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IKEA furnishes its mobile strategy with virtual reality app experience

IKEA is the latest retailer to fall under virtual reality's pull, as evidenced by a new mobile experience that enables users to explore various kitchen interior settings and alter them with color preferences.

The Swedish furniture brand is piloting a virtual reality experience dedicated to kitchen interiors in the form of a mobile app available on Steam, Valve?s game distribution platform. Consumers will be able to browse the various scenes and make changes in accordance with their tastes, such as flipping the set-up to another perspective or changing the color of the cabinets.

?It's vital IKEA wins in this space as consumers start to expect the ability to choose home furnishings and decorations using easy digital experiences,? said Omaid Hiwaizi, president of global marketing at Blippar. ?The IKEA interactive experience extends the shop to the home, the bus or anywhere else ? which presents huge opportunities to inspire more purchase while limiting investment in physical stores.

?It's a win-win for IKEA and its shoppers.?

Virtual kitchen, real world experience
IKEA is aiming to solicit customer feedback with the app pilot, suggesting that the retailer is looking to delve deeper in virtual reality experiences for a slew of home furnishings. The company believes virtual reality will be a staple in consumers? lives in the next five to ten years, a prediction signaling that brands should focus on honing their efforts now to prepare for the impending influx of customer interest.

An IKEA executive at the 2015 Integrated Marketing Week explained that the furniture retailer steers clear of jumping on board with a new platform for the sole reason that it could be the next big thing, but stressed that fearing new endeavors can be damaging as well (see story).

However, home furnishings and virtual reality appear to go hand-in-hand, as consumers can easily view exact replicas of room scenes or items without having to visit them in-person.

IKEA?s new app brings users to a virtual IKEA kitchen set-up in real world size. Individuals may use the HTC Vive headset to participate in the experience and explore one of three kitchen settings.

Consumers have the ability to alter the color of drawers and cabinets with one click, a feature that could help them better visualize how the products might fit in with their existing set-ups at home.

Additionally, viewers can browse the kitchen from a variety of different perspectives by stretching or shrinking themselves to move about the virtual setting as a 6.4 foot-tall adult or 3.3 foot-tall child, respectively.

This could be a useful tool for consumers concerned about hidden danger zones or unfavorable designs that are out of immediate sight.

Those who test out the app are encouraged to submit their feedback to . The experience will continue undergoing changes through August 2016, when the pilot is scheduled to conclude.

Consumers and co-creators
IKEA hopes that mobile-savvy customers using the app will see themselves as co-creators alongside the retailer. Users may become inspired to browse IKEA?s mobile, online or in-store inventory upon taking their virtual tours, particularly if they are new homeowners or interested in refurbishing their kitchen.

IKEA has previously made strides in connecting the physical and digital shopping experiences to better cater to customers.

Last summer, IKEA Canada introduced an in-store companion app to help consumers create lists, check off collected items and find product locations from their mobile devices (see story).

However, the new virtual reality app could be enhanced even more if the retailer were to add a strong commerce component to the experience. Inserting a call-to-action inviting viewers to check out similar pieces on IKEA?s mobile site or app could help boost sales for the brand during this test period.

?Providing commerce within the app [would be] a smart decision for IKEA as it would drive more revenue,? Mr. Hiwaizi said. ?AR or VR experiences have historically been developed to drive engagement.

?We're now moving into applications which can change behavior ? the most important of which is purchase. One risk that should be factored in is that IKEA is an expert in maximizing basket size in physical stores, driven by additional purchases.

?It needs to parallel its digital approach to this model and make the VR experience shoppable as well.?