Wayfair

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For our experience, we visited Wayfair HQ to glean insight into their VR/AR experiences they’re creating for furniture shopping and design. We used Wayfair’s demos to demonstrate the various ways that furniture ecommerce will change in the future. When compared to IKEA’s virtual offerings, Wayfair is far ahead of the curve. Although, according to Wayfair, only 10% of furniture shopping is done online (90% is still brick-and-mortar), VR will bridge the gap between the two and help Wayfair, still a relatively new company, expand. Their brand image (expressed by the furniture they carry) is very Bostonian and less minimalist than IKEA, but they still set themselves apart through unique experiences like these. To create the virtual imagery Wayfair uses in their VR/AR products and online catalog, they’re also developing a proprietary 3D scanner to defray costs to themselves and their suppliers. This scanner captures immense detail, and was truly remarkable in the realism it created. They’ve so far scanned 10,000 products, and aim to shortly have their entire catalog digitized – all 100,000 products of it!
The demos we saw included using an Oculus headset to place furniture into various environments, such as a backyard patio, and using a Google Daydream to shop for furniture in a pre-selected environment (in this case, a log cabin). They were shockingly well-polished and realistic. As far as collecting the data to make this experience possible, Wayfair is still debating the internal implications of user experience versus data collection. With real-time room scanning, it can be easy to collect that data to send suggestions on furniture to customers, but they’re avoiding this, and instead shooting for convenience, for instance by saving the scanned environment for future use.
User friction in the experience still exists. Many users are still wary to enter card details on mobile, and prefer to purchase on desktop computers. Therefore, we can only imagine the gap between those customers and the customers that will use VR to buy, rather than just to browse. Although we are certainly on the cusp of a VR revolution, according to Wayfair it is yet to arrive, as it’s still being used primarily for niche gaming purposes. When it does come, though, Wayfair is likely to be incredibly well-prepared, maybe even compared to big-name competitors such as IKEA. Wayfair has an exciting future, and their VR experience is a model for ecommerce.
However, I would also say that user adoption is not likely to be high in the next several years. I also worry about eliminating the jobs of photographers and interior designers in the process of creating these experiences. This, however, is something that the economy will have to cope with in general in the future, and are biproducts of VR itself. Wayfair’s implementation of these technologies remains polished.

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