- Williams-Sonoma will debut a 3-D mobile and desktop imaging app later this month that uses technology it obtained in a $112 million acquisition of augmented reality (AR) software firm Outward late last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- The app is intended for customers of the company's West Elm and Pottery Barn stores to help them visualize how furnishings will look in their residences. Williams-Sonoma CTO Yasir Anwar told The Journal that the retailer sees potential in the AR technology to make the shopping experience and sales process more fun, while also improving its conversation rates.
- The new Williams-Sonoma app will be integrated with Outward's technology to generate 3-D images of millions of products, including lamps, couches and kitchen tables, per The Journal.
Furniture retailers are embracing 3-D and AR technologies in increasing numbers as a way to allow customers a virtual "try before you buy" experience. The list of home-focused retailers already using AR tech includes Ikea, Lowe's, Wayfair and Anthropologie. At about the time it was acquiring Outward, Williams-Sonoma also launched an iOS AR app for Pottery Barn called 3D Room View.
It is one of the more practical applications of AR as the expense of developing the technology can be offset by the expensive furnishings being sold that — at least in theory — carry greater margins. Furniture and home furnishings is also one of the fastest growing online market areas, according to uShip.
There are many 3-D and AR concepts out there, like using the tech in beauty products and apparel sales. Estée Lauder is using AR for makeup training, and MAC Cosmetics and Macy's have brought AR magic mirrors into stores for customers to test products virtually. Alibaba and Guess recently piloted a temporary FashionAI concept store in Hong Kong. The store featured smart mirrors to show product information about garments shoppers pick up or are cued by RFID technology in the clothing racks.
A number of home furnishings retailers are testing or using AR technology for similar reasons. Ikea has implemented its Ikea Place AR application, which is built on Apple's ARKit AR development platform. Using ARkit, Lowe's added two new augmented reality tools last fall, including a virtual tape measure app called Measured, and an app called Envisioned by The Mine, which allows customers to visualize furniture in their own homes or workplaces.
Last fall, Target also rolled out an AR feature on its mobile website that allows customers to place 3D versions of home products within photos of their actual rooms and move them around to see how they'd look. In March, Overstock and Wayfair announced the latest versions of their Android mobile apps with augmented reality capabilities built on Google's ARCore platform. Meanwhile, Houzz has said more than 2 million shoppers from May 2017 to June 2018 used its “View in My Room” AR mobile app feature to shop and make purchases. The app now has over 1 million 3D product images.