Retail

Wayfair’s High-Tech Mobile Experience

Wayfair is expanding its use of augmented reality (AR) with the latest round of high-tech upgrades upgrades to its mobile app. Part and parcel of its more comprehensive AR offering, the new app also features a new hub section for the use of all camera-based features within the app and what the online furniture brand calls “Room Planner 3D” to better enable mobile shoppers to fully design their interior spaces and then directly purchase the items they choose, all from their handheld device.

“With more than half of our customers placing orders on a mobile device, we’re thrilled to deliver powerful new tools that make shopping for home even easier, and reflect the evolution of how consumers are shopping for their homes,” Matt Zisow, vice president of product management, experience design and analytics at Wayfair, said in an announcement about the new mobile features. “With the Wayfair mobile shopping app, consumers have the flexibility to discover and visualize their favorite products among millions of options, then design their rooms from start to finish, no matter where they are.”

The new features come as Wayfair has recently rolled out an end-to-end redesign of its app designed to make it a more inviting and desirable shopping destination for consumers.

The Room Planner 3D feature will allow customers to tap into artificial intelligence (AR) to get a better feel for how specific items will look in their personal spaces. The AR capability was in Wayfair’s previous app incarnation, but to make it more flexibly usable customers no longer need to be in the room they want to visualize to use the feature. The 3D room planner allows consumers to snap a photo of the room and use it as a base to swap various looks in an out of. The new feature is called “Interactive Photos” and the hope is that it will allow users to “continue designing whenever inspiration strikes.”

The new 3D offering is one of many enhancements made possible by what Wayfair calls its Integrated Camera app experience. Apart from functioning as a design hub,  Integrated Camera is now also home of the firm’s visual search addition. While using Integrated Camera, shopper can reportedly snap a shot, visually search for items they want, easily toggle over to see how those items will look in their space, and then make a purchase.

“At Wayfair, we have always been focused on helping our customers shop for their homes with ease and confidence; technologies like AR and machine learning allow us to do this in elegant and scalable ways,” said Zisow. “With the Wayfair app, shoppers can quickly and easily transform any room in their home from anywhere.”

Wayfair has been a long booster of mobile technology as a mechanism of expansion and growth and was an early adopter of augmented reality technology. Its offerings have markedly improved technologically since those early experiments a few years ago, and the firm noted in its statement about the newest updates and upgrades that if anything its efforts are just getting started in this arena.

“With the latest updates to the Wayfair app, we continue to push the limits of what’s possible by iterating on advanced AR and machine learning capabilities, and introducing new and innovative spatial awareness techniques to an e-commerce experience, bridging the gap between imagination and reality,” Zisow said.

The billion dollar question Wayfair still has to answer, however, is when and if all of its upgrades and innovations will translate into turning a profit in the near future. Despite reporting double-digit revenue growth and an active user base north of 17 million consumers, the brand as of yet has never actually been profitable.

“While Wayfair is expert at driving sales growth, it remains terrible at translating this into profitable gains,” GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told CNBC earlier this year, noting that the firm’s marketing and operational costs had grown to a point that they are out of control and  firm’s already slim margins are being consumed so quickly that it is pushing the company “deep into the red.”

Wayfair, for its part, is sticking by its approach — and planning for a profitable future even if the present is not quite there yet.

“In North America and increasingly in Europe, our investments are paying off in the form of greater scale and higher levels of repeat over time, which tells us our strategy of not timing our investments to any particular quarter is working as intended over the long term,” CFO Michael Fleisher told analysts on a post-earnings conference call. “We expect to stick to this philosophy, and we will not alter our … investments to make any particular quarter more profitable.”

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