Thanks to new technologies like augmented reality, 3D rendering and virtual reality, the furniture industry is finally ready to have its online moment. These are the latest tools designers and retailers are using to give clients a clearer vision of projects and purchases before they commit.

As we see the retail industry move away from brick and mortar we are seeing online only retailers start growing, in some areas overtaking high street shops. This is particularly surprising in the furniture and homewares sector, but we saw it in 2018 as online mattress companies like “Caspar” and “Emma” were topping mattress sales without a single brick and mortar shop. This really opens up a space for virtual reality as we see a gap in the market for endless opportunities to show products to the consumer without having to see a product in real life. Books and music were the first products to really see success online. Without having to touch or feel the products, there was little standing in the way of a consumer clicking on the Buy Now button. Once user reviews were introduced into the mix, the ecommerce virus started taking hold of electronics too. When it came to clothing, it took a little more brain power. With consumers being used to trying on clothes and feeling the quality of fabrics, online apparel had a slow start. But it was nothing that next day delivery and free returns couldn’t fix. Now, it’s furniture’s time to shine online, but the category requires completely new tactics. While user reviews help customers understand the quality and feel of products, they can’t help a buyer see how the piece actually fits in a room, which is the biggest obstacle we’re seeing when consumers consider the risks of buying online. Furniture buying requires consumers to invest significant amounts of time and money choosing an item they will have to live with for many years. Add this to the thought that homeowners will want to see if a furniture piece fits in their space, and matches the current arrangements and products they already have in their home, virtual reality can really kick in.

We are seeing AR and VR crop up in certain home décor apps, even if it is still early and some are stilted. Take Dulux for example, although not perfect, their app allows you to take a photo of your room and place their paint colours on any wall, so you can preview the finished look without spending any time or money. Now imagine the success if this was available to interior designers and general homeowners in the realm of furniture. Superimposing that sofa you’ve been lusting after, into your current living room space – to scale – and in your chosen fabric. It’s important to envision the whole room, including pieces you own and pieces you’re considering purchasing. We don’t think that this new retail revolution is far off. But you know what they say – the early bird catches the worm. It is usually the businesses who nail these new approaches first that get the long-term results. The future can be exciting, if maybe a little daunting. Orbital are working on their own Virtual Reality products to help retailers and manufacturers sell their products – keep your eyes peeled for updates!

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