Houzz app's AR upgrade turns living rooms into virtual showroom floors
- Houzz launched a fully 3-D augmented reality (AR) home improvement feature to the iOS version of its mobile app, according to a company blog post. The feature is called "View My Room in 3D" and allows users to pick from over 300,000 furniture and decor products that can be virtually visualized in rooms, turned into sketches to share with contractors or purchased directly.
- Houzz tested a similar but strictly 2-D tool last year, and the company told CNN that 50% of app users tried out the 2-D version and that those who did spent 3x longer in its app. The new 3-D offering is more robust and can display the materials and textures of objects along with their shape.
- "View My Room in 3D" shares qualities with some competitors' AR apps, including one launched in March from Williams-Sonoma or Wayfair's AR and 3-D modeling app; however, Wayfair's app is only available on devices compatible with Google's Tango AR platform.
A number of tech industry leaders, from Apple to Facebook, are touting AR as their next big thing, and it looks more and more like retail will help lead the way in terms of accelerating mainstream adoption of the technology. Sally Huang, head of visual technologies at Houzz, told CNN that the brand's new modeling feature aims to be the "first true step toward mass-market augmented reality."
Houzz's early tests with the 2-D application speak to AR's power in lessening friction on the consumer path to purchase and also how the technology can boost in-app engagement and sales. Whether those engagement times will taper off after the "wow" factor and novelty of AR has cooled remains to be seen.
As AR technology becomes more mainstream, the Houzz example underscores the heavylifting that marketers will need to undertake to provide such experiences. On its blog, the company said it worked across the organization to deliver the new feature, with design and engineering ironing out the user experience, analytics building the data processing farm and the marketplace team providing product APIs, backend setup and server management.
Houzz isn't the first to forge into the AR retail space — Wayfair launched its app last year — but broad availability on iOS devices, as opposed to on a more limited, niche platform like Tango, might give it a leg up on the competition.
The mobile AR market is forecast to reach 1.9 billion unique monthly active users worldwide by 2022, with e-commerce apps as an important driver, according to a recent report from Tractica. During that same period, annual mobile AR revenue is expected to hit $18.5 billion globally, the firm said.
Follow Peter Adams on Twitter