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Last updated on May 18, 2023

As confidence in ecommerce shopping platforms increases, people are also making more, higher-value transactions online. Yes, designer furniture included. With that comes a more “real” expectation of shopping. Enter Augmented Reality (AR). 

AR gives customers who typically shop online the chance to view and interact with products in the same way they would if they were visiting a physical store. 

Just this simple act of helping customers visualise products in their homes has resulted in a whopping 94% lift in online conversion rates. It’s no wonder the big boys like IKEA, Houzz and Nippon Paint have also jumped onto the AR bandwagon.

It only makes sense for individual merchants and designers to ride the wave too. After all, sales are what you really want, right? 

How AR works for furniture merchants selling online

AR overlays virtual elements onto real-world environments, simply by using a mobile phone or other devices. 

The process of decorating a home or colouring a room is now more accessible and realistic – and clients love it. As a furniture ecommerce store, being able to give visual solutions is therefore of great importance in making the purchase decision easier. 

Shopify has in-built capabilities for AR product listings already, making life way easier for you.

There are no longer constraints to limit what your clients want or what you want your users to see. They now can choose and customise according to their wishes and needs.

According to Google’s 2019 AR survey, 66% of people are interested in using AR for help when shopping.  That said, listing every single product with AR can be more resource intensive (although extremely worth it).

Credit: Businesswire News

Starting with 3D models first

If you’re a furniture ecommerce store who just wants to dip a toe into the AR/VR commerce world, we suggest starting with 3D models.

Unlike a photo, which is a flat image, 3D models store information about the structure of products and the material they’re made of. They also let customers answer questions that an image alone can’t—like what a product looks like from different angles—to gain more confidence in their purchasing decisions.

Think about sofa legs, the underside of tables, the front/back/side/ views of a console. Just like how customers like to touch and feel everything in store, they want to see your designs online too.

With Shopify, it’s as simple as drag and drop.

A more engaging customer experience

Would you want to see how a piece of furniture complements your interior design? Would you want to see if it fits in the space?

Well, if you’re like 95% of your customers, the answer is yes. And if you’re like 95% of our designers who want more customers to buy, you’ll agree that what we’re going to discuss is important to you too.

Increased sales

You know how we head into the fitting room to try clothes before we buy? Yea. It’s not hard to imagine that customers want that for furniture too.  Previously, making purchase decisions like these could take a few weeks, months even. AR certainly reduces that amount of time. Faster sales, more sales, what’s there not to like?

Better visualisation

It is easier for homeowners to “physically” see products using AR. By pointing their phones and scanning their space, homeowners have more confidence knowing your furniture looks great in their house. If they need to see minute design details, your 3D model will do the trick. If you’re thinking, why not just use design or mood boards… well, simple. It’s a designer’s tool, not a buyer’s tool.  You might understand it. Your customers don’t. So just give them what’s easiest for them.

More customisation

Furniture designers can display 3D renderings of each piece of furniture to be as specific as required. Colours swatches can be changed and objects can be moved around. Customers are empowered because they can make smarter choices. 

High transparency

When the entire process is transparent and buyers feel in control, they’re more likely to make a purchase. The last thing you need is for someone to buy your furniture, have it delivered all the way to their house, realise it doesn’t suit their needs, or expect something completely different, then have it returned.  It’s just a huge waste of time and money for everyone. Plus, it hurts your reputation. Definitely want to avoid that.

Competitive advantage

AR provides the competitive advantage a designer needs to excel in the field. With AR and 3D models, you’re essentially putting yourself above all the other basic designers. Customers already like shopping with AR and 3D. If you’re giving this to them as a tool, you’re one step closer to closing the sale. 

How hard is it to get started with AR

It’s much easier than you think.

Once upon a time it may have been necessary to send a product to a 3D model developer to create a 3D model, but now mobile scanning solutions exist, allowing you to take multiple 2D images of a product, which are then converted to 3D.

To create a 3D model, you just need photos from several angles.

When taking photos of your product for AR, follow these SIMPLE guidelines:

  1. Your product should be well lit, with preferably a clean white background. The whole product should be in focus. If possible, don’t use a cellphone camera. For large products like furniture, use a camera with a 50 millimeter lens. For small to medium-size products such as tableware and other accessories, use a 70 millimeter or 100 millimeter lens.
  2. Take extra photos of any unique details or textures.
  3. Give the photo files clear titles like “black sofa – top,” or “black – left,” and store them in a clearly labeled folder.

Using AR in physical retail stores

Some designers might be selling on ecommerce and in brick and mortar stores. If this is you, you’re probably wondering, “is it really worth it to spend all that money for one ecommerce site?”

Good news, AR can come in handy in retail stores too.

After the retail giant Macy’s announced the implementation of virtual reality called “See Your Space IRL” into 3 select store locations, they saw astonishing results. Just from these few pilot stores alone, the company saw a 60 percent spike in sales versus non-VR furniture sales. It was so successful that they ended up investing in a special “Visualize Your Space” AR button within the Macy’s app too, allowing customers to precisely visualize any furniture piece.