- Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings chain with 393 stores worldwide, is developing a mobile application with Apple's new ARKit that lets smartphone users see how products look in customer homes before making a purchase, according to Business Insider. Augmented reality (AR), the technology popularized by Pokémon Go last summer that shows a digital image on a smartphone screen amid a real background, will be a key part of Apple’s iOS 11 update.
- Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s digital transformation manager, told Swedish IT publication Digital.di that the company will start introducing products in the AR app first. He said Apple’s AR technology is “millimeter precise” with accurate sizes and lighting. The company estimates it will have 500 to 600 products available to test at launch this fall.
- Meanwhile, e-commerce tech company Branding Brand is adopting Apple's ARKit development platform to create apps for retailers, according to a statement by the company. Branding Brand’s history of launching retail technologies alongside Apple includes integrating Passbook loyalty programs for Sephora, iBeacons for in-store customer tracking by American Eagle Outfitters and Apple Pay for seamless checkout at Cole Haan.
Ikea currently offers the Ikea Catalog app in the Apple App Store that includes the ability to place selected furniture in a room using 3D and AR. However, the app has only a one-star rating. By partnering with Apple, will have an opportunity to develop a better user experience. ARKit is interesting because it takes advantage of an iPhone's capabilities like motion sensors, camera, CPU and GPU and brings them all together in one AR platform. Because AR capabilities automatically become available on iPhones when users upgrade to iOS 11, this means ARKit could become the largest AR platform in the world overnight, per Apple.
Ikea’s app initially is intended to be used in Ikea’s showrooms to help people shop for furniture and get an idea of how items look in pictures of homes. But the eventual progression of AR will mean people can order from a smartphone after using it to see digital images of furniture against the real backdrop of their homes. Ikea isn’t alone among home furnishing companies embracing AR. In March, Williams-Sonoma announced a smartphone app for Pottery Barn that lets customers see how a specific product will look in their homes before they buy. From a marketer's perspective, integrating this emerging technology into brands' mobile strategy will likely ease consumers' shopping journey and boost sales.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO and chairman, is excited about AR: “I think it is profound. I am so executed about it, I just want to yell out and scream,” he said last week in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. He specifically mentioned Ikea’s 3-D images of its product line that can be virtually placed in consumer homes before making a purchase.
Apple's next phone is expected to have AR built into the device, a move at least one analyst believes will result in a "paradigm shift" as the company has a reputation for making technology accessible and user-friendly. Apple and Facebook are reportedly racing to create AR-ready glasses to challenge upstarts in the space like Magic Leap, according to the Financial Times.
Snapchat and Facebook have helped to drive growth in the adoption of AR features among smartphone apps, according to eMarketer, but Apple’s adoption of the technology should really accelerate its development. AR usage is estimated to grow 30% this year to 40 million people in the U.S. and reach 54.4 million people by 2019, the research group said.