Lessons in augmented reality from the retail sector

From IKEA to Westfield, brands are adopting AR faster than ever – but getting it right is easier said than done

Image: Inter IKEA Systems

Gone are the days of the drawn out, painful IKEA trip. This week marked the release of IKEA Place, an augmented reality (AR) application that allows customers to visualize products in their home prior to purchase.

The Swedish home giant, which is known for being a forward-thinker on the innovation curve, is once again using technology to improve both products and customer experience.

Rolled out as one of the first wave of AR apps compatible with Apple’s new ARKit technology and iOS 11, IKEA Place features a catalogue of over 2,000 products that are scaled based on room dimensions with 98 per cent accuracy.


In fact, the AR technology is so precise that users can see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on furnishings. Technology is finally catching up with the brand’s ambition, said Michael Valdsgaard, leader digital transformation at Inter IKEA Systems.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” he said. “AR lets us redefine the experience for furniture retail once more.”

It’s all about emotion 

As more brands embrace AR technology, it’s fast becoming clear that there’s a lot more to it than simply choosing to adopt. According to Paul Sands, former director of retail development and customer experience at Bang & Olufsen, it’s about engaging customers on an emotional level.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet.”

Sands classes these kinds of interactions as “phygital” – the blending of physical and digital worlds to create an interactive experience not unlike augmented reality. The outcome? “More opportunity to deliver a customer experience in many more locations,” he said.

“Above all I believe…

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