IKEA’s new AR app is a glimpse into the visual future of e-commerce

28 May 2019

Image: © ierehon74/Stock.adobe.com

New app from home furniture giant lets you visualise how your home would look before you buy the goods.

Lamented as being slow to arrive with a mobile shopping app, IKEA has actually changed the game with a new augmented-reality (AR) platform that lets you visualise before you buy. And the question now is, will mobile shopping ever be the same?

The move – quite revolutionary in terms of AR technology – also suggests a shift by IKEA away from pure retail.

The new app allows customers to shop remotely for IKEA products they can visualise in the context of their own homes by inputting the dimensions and choosing from different tastes and life stages. For example, they can point their phone at a chair or table to see other textures, colours or how it might look alongside other products. They can then order those products through the app.

This is a big move away from the traditional experience of navigating the vast warehouses and wrestling giant flatpacks on to trolleys and hoping it all turns out well.

The company is also testing the creation of smaller urban locations that carry a fraction of its overall line-up.

A new shopping experience

“It is a completely new experience,” Barbara Martin Coppola, chief digital officer at IKEA, told Reuters in an interview. “The app is combined with the store experience, with the online experience.”

The app was originally launched as an AR app last year, but customers could not buy from it. That’s about to change and it could represent a new force in how AR combined with e-commerce will transform consumer buying trends.

The app will be launched first in France and the Netherlands and will be rolled out in IKEA’s top eight markets – including Germany, the US and China – by the end of the year.

The move by IKEA could prove to be prescient when you consider how companies such as Facebook are also muscling in on the AR action.

Earlier this year Facebook acquired visual shopping and AI start-up GrokStyle. GrokStyle’s technology is integrated into IKEA’s mobile app, enabling users to match similar products that could be purchased online.

The future of commerce isn’t just fascinating. The future of commerce is mobile and visual.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years