It can take a lot of imagination for shoppers to visualize how much better your furniture can look in their homes. Sure, a shopper can always browse hard copy catalogs to see different styles and colors of items in staged rooms. These flat two-dimensional images could give them a general idea of how something could look in their home. However, it wouldn’t be arranged or styled exactly how they would do it, or fit in a room shaped exactly like theirs. That’s why shoppers demand new product visualization tools like augmented reality room design.
Another option is for shoppers to visit your store to see furniture groups in person. But again, this doesn’t give the best representation of their home and style. While it’s fun to see different showrooms and vignettes, shoppers will miss out on the personalization of customizing furniture in real-time, online, and the convenience of shopping from home.
In addition, your store may display different lighting, dimensions, accent pieces and even acoustics than what shoppers have at home. Combine this with the constant flow of other customers and employees walking through the store, which can create a distracting experience. Shoppers will need to channel even more imagination to visualize how these pieces will look if they brought them home.
Luckily for today’s retailers (and buyers), new options exist to better assess what furniture can look like in their homes and get them excited to design and purchase. Through a combination of augmented reality room design and 3D modeling, it’s now possible to visualize furniture as realistically as possible with features easily accessible on your site.
This type of technology can present a realistic way of incorporating different furniture and styles. It can allow shoppers to arrange and re-arrange a room virtually without breaking a sweat.
Continue reading for details on how this technology comes together and has the ability to improve the shopping and designing process.
Augmented reality, or AR, refers to the term for using technology to incorporate digital elements into actual settings. For instance, someone can take a video or digital photo of a background and then add in digital elements.
“Green screen” technology in entertainment uses this technique, where live actors perform in front of a screen. Then the director adds other elements digitally later to make it appear the actors are in a completely different environment.
Augmented reality room design also allows people to “see” a room through their mobile devices. This includes the ability to add furniture pieces and arrange them in a specific space, with the software automatically adjusting the scale as items are moved.
AR differs from VR, or virtual reality, which represents fully immersive digital worlds. Here, users use helmets, gloves or other technology to interact with computer-generated landscapes, rather than the hybrid digital/real AR worlds.
At the same time that digital developers work on blending real and digital AR landscapes to create AR technology, digital designers place a different focus on “digitizing” various real products. The goal? Have something look as real as possible in a digital setting, including color, texture, and shadow.
A 3D model goes beyond basic 2D drawings to add depth, curve and other features to increase its realistic appearance.
Model designers look for ways to focus on displaying the finer details so they can make furniture appear realistic. This can include elements like trim details, wood grain and thread texture.
Being able to see furniture that looks closer to a real item vs. a static photograph can make it easier to make a purchasing decision.
Accurate modeling creates a more informed shopper and satisfied shopper, rather than someone who comes in to your shop and says “this doesn’t look anything like it did online or in the catalog.” When a shopper is more informed about the pieces they are buying, retailers will handle less returns and gain a happy customer.
Fun with a purpose
Today, the furniture world has become an excellent example of convergence, where modeling and AR concepts come together.
Shoppers have the ability to visit ‘virtual’ showrooms where they can see and often manipulate certain objects and settings.
For instance, a viewer may be interested in seeing how a certain sofa could look in their home. After he or she has customized the fabric, wood finish and trim details, they may want to move it around a room or rotate it at different angles. After doing this, the shopper can continue to revise the furniture design by changing the color texture to better match other elements of their space.
Customer choices can go beyond saying “I want to see the red chair then the blue chair” at the store. People can now select from a menu of various fabric types or types of wood in the same space.
This way, prospective furniture buyers can receive a more accurate representation of what items will look like.
Why is this useful? It allows people to experiment and arrange to their heart’s content. Designing their ideal living room, bedroom, dining room or any other space online can be entertaining and soothing.
It can also pay off when it’s time to shop. The next step after declaring “this is perfect” is to figure out how to order those items.
Odds are, people designing their dream rooms using your online catalog will care more about how everything looks and fits and less about a budget, so it’s likely they’ll spend more than if they visit your store and get overwhelmed by all the prices and items.
Online catalogs offered by furniture companies wanting to boost their online presence can use 3D modeling to create interactive galleries. Just like a “hard copy” catalog, customers can browse furniture features and styles online.
When a customer likes an item or arrangement and is satisfied with its color and texture, they can purchase it. This can be as simple as clicking “order” on the site and arranging delivery or pick-up at your store.
AR allows users to upload a photo of their room they are searching for furnishings for to the furniture provider. Then, once it’s rendered as a background, they can visit a store to experiment arranging different furnishings there.
This truly represents the best of both worlds. Shoppers can potentially see how various items will look against the colors, background, and dimensions they’re familiar with.
People who enjoy decorating home shows on HGTV will love all the possibilities that 3D and AR can bring to their buying experience. They can spend hours experimenting with different designs, colors, and fabrics. Furthermore, they can send and share the custom designed piece with friends and family members via social networks.
Businesses that provide this type of engagement can come up with other features to attract customers. This can encourage them to stay on your site longer and generate a more confident and qualified buyer.
Retailers can also offer recommendations for related furnishings. Possible dialogue can include “Since you liked this chair, would you like a stool in the same color and style?” Or perhaps “This bedroom set comes with an end table. Would you like to see it?” Using cookies to remember customers and allow them to store their past decorated creations can be a customer-friendly feature. You’ve already got in-store interior designers; why not get them using the 3D technology to help clients as well?
While some of these concepts sound futuristic, some furniture stores have already been experimenting with AR and 3D modeling apps.
Target launched “See It In Your Space” in 2017, which allows users to import featured pieces into their own photos. IKEA’s Place app also brings in certain products virtually into your home and allows iPhone users to adjust room lighting.
Pottery Barn’s 3D Room View invites viewers to insert not just one piece but entire furniture sets into their background. Its parent company WSI envisions the possibility of being able to model entire rooms including accurate measurements. Besides providing scale renderings, these tools can inform users whether a piece of furniture can even fit through the door.
While some shoppers might see these tools as simple entertainment, others might appreciate discovering exactly what they want and need.
This blending of augmented reality room design and 3D modeling creates plenty of potential for furniture retailers eager to connect with customers. As more companies begin to offer advanced visualization technology, it can also create opportunities for those with access to 3D printers.
While we can’t say when the first 3D sofa will be ready for retailers to sell, we are suggesting that it could be on the horizon. With the correct instructions and equipment, customers may one day take in-home furniture design to a whole new level!
Even though some furniture retailers are already experimenting with how to blend 3D modeling and AR, there’s still plenty of potential for others to join in. It’s an opportunity to serve customers in new ways and find ways to make them satisfied – and ideally close larger sales tickets!
The more comfortable shoppers get with the “design it yourself” approach, they more they’ll expect it – from you and from your competitors. Stay ahead of the game and start thinking of where you can incorporate interactive product visualization into your business plan.