• AR
  • Augmented Reality

How AR Helps Furniture Stores Stay Afloat in the COVID-19 Outbreak

Constantine Sharandak
20 Aug 2021
5 min
How AR Helps Furniture Stores Stay Afloat in the COVID-19 Outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic is totally different from what happens in the I Am Legend movie. At least we don’t have to run from a crowd of bloodthirsty mutants. Still, we have our own mutants, and the necessity of staying at home is one of them. Despite its innocent look, this “mutant” forces you to remodel your bedroom into a home office, your kitchen into the homeschooling space, and so on.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t totally different from what happens in the I Am Legend movie. Of course, we don’t have to run from a crowd of bloodthirsty mutants, but we do have to get shelter from the virus at our homes. The result? Bedrooms turn into home offices, kitchens become homeschooling spaces, and so on.  

Sounds like a perfect storm for the furnishing industry? It is. But despite being perfect, it is still a storm. This article will look at the main “mutants” furniture stores are dealing with and show you how augmented reality furniture shopping solutions can help them stay afloat in the churning seas of the years 2020 and 2021.

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    The furnishing industry during the pandemic 

    COVID-19 has affected the entire supply chain of the furnishing industry. Still, it’s nothing compared to the drama in retailer-customer relationships: 3 in 5 customers switched who they buy from. 

    So, why do customers go to competitors? When it comes to the furnishing industry, there are at least four reasons for this heart-breaking tendency:

    • Because of lockdowns or safety measures, many people can’t visit their favorite offline stores. And if there are no online options, they have no choice but to buy from competitors.
    • Overall purchasing power has decreased. Customers have become pickier, holding on to their money and looking for more value. 
    • Despite the above statement, people buy more furniture. But given the disruptions in the furniture supply chain, this unexpected spike in demand has led to unprecedentedly long delivery times. Unable to find what they need in their favorite stores, customers have to turn to their competitors. 
    • To be honest, people don’t like buying furniture online. Even millennials.

    Despite the challenges and issues, people don’t buy less, they are just more thorough with their choice. The point is that with the pandemic, the competition has increased. As a result, furniture retailers have to go the extra mile to retain old customers and attract new ones. And unfortunately, it takes more than launching an online store.

    The potential of AR during the crisis

    As COVID-19 takes its toll, furniture retailers face a new challenge. They need to help their customers make better buying decisions and offer a truly engaging online shopping experience with an “offline flair” — all from the comfort of their homes. That’s why many of them are rushing to implement (or improve) augmented reality furniture apps. Here are some examples. 

    IKEA

    How AR Helps Furniture Stores Stay Afloat in the COVID-19 Outbreak - photo 1

    Yes, we mentioned IKEA in our previous article on the AR topic. But let’s face it: no article about augmented reality furniture shopping experiences is complete without mentioning IKEA and its app. 

    We don’t know whether they watched The Simpsons more carefully than others, or found a special edition of the Mayan calendar. The fact is that the company managed to roll out its famous AR furniture app three years before the pandemic. And the results were not long in coming: in the weeks following the release, Google searches for IKEA spiked. Eventually, Place became the most popular non-gaming app and the second-most popular app on Apple’s ARKit.

    It’s safe to assume that the app had a significant impact on their sales. Since its release, the retailer has never ceased to improve it. As the pandemic began, they also acquired Geometrical Labs, a startup specializing in creating AI- and AR-powered experiences. So, more features are soon to come. 

    DFS

    How AR Helps Furniture Stores Stay Afloat in the COVID-19 Outbreak - photo 2

    It seems impossible to surpass IKEA and their augmented reality furniture app. But DFS, the UK furniture retailer, has done it by adding just one (!) new feature into their existing website.  This “feature” turned out to be the largest web-based AR implementation in the world. 

    From January 2020 on, shoppers can virtually display DFS’s world-famous sofas at the precise size and scale in their homes. This AR home furniture system allows you to “try on” more than 10,000 items without leaving the shopping environment. You can zoom an object in and out, rotate it, or even walk around it to see whether it matches the rest of your room. 

    Just this single feature has brought the company 22х ROI, a 112% conversion increase, and a 106% revenue per visit increase for shoppers that used their AR feature compared to those who didn’t. 

    Castlery

    How AR Helps Furniture Stores Stay Afloat in the COVID-19 Outbreak - photo 3

    Though Castlery didn’t have an AR app for home furniture shopping years before the pandemic, their reflexes are worth applauding, too.

    Before the circuit breaker, they launched the Stay Home with Us campaign. It consisted of a virtual showroom tour, a free 14-day furniture trial, and an augmented reality furniture app. Though the app’s initial release date was in late 2020, the pandemic brought some chaos into their plans. The Australian government announced the circuit breaker earlier than the retailer expected. 

    Nevertheless, the furniture retailer did the impossible: the AR solution with true-to-scale capabilities was ready to use in late April! The app enables users to add multiple Castlery products to see how they look in their space and even to “walk closer” to see textures (wood, leathers, fabric, etc.). This way, Castlery tries to solve one of the most persistent online shopping issues — an inability to touch and feel products. 

    We don’t know the ROI of Castlery’s AR furniture app. But we don’t need to. Its ratings and reviews speak volumes.

    Conclusion

    Let’s admit: even the best-in-the-world AR furniture app is not a “magic pill” to help the furnishing industry survive all the circuit breaker effects. However, AR has enormous potential to improve relationships with your customers by making their furniture shopping experience easier and more engaging. That’s why big players, like IKEA, invested so heavily in this tech during these times of turmoil. 

    So, if you are a furniture brand looking to improve your customers’ online shopping experience, there is no better time than now. Just book a call with us — together, we’ll find the way to tame this storm. 

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