Virtual Visualization

By Jenny S. Rebholz

Photo courtesy of Marxent

It is hard not to be intrigued by commercials promoting virtual reality (VR) headsets. But what is that experience really about? Is there value beyond entertainment? Advancements in technology always are a trending topic; however, it is how that technology is applied to the retail industry and leveraged to enhance the shopping experience that truly makes it newsworthy.

A collaboration between Marxent—which specializes in augmented reality (AR), VR and 3-D solutions—and Ashley Furniture HomeStores is worthy of attention. The companies are showing how technology can not only enhance the shopping experience, but also create exceptional value for customers.

“Buying furniture can be emotional and time-consuming, as people try to envision how different
products, finishes and styles will reflect their taste and look in the context of their homes,” says Beck Besecker, CEO and co-founder of Marxent. “Through a combination of mobile AR and in-store VR apps, Ashley Furniture HomeStores will be able to offer its customers the chance to visualize products in-context before they buy. The ultimate goal is customer satisfaction through providing realistic visual information about fit and finish.”

This experience, which is launching in Ashley Furniture HomeStores in select markets in 2017, will allow shoppers to visit a store and design their room on an iPad with the help of a concierge. Customers will be able to define a footprint and then drag and drop Ashley products into the room in an entirely virtual environment. The design is then exported to an HTC Vive, where they can see how different pieces, colors and finishes look together. The system will calculate a bill of goods and provide the opportunity for the information to be shared with family and friends via social media.

Outside of the store experience, customers will have the ability to download an Ashley AR app and use the camera on their device to place 3-D products within the context of their actual space and see how the furniture works with their existing possessions.

“Our data shows that a combination of 3-D visualization, seeing, touching and feeling actual products, combined with the consultation of our knowledgeable salespeople, will lead to a stand-apart customer experience that is location-flexible,” says Todd Wanek, Ashley’s president and CEO.

Just as Ashley has looked at how this technology adds value to the shopper and supports confident decision making, Besecker believes it is important for retailers contemplating 3-D products to stay focused on how the customer wants to use them in their buying journey.

Consider it the latest twist on “try before you buy.”


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