• Mary Burritt

AR apps could disrupt value chain of furniture retailing

HIGH POINT -- To gain some perspective on the impact of Augmented Reality (AR) apps on furniture retailing, such as the AR app for iPhone Ikea will release later this month, Furniture Today spoke with Coen Sanderink, program manager at Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM), in the Brabant region of the Netherlands. BOM is a nationally and regionally funded business development agency focused on technology.

Sanderink said AR shopping apps will, for some customers, eliminate the need to come to a store.

“I can imagine if you have the app and say, ‘I want that,’ … but you have to see the furniture, see if it fits,” so you go to a furniture retail store. “But what if you have an app that can do that for you? The mom-and-pops will be cut out, the retail shops will be cut out.

“If you look at the ikea situation … if I can decorate my home with an app and just order it, that’s great - it saves me a trip to the store.

“I think the 3D images will be a commodity, just like a homepage is a commodity: You (the retailer) could collect it yourself, or it becomes part of your contract with your wholesale supplier.

“More interesting to think about is the impact on the value chain of your furniture.”

Remember Uber, he said, and how that new business model decimated the traditional taxi business.

“Somebody could develop a concept like an Uber for the furniture landscape and dramatically change the value chain. That is the power of this technology.

“It is definitely scary. And you can do (either of) two things. You can stick your head in the sand and hope it will pass by. Or you can say, 'OK, if this will happen, how can I come up with something that I am still relevant?' Niche products, or services, or create a whole other business model. Maybe create something with AR and be innovative."

Sanderink urged retailers to embrace the technology. "You have to be open for it and start experimenting with it. Read something about it, try to create a demo yourself, just to see how it works, how it’s going to help you, but also to prepare you (for) how it will change your business."

To learn more about augmented and virtual reality, read the technology section in the Sept. 18 edition of Furniture Today.

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