendations or provide information. And brands can communicate directly to consumers about their ethos and style.
That’s especially important when reaching elusive Gen Z customers. Stats suggest that 71% of the Gen Z demographic look for personalized retail experiences. 83% also see shopping as a form of entertainment.
Finally, it’s also a technology that smaller retailers can explore. Thanks to AR developer kits like ARCore and ARKit, creating AR-enabled smartphone apps is relatively simple, and becoming vital tools for eCommerce companies.
AR has another vital benefit for the home decor sector: expanding customer horizons and allowing them to make higher quality purchasing decisions. In-depth AI-generated customer recommendations are one of the most promising ways to achieve this, and plenty of big home decor brands are researching ways to make that happen.
Here, Shopify is leading the way. The eCommerce platform is working on AR tools to recommend everything from cushions to wall art. This should introduce new design ideas and combinations while promoting product lines and making customers feel more engaged. With Shopify on board, it should also spread smoothly to most eCommerce operations.
Recommendations matter. Customers who click on recommended products are 20% more likely to return to eCommerce stores – a stat that’s likely to be amplified by AR technology. Shoppers like well-directed, engaging recommendations that allow them to feel creative and make unexpected purchases. According to Accenture, 91% of customers feel more inclined to shop with companies that offer relevant recommendations.
The tools we’ve looked at so far tend towards the democratization of design, equipping everyday buyers with new skills and information. However, augmented reality is also empowering even the highest levels of the home decor industry. Introducing a whole new set of capabilities in the hands of professional designers.
Apps like RoomSketcher combine the features of high-end CAD packages with the simplicity of smartphone apps, while Roomle goes further – using AR tools to automatically map room dimensions. Helping pros create detailed floor plans with minimal time and effort.
After that, tools like Houzz (or even IKEA’s app) make it simple to add furnishings or decorations. Some apps even add lighting and shadows to the results, giving an incredibly rich idea of how designs will look.
So far, home decor and AR have generally combined in the form of smartphone apps, and plenty of smart ideas have materialized already:
These apps have a significant impact on the home design landscape, but they aren’t the end of the story. Augmented reality itself is also changing, moving from handset deployments to web-based settings, and this could result in new home decor tools for loyal customers and new users alike to try.
In the past 5 years, WebVR has expanded, providing ways to integrate virtual reality headsets with browsers like Chrome or Firefox. This could open up more complex uses of augmented reality in the furniture sector. For instance, customers could use AR technology to move straight from web searches into virtual home tours, or use virtual reality headsets to manipulate virtual objects to create their ideal arrangements.
This works around some of the problems associated with smartphones. Customers won’t need to download an app before logging on and launching visualizers. And they won’t be limited by underpowered handsets. Headsets work much more effectively with laptops, making true VR a real possibility.
Does this mean that AR apps are dying? Not at all. When shopping online, buyers might have spur-of-the-moment ideas and want to see visualizations immediately on their mobile devices. And there's plenty of scope for creative mash-ups between physical store locations, physical world objects, and smartphones.
Mobile design is definitely here to stay, but the sector is sure to mature, with web-based services taking center stage over the near term.
As technologies mature, everything from web-based augmented reality to AR glasses, VR, and mixed reality, forward-looking home decor brands will surely benefit.
Augmented reality apps have already lowered return rates for furnishings by 30%, while apps like IKEA Place have both boosted conversions and made the shopping experience more engaging. With web-based augmented reality expanding, we can expect even more breakthroughs in serving interior design buyers.
There’s clearly a huge amount of untapped ways to serve customers. With the right partner, major gains are within reach of small and larger retailers alike.
Modelry can help almost any interior design business embrace the augmented reality revolution. If you want to create a product configurator or home visualization app, a showcase for art and ornaments, or a 3D advert that leaps out of social media feeds, we can help.
Our network of 3D modelers can turn physical products into realistic versions that are ready for use in virtual environments. We can help create 3D systems and manage assets, providing ways to completely transform your online store experience.
Give your customers the power to realize their home design dreams. Get in touch with our team to redesign your business.
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