When it comes to planning for its future, furniture giant IKEA is trying to figure out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) to its advantage.
“[What] we haven’t been able to do before is to find easier ways to connect with people so digital opens up massive opportunities for us,” CEO Jesper Brodin told CNBC at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
IKEA has already been experimenting with both technologies. Last month, it tested virtual reality at a Dallas, Texas, store opening to help shoppers fully experience IKEA and its offerings. It provided approximately 300 visitors with a “fully immersive” virtual IKEA experience, allowing them to play a “pillow toss” game with a coffee table or hang out with a panda inside a bamboo lamp.
“I think, for us, it was taking the next level and trying to educate consumers and [draw] potential guests to the store,” said Kelly Cronin Niszczak, IKEA North America’s media project manager. “It’s another layer of our amazing stories we have about product development and sustainability … I think for us it really helped to depend on that knowledge base for our guests.”
Last September, the Swedish furniture firm launched its new app, IKEA Place, to help customers virtually try before they buy. Using Apple’s ARKit technology and iOS 11, the app allows users to snap a picture of the spot where they want to place the new furniture piece, browse for the desired type of item and insert it into the photo. From there, they can move the virtual item around to find the best positioning, and share and save their favorite home furnishing piece photos.
“Like most retailers, we don’t know exactly where we will land at the end of it, but our curiosity and willingness to create will be a guide for us,” Brodin said.