Advances in immersive commerce are causing furniture sellers to overhaul their customer engagement strategies. 3D and augmented reality (AR) are at the forefront of this shift.
Grab a tape. Measure the space. Go from showroom to showroom. Spend hours debating the right shape and shade. Add a large pinch of guesswork. Then bring home a piece of furniture only to find out it doesn’t quite fit the décor, gel with the mood, or match the occasion.
This is how the world has shopped for furniture for the longest time. Furniture brands and store owners have had limited ability to change the model, even with tech advances. The result? The furniture sector is one of the slowest to capitalize on new retail trends and tech.
The sector’s cagey approach can be attributed to several factors, including the perceived cost of tech, concerns around complexity and know-how, and confusion regarding use cases and benefits. Research by Made Smarter bears this out. 8 out of 10 manufacturers say knowledge gaps impact the speed and scope of their tech initiatives.
Here are six ways augmented reality is transforming online furniture sales profitability.
1. Winds of change
Companies like Amazon and Uber have impacted consumer expectations and buying habits. So, business and revenue leaders have been forced to revise their rusty playbooks.
No furniture company can ignore that 80% of the customer’s buying process takes place at home on a mobile device. Or that more than 2.6 billion people – a third of the global populace – will be making at least one buy from an online retailer in 2023.
In a competitive market, leading names are exploiting new technology to take advantage of these dynamics. For those who have taken the plunge, the spoils have been rich.
Research by Shopify found that merchants who added 3D content to their stores enjoyed a lift of up to 94% in conversion rates. Furniture leader Home Depot reported that customers using augmented reality functionality converted at 3x the rate of those who did not. Macy’s has reduced return rates to <2% using AR – a significant decrease given typical return rates in the furniture sector are 5-10%, representing impressive cost savings. But that is not all.
Research findings show that furniture is one of the three most popular categories to explore with AR, with 34% of US-based AR-users using the technology to visualize furniture products in 2022.
Simply put, furniture manufacturers should consider implementing AR in their next market strategy. Over 80% of the average customer’s buying process today takes place at home on a smartphone.
2. Even better than the real thing
The unique advantage of 3D and AR technologies is that they don’t do away with the real world. Instead, 3D and AR enhance the real world with digital visualizations and data. All of this helps curious buyers experience the best of two worlds.
Furniture shopping has always relied on tangibility. But manufacturers have little to worry about. After all, the same experience can be replicated via a digital device, thanks to AR. Disruptive companies like Enhance have also brought the in-store experience home with user-first features. In a nutshell, they allow a new generation of buyers to…
3. Gain a new view
The AR transformation arc in any sector begins with creating 3D versions of the manufacturer’s blueprints and design assets. This establishes a new visual framework for a range of 3D and AR applications to use.
One of them is the ability to reconfigure form. This allows viewers to twirl, spin, and rotate items. In essence, buyers experience their favorite furniture from never-before-seen angles and perspectives.
4. Modify and personalize
Inside the AR universe, users can alter the color, style, and fabric of their chosen furniture item. They can use the digital environment artist’s canvas to build their dream look. This is the fun part of AR, and, unsurprisingly therefore, a firm favorite with 77% of shoppers.
5. Try before they buy
Most online furniture shoppers have a common psychological deterrent - the fear of ending up with a nasty surprise. 3D and AR take this challenge head-on.
Augmented reality in furniture allows potential buyers to place digital versions of furniture models in real environments. This helps customers assess compatibility quickly. In many ways, it is the furniture sector’s very own version of a test drive. Moreover, it goes a long way to addressing the pain of returns.
Click "View in your space" to see this collection of chairs and the table.
6. Plenty in store for sellers too
The latest breakthroughs in 3D and AR technology bring rich pickings for the seller and supplier side too. From creating memorable customer experiences to gaining real-time consumer insights to increasing profitability.
The value of social commerce is forecast to grow from $724 billion globally in 2022 to more than $6 trillion by 2030. And its rise hinges on the twin concepts of ‘shoppability’ and visual commerce.
Each is an outcome of many connected parameters, such as ease of use and device compatibility. This includes psycho-social metrics such as shareability and brag worthiness. 3D and AR combines an intuitive user interface with the ability to generate wow moments in style.
For the furniture ecosystem, ‘see commerce’ isn’t a concept anymore. When it comes to that avant-garde workstation, that portable closet or that elegant coffee table, it’s table stakes.