Retail

Williams-Sonoma Jumps On The AR Bandwagon

Vantiv VR/AR Commerce

Williams-Sonoma is making a big acquisition to give its brand a big digital upgrade.

New from Recode indicates that the home furnishings retailer will be buying San Jose-based startup Outward for $112 million in cash.

Outward’s area of specialty is detailed 3D imaging for physical products; it is particularly useful for visual merchandising on websites or in mobile apps. The brands have worked together in the past: Outward’s technology was used by Williams-Sonoma-owned Pottery Barn to create an augmented reality (AR) shopping function that made it easier for users to get a feel for how any home decor item would look in their home.

This is Williams-Sonoma’s second big purchase since Laura Alber came on as CEO of the home decor company in 2010 — and its first big tech buy.

“One of the key components here is the quality of the image,” Alber said on the company’s choice to work with Outward over other companies in the space. “If you look at other 3D images, they are very cartoon-like or take a lot of time to produce.”

“We believe the quality and scalability is unparalleled,” she added.

AR shopping is quickly becoming a growing feature in retail, particularly among digital brands like home furnishings brand Wayfair and Amazon — both of which have announced big AR upgrades in the last year and half.

As part of the Williams-Sonoma team, Outward will still be headed by CEO Clarence Chui and its 100-person staff will stay on to run the in-house subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma. The firm will also continue to do business with other clients.

“We want to transform the shopping experience for all customers,” Alber said, when asked why Outward would continue to work with other companies. “We’re quite aware that nobody has just one brand in their home.”

The deal is expected to close by the end of next month.

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