Ikea has launched Ikea Place, an augmented reality application that lets customers see what furniture will look like in their home or office before they purchase it. The iPhone app was designed by the global retailer using Apple’s new ARKit technology, and all of the products in Ikea Place are 3D and true-to-scale.
Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s head of digital transformation, told AListDaily the app automatically scales products—based on room dimensions—with 98 percent accuracy. The AR technology is so precise that customers will be able to see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on furnishings.
“Ikea Place helps us continue a commitment [to democratic design] in new ways,” Valdsgaard said. “The online experience partly addresses accessibility, but it still struggles to close the gap completely. Ikea Place closes the gap between imagination and reality to let everyone, everywhere, confidently experience how good design transforms their everyday lives.”
In addition to digitally placing Ikea products in a room, the app allows people to capture the setting in the app and share as an image or video with friends. They can then purchase the products directly through their local Ikea website.
More than 2,000 Ikea products will be available in the app at launch, and in the future, the app will play a key role in the launch of new product lines. The products in the first release will focus on larger furniture products for the living room: sofas, armchairs, footstools, coffee tables and top-selling storage solutions that can be placed on the floor.
Ikea operates 389 stores around the world and caters to over 783 million customers, according to Statista.
The retailer built the app internally using Apple’s AR technology. Valdsgaard said Ikea and Apple are now taking the next step together to further develop AR.
“It is too early to talk about future app functions, but the purpose of Ikea Place is to give people choices,” Valdsgaard explained. “We see Ikea Place as a step on the journey to purchase, allowing people to experiment with our products in their space before they make a purchase, whether it’s online or in a store.”
Through internal customer research, Ikea found that nearly 40 percent of people have put off home furnishing purchases because of an imagination gap. AR virtually places furniture in any room to close that gap, and brands like Wayfair are leveraging the opportunities AR presents.
Many Ikea customers got their first taste of AR through Niantic’s Pokémon GO mobile game sensation last year. Apple’s unveiling of ARKit a few months ago at its worldwide developer conference further promoted the technology. And now Ikea is marketing the new app to its global audience.
“While there have been some recent successes in AR applications, we believe that this offers the greatest opportunity to cement adoption,” Valdsgaard said. “With Apple’s hardware and software platforms providing the stability needed to create a great AR experience, they have solved critical technical hurdles that help make AR a more accessible tool for real-life decision making.”
Valdsgaard said the Ikea Place app marks an important milestone in Ikea’s digital transformation journey.
“By taking away the uncertainty that can accompany furniture buying, Ikea Place will allow people to make confident decisions about how they transform their home,” Valdsgaard added. “We believe it will change furniture retail forever.”
Ikea has been selling furniture since 1943. The company has emerged in recent years as the most valuable furniture retailer brand in the world, according to BrandZ’s Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2016. Valued at $18 billion, Ikea ranks as the fifth most valuable retailer in the world, according to Statista.
Now the company’s Scandinavian design has a new marketing angle to target the millennial and younger customer base looking for affordable yet stylish furniture, according to Valdsgaard.
Ikea also taps into the massive marketing push by Apple for its new iPhone 8 and iPhone X smartphones, which will support AR with even deeper technology integration.