Visitors to Maison&Objet in Paris this month might stumble upon the Augmented Reality Lab, a conference and consultation hub run by business startup Augment. With Augmented Reality (AR) technology fast becoming a mainstream selling tool, Augment describes the possible applications for the furniture retail industry …

AR is a technology that overlays digital information – such as images, 3D models and videos – in a real-­time environment. Specifically, AR enables one to overlay 3D models of one’s products in the real environment at any time, from the convenience of a smartphone or tablet.

AR can be integrated into a website, or used in an app, to elevate consumer interaction, and make the platform more meaningful to the customer – and thus more lucrative to the business.

In the furniture retail industry, augmented reality is already being adopted to increase customer engagement and sales, and to reduce costs by eliminating the need for physical prototypes.

Businesses are using AR to elevate their existing 2D print materials, such as product catalogues, by turning them into virtual product showrooms. Customers are invited to scan augmented product catalogues and brochures using an AR mobile application such as Augment. This enables them to access the retailer’s entire showroom of 3D product models. Shoppers can then overlay the 3D product models in the real environment, to test the fit and look of the products at home before they buy.

An example – Northern Lighting specialises in the design and manufacture of premium lighting. The company uses Augment to link its 2D catalogue to its virtual product showroom, where its entire lighting collection is available in 3D AR.

After downloading the free Augment app, customers scan Northern Lighting’s brochures to try all of the lamps in scale in AR from the comfort of their own homes before buying. Northern Lighting’s entire augmented product line is accessible to its clients from anywhere, at any time.

“AR integration facilitates the path to purchase – it helps eliminate the guesswork of adding new furniture, and helps the customer buy with more confidence”

AR technology makes it possible to present an entire furniture collection in an interactive, 3D format. This increases convenience for the customer, and can foster more engagement than traditional 2D print materials. By implementing such technology, furniture retailers can also save on funds typically allocated for costly physical samples.

One of the most powerful and compelling elements of augmented reality is the ability for customers to visualise exactly how furniture pieces will look and fit (to scale) in their homes. Retailers are already embedding AR buttons on their ecommerce websites.

By using AR technology, furniture retailers can overcome the common customer hesitations and objections people have during the purchase decision-making process, by giving them the ability to visualise the piece they like, and see it in their own home. AR integration facilitates the path to purchase – it helps eliminate the guesswork of adding new furniture, and helps the customer buy with more confidence.

Integrating AR into sales and marketing is straightforward using platforms like Augment. To get started, retailers upload their 3D product models to Augment – either manually by exporting a Collada or OBJ model, or by using an Augment plugin, available for popular design software. Once the 3D furniture models are uploaded, retailers can create interactive print materials like catalogues, or embed buttons on their web stores, with ease.

AR technology is changing how people shop, and Augment can help add impact and value to a furniture retail business while elevating customer experience and satisfaction.

The Augmented Reality Lab, located in hall 6 of Paris Nord Villepinte during Maison&Objet, aims to give interior and furniture designers an opportunity to learn about and test AR technology and its applications.

This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.