The way people shop for furniture has gone largely unchanged since …forever. Shoppers go into the store to see the furniture they’re interested in buying, buy it and bring it home. Even though almost every other retail category has moved largely online, brick and mortar furniture outlets have remained a stronghold in traditional shopping. However, in the next several months that could change quickly. The introduction of Apple’s ARKit could immediately change online furniture shopping from a scary and uncertain process to a simple and reliable process that people will be confident in.
Currently, what are the major challenges to shop for furniture online?
1. Hard to visualize furniture style & sizing from 2D images
2. Don’t know if items will fit
3. Can’t assess quality
4. Shipping costs are too high
These major challenges will no longer be large enough to offset the convenience of online furniture shopping. Let’s take these challenges one by one.
ARKit makes furniture visualization simple
This is where augmented reality (AR) comes in. Augmented reality lets anyone with a smartphone view 3D items, such as furniture, in their own home. Even though several apps already exist which use AR, they currently do not give users complete confidence about the size of the furniture. But based on early access to developer demos of ARKit, that is about to change with the coming of ARKit!
One example of an app that already uses AR and is actively building to use ARKit is Room Remix — We recommend giving it a try.
What is ARKit? In June, Apple announced that they would be releasing ARKit with iOS 11. ARKit is a developer framework for iOS 11 that allows apps like Room Remix to provide estimates of furniture scale that are very accurate. This giant leap forward in the technical capabilities will provide online shoppers with confidence that what they are seeing in AR is an accurate representation of that item. So, furniture images aren’t just being brought from 2D to 3D; they are literally being brought into people’s homes… and with precision.
ARKit Brings Precision to Room Planning
It’s hard to beat knowing whether furniture will fit using a simple visual. Augmented reality makes that a fast and easy process, and ARkit will provide the accuracy needed to ensure that what is being viewed in AR is the correct size.
For instance, in Room Remix, users get a good feeling for how furniture will look and fit in any given space, and with the launch of ARKit, any lingering inconsistencies are likely to go away.
People trust reviews
The major thing that technology will not fix anytime soon is a consumers’ ability to feel the texture and comfort of the furniture they are buying. This alone will prevent some people from ever buying furniture online.
However, by looking at how other industries have overcome similar challenges in the past, it is evident that online furniture shoppers are likely to rely heavily on the opinions of previous shoppers and the reviews they leave as well as their own experience after they make their first purchase (people become comfortable with a new method of buying after doing it one time, leading to repeat customers).
Take for example, online shoe and apparel shopping. In the late 90s, when Tony Heish started Zappos.com, the concept of buying shoes online was considered a laughable and uninvestable idea. People couldn’t understand how shoppers would buy shoes without seeing or trying them on. These days, it seems intuitive to rely on high resolution pictures, customer reviews, and generally more competitive pricing.
More competitive pricing and reviews are already active ingredients in online furniture shopping, and as more competition enters, prices will only get lower and reviews more plentiful.
While the analogy to Zappos may not exactly be apples-to-apples, it does lend insight into how people could view furniture shopping in the next five to ten years.
Wayfair and Amazon already offer Free Shipping
Wayfair and Amazon already offer free shipping. Amazon prime members already receive free delivery on large items, such as furniture and bed mattresses. Wayfair offers free shipping on all orders over $49. So, generally when someone raises this objection, they are simply unaware that free shipping already exists on large items.
Further, large retailers, like Amazon, are banking on a further reduction in shipping rates due to autonomous driving vehicles and drones as well as owning their own airplanes, trucks, and delivery networks. It’s hard to imagine that innovation will not result in lower and faster shipping, straight to people’s doors.
To sum up, it seems the cards are all lining up to make it possible for online furniture retail to catapult its way into the mainstream. There may not be a more significant leap in AR technology than the release of ARKit––and this could result in a major transformation in how people buy large items online.
If you want to experience ARKit for yourself when it launches, Room Remix is a good app to learn on.