Wayfair debuts in-store furniture design kiosks

The Digital Design Studio technology is so far being piloted in one Massachusetts store

The future of retail certainly isn’t going to be all in-person, that we’ve known that for a long time; it likely isn’t going to be completely online either, though. The reality is more likely to be a hybrid situation, or so-called smart retail, which combines traditional shopping with and modern “smart” technology, using big data analytics and technologies like the internet of things, AI, VR, and AR to give the customer a better shopping experience.

This mix of online and offline shopping is already the primary buying method for 27% of all consumers, and 36% of Gen Zers, and now it’s what home goods online retailer Wayfair will be offering its users with the launch of the Digital Design Studio (DDS), an in-store kiosk that allows customers to create and interact with a variety of design layouts and experience products in a digital, 3D room.

When a customer uses DDS, they are given a selection of product cards, which they can place on a screen to start designing. The screen then changes as a version of the product on the card is placed in a virtual modern room. As they place more cards on the table, and move and rotate the cards, the customers sees the virtual scene update.

The customer can change the time of day by using special lighting cards, use the camera card to move the viewpoint around in the scene, and switch out the background scene to better match their own home.

“When shopping for furniture online on Wayfair, customers have access to a nearly endless selection of home furnishings. However, physical furniture stores have a limited selection of furnishings available to browse, constrained by the store’s showroom floorspace,” Nicole Tan, Senior Creative Technologist at Wayfair, wrote in a blog post

“The DDS presents shoppers at Wayfair’s physical stores with a novel way to browse and interact with Wayfair furnishings that are not on the showroom floor: they can view furniture in a different fabric and finishes or even put together small furniture arrangements.”

Currently, the DDS is being deployed in pilot mode in just one store: Wayfair’s AllModern  location in Dedham, MA. According to what the company told Retail Dive, it currently does not have specific plans to expand the technology into more stores, but it is looking to learn more about how customers use the kiosk and will use that data to explore additional features.

“Experimentation and innovation with an eye on improving the customer experience is at the heart of everything we do at Wayfair,” said Fiona Tan, CTO of Wayfair, in a statement. 

“Wayfair strongly believes in meeting our customers where they want to shop, whether online or in-person. The Digital Design Studio helps us execute on this omnichannel experience, by making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for and ultimately have greater confidence and satisfaction in their purchase.” 

The smart retail space

According to a research study from Prophecy Market Insights, the smart retail market will grow 10x from 2020, when it was valued at $21.4 billion, to 2030, when it is expected to valued at $211.25 billion. That is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.0%.

The report specifically looks at the Asia Pacific (APAC) region as one that “is expected to have favorable growth in the smart retail market in the coming years.”

Some of the trends driving this include a growing retail industry due to rising urbanization, increasing disposable income, and changing consumer preferences; a growing e-commerce market, with countries such as China, India, and Indonesia experiencing significant growth in online sales; and more technology investment, as the APAC region is home to many technology hubs such as China, South Korea, and Japan.

Some of the startups in this space taking advantage of these trends include RetailNext, a company that collects and analyzes shopper behavior data in real-time; True Fit, a digital fitting room solution that uses AI to gives shoppers the right size in apparel and footwear; CARTO, a Location Intelligence platform that allows organizations to use spatial data and analysis for more efficient delivery routes and strategic store placements; Standard AI, an autonomous checkout solution; and Stylumia, a company using AI for fashion trend forecasting. 

Of course, many of the big players have also entered the space as well. For example,  Intel partnered with ARENA15 in 2020, an immersive retail and entertainment complex, in January 2020 as a way to make it easier for customers to buy things by using Intel’s technology and solutions. The company also partnered with Sensormatic Solutions, to powering Sensormatic IQ, its intelligent operating platform for retail. 

Meanwhile, stores like the Home Depot and Pandora are using IBM technologies to create personalized shopping experiences, both online and in-store, and Google Cloud for Retail
allows retailers easily leverage AI throughout their organizations and gain real-time insights from their data.


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