How New Tech Is Changing Furniture Shopping

How New Tech Is Changing Furniture Shopping

Look to furniture and home furnishings to drive more retail innovation.

That includes robots.

The era of robotic furniture is upon us – or it will be in 2020, if IKEA’s partnership with Ori to bring robotic furniture to the market pans out as planned. Hong Kong and Japan’s tiny apartment spaces will be the first intended targets for pieces that can convert from storage and seating areas into beds and closets (and back again) – though the ultimate goal is to see the furniture go around the world.

The new line will be based on the company’s PLATSA storage unit, and will be called ROGNAN.

“We have been working with developing small-space living solutions for a long time, and we know that some of the biggest challenges in peoples’ homes are storage and finding the place to do all the activities that you’d want to do in your home,” said Seana Strawn, product developer for new innovations at IKEA of Sweden, in a statement. “This is especially the case in big cities where people have to make compromises in the functions of their homes. We wanted to change that.”

Ori Living, the firm that is partnering with IKEA to build the new line, said building better living situations in small spaces is a shared passion of both firms.

“People across the U.S. have been living large in a small footprint with Ori’s robotic interiors since we introduced our first commercial product two years ago. At about the same time, we began working with IKEA to bring robotic furniture to the world,” said Ori Chief Executive Hasier Larrea. “We share IKEA’s passion to enable people to make the most of their living spaces, and look forward to helping realize this as we continue to develop living spaces for the next generation.”

Furniture and Subscriptions

Subscription commerce stands as another area of innovation.

Edgar Blazona was tired of going to dinner parties and hearing how challenging it was to order furniture. He then started thinking about how to create a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model that was quick and easy. As a result, Blazona founded BenchMade Modern – but despite the name, the company doesn’t necessarily have modern furniture. Rather, “we basically take a modern approach to bench-made upholstered items,” Blazona, who is the company’s president, told PYMNTS in an interview.

Through BenchMade Modern’s website, consumers can personalize custom-sized sofas, chairs and other household furnishings. To make one of the company’s sofas their own, for instance, shoppers can choose fabrics and the leg finish, and can even use a slider to adjust the size of the article in five-inch increments. They can also hit a button to receive a free swatch or a printout of a sofa that consumers can roll out on the floor to make sure the piece fits in their space.

Once consumers hit the buy button, the site will ask them a few more questions to move them through the ordering process. For payments, the company accepts credit cards, debit cards and Affirm for financing (although Blazona says the majority of business is credit card-related). The company will also update consumers on the status of their orders and otherwise “keep you up to date as to how the manufacturing is going,” Blazona said.

Bet on more such moves for furniture retail in the 2020s.