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  • Clint Engel

iPhone app lets consumers picture furniture in homes

SnapShop Showroom also can share images with others
 snapshopinc.com SnapShop Showroom appThis screen grab from snapshopinc.com shows the new SnapShop Showroom app, which enables consumers to pull furniture from digital catalogs and virtually place it in their rooms for a “try before you buy” experience.

SAN FRANCISCO — A new iPhone app is taking room planning to whole new venue by letting consumers use their smartphones to create a picture of what a piece of furniture would look like in their homes.

SnapShop Showroom, developed by San Francisco-based SnapShop Inc., can be downloaded for free on iTunes.

It enables a consumer to use a smartphone to browse and pull furniture images from a catalog, then virtually place it a photo of room or a live image of the room. (For a video demonstration, see www.snapshopinc.com.)

The image of the room can then be shared with the user's social network for feedback. The photos usually are accompanied by a retailer's URL, further driving traffic to the retailer website.

Brian Chaikelson, co-founder and partner with Eduardo Hueso in SnapShop, a mobile marketing and commerce solutions business, said the company will soon name a large home furnishings retailer as a featured client. SnapShop is targeting both retailers and manufacturers, who would pay to have their products featured.

Customers can list their products in SnapShop Showroom starting at $10 an item per month, "and as a High Point Market promotion, we're offering a 50% discount," Chaikelson said. Customers can also highlight their products in a "featured brand" section, "effectively giving them a boutique store within the app, starting at $2,000 a month," he added.

SnapShop can also partner with companies to create custom apps with the same "try before you buy" idea, but with product catalogs exclusive to certain brands.

"In creating the SnapShop Showroom app, we set out to overcome one of the major barriers in the furniture purchasing process: envisioning how a piece of furniture will look in your space once you get it home," Hueso said in a press release. "The ability to see a chair or sofa in your living room before you buy, for example, goes a long way toward mitigating the fear of making costly decorating mistakes."

Chaikelson said the initial user response has been "fantastic." More than 25,000 consumers downloaded a beta version of the application in the first month when a test was launched this summer.

Hueso and Chaikelson will visit the High Point Market this month to gather more feedback from the industry.

The app currently is available only on iPhones, but Chaikelson said, "We have plans to increase our footprint on different platforms." Asked if the furniture images adjust to exact scale with a room's dimensions, he said the initial effort has been on creating something that helps consumers understand the aesthetics (the furniture does or doesn't look good in this space), but future versions will address product-to-room scale.

Chaikelson said he knows the furniture business has been challenging this summer, but said the response to the app shows that consumers' interest in buying furniture "hasn't really waned.

"The fact is that most of us just don't have a tremendous amount of experience when it comes to purchasing furniture since we do it so infrequently," he said. "And, given economic conditions, now more than ever, everyone wants to be sure they are spending their dollars wisely.

"Our view is that by enabling consumers to preview a product in its intended setting, we increase their confidence, and that makes a purchase more likely and any subsequent return due to buyer remorse far less likely."

Retailers showcasing their goods on SnapShop also benefit from feedback on their products, he said.

Chaikelson has a background in building retail websites and as a product manger of a web analytics company. Hueso comes from the film industry, where he was involved in the research and development of software used by animators and modelers in movies such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Spiderwick Chronicles."

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