Furniture shopping is about to get easier, and maybe even fun. Ashley Furniture, the largest furniture retailer in North America and the world’s largest furniture manufacturer, is taking the tech route to improve customer furniture shopping experiences with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in its showrooms, the company said.
Two of the most common consumer concerns while shopping for furniture are “Will the pieces fit?” and “How will it all look?” Ashley will use AR to address the space-fitting concern and VR to give customers a chance to experience what the pieces will look like together.
Ashley will provide an iPad app to help shoppers see how specific furniture pieces fit in existing spaces. Customers will be able to move pieces around with the app to try various arrangements and to check that new furniture will fit with their existing pieces. The iPad shopping app will serve as a room layout tool.
“Augmented and virtual reality are essential to our growth and vision for the future,” said Todd Wanek. Ashley president and CEO. “Our data shows that a combination of 3D visualization, seeing, touching, and feeling actual products, combined with the consultation of our knowledgeable salespeople, will lead to a stand-apart customer experience that is location-flexible.”
Ashley is going to create in-store virtual reality ‘tech bars” to help customers get the feel of what a room will look and feel like with new furniture. After a customers use the iPad space configuration app, they will put on virtual reality headsets to experience the arrangements more fully and make configuration changes or select different pieces.
The furniture manufacturing and retailing giant is working with Marxent and the company’s VisualCommerce platform for both the AR and VR customer tools. One of Ashley’s goals is to have the process flow smoothly from room layout to virtual room experiences to make it easier for customers choose and experience furniture pieces and configuration.
“We are committed to creating a seamless omnichannel customer experience and, with Marxent, we found the platform and the partner who can deliver,” Wanek said.
Ashley Furniture will begin rolling out the AR app and VR tech bars in its company-owned store locations in 2017.