You most likely first heard of Augmented Reality (AR) from the Pokémon Go craze, seen Google’s viral AR animals or used Snapchat and Instagram lenses.
If you’re an interior designer or a decor enthusiast, you may have tried paint visualizers, or played around with the IKEA Place app and as if by magic, placed a 3D virtual chair or lamp somewhere in your room.
Your experience may have been very impressive, or maybe gimmicky, and maybe it didn’t even work!
But the software and hardware have been advancing rapidly over the past couple years and AR experiences are now more accessible, high-quality and prolific than ever.
There are many use cases to the technology, but it comes to home decor, is AR the future or just a fad? What are the real world AR applications for interior design brands, manufacturers and their customers? How can AR be used in business and should brands start investing in it right now?
Last month, Primer CEO Russ Maschmeyer and Head of Partnerships Katie Higgins chatted with the founder of the Good Future Design Alliance, Katie Storey, about just that.
Listen to the whole conversation here, or read on for 5 takeaways on how AR is shaping the future of the interior design industry and why home design and construction businesses should invest in an Augmented Reality strategy right now to get ahead of competition.
E-commerce has been on the rise for years but the industry has seen an unprecedented spike across sectors in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
When it comes to decor retail, e-commerce has increased by 40% since March 2020 as shops, showrooms and trade shows temporarily closed or are operating at reduced capacity.
It is predicted that the industry will continue to grow over the coming years, as consumer behaviour has taken an irreversible turn towards online shopping and social distancing policies are likely to remain a part of everyday life in the post-Covid world.
Consumers are looking for more immersive ways to experience the products digitally and in response, many brands are building out their digital presence and looking for new ways to better visualize their products online.
Augmented Reality is uniquely positioned to hit all of these objectives and is quickly becoming a leading approach to consideration and purchasing.
By simply using a mobile device, customers can visualize products as virtual objects in the physical world and get a try-before-you-buy experience from the comfort of their own home.
WannaKicks has built an app that lets Sneakerheads try on shoes virtually. Pinterest launched a make-up preview feature. Warby Parker lets you try on their glasses virtually.
Bikes, cars, jewelry, clothing, furniture, laundry machines…nearly any major purchase you can think of is available to preview in AR – but only the biggest brands have been able to make the leap.
A few large home decor retailers, like IKEA, saw the promise of Augmented Reality early on and this foresight paid off.
AR is already having a pretty direct impact on businesses’ bottom lines, driving anywhere from 40% to 200% increases in conversion rates for e-commerce.
The difficulty is that building and maintaining your own bespoke AR experience can be technically and financially taxing.
But thankfully, businesses don’t need to invest a ton of money into building and maintaining their own AR app.
With centralised AR supported marketplaces and web integrations that companies like Primer provide, brands can outsource technical support ot get a seamless, instant AR visualization experience directly from their website product pages using App Clips.
This means that if a client loads a brand website using an iPad or an iPhone, at the tap of a button, they can be viewing products at full scale, as well as the larger product catalog, directly in their space.
This is an incredible sales tool for brands that helps keep customers in the flow while they design their space in real time, leading to a rise in engagement and conversion to purchase.
For interior design professionals, a tool like this plugged into a huge database of decor and materials will be a game changer for client collaboration, both in person and at a distance.
Before AR, the only way customers could get a sense of some products and materials is by going to a showroom or ordering a sample and having it delivered to them.
Whether you’re a manufacturer or a designer, you probably know that samples aren’t a great experience for clients and are more the de facto way online décor sales happen today.
For manufacturers, sampling programs are expensive and complex to run. If you have a highly configurable product you may never have all of the variations customers want to see. You don’t always have the samples you need on hand or get backed up on orders causing huge wait times for your customers. Often they just move on and you lose the sale.
For interior designers, lugging samples around is a pain. Plus samples don't paint a clear picture for clients since they can’t be viewed at full scale, which creates a pretty big risk that they're not going to like the finished result.
AR is already reducing the need for samples as technology has progressed from flat overlays to extremely detailed virtual 3D models and realistic visualizations that adjust to the lighting conditions in real time.
In four to six weeks, AR studios like Primer can model an entire product catalogue with the right texture, finish and sheen, down to the finest detail that makes a product unique, like the spacing in the strands of the grass cloth. And it’s more affordable than you’d think, starting from $2 per SKU.
The environmental crisis is a pressing issue and the interior design and build industry is in urgent need of more sustainable ways of working with clients to help reduce its impact on our planet.
Perfectly usable materials head to the landfill from job sites and the use of non-recyclable packaging is prolific.
En-masse, production methods have a long way to go towards sustainability, while samples can not only be inefficient logistically, but also generate a lot of waste.
That’s where Augmented Reality can help. Companies with eco-friendly products can improve sustainability across the board by digitizing their samples and swatches, and those who aren’t quite eco-friendly yet can get on the right track and start with reducing their sample waste.
Here’s something to put it in perspective. Customers have used Primer to visualize products in their space over 370,000 times. That's a lot of samples that never had to be shipped, a lot of carbon kept out of the atmosphere and a lot of packaging kept out of landfill.
A lot of people wouldn't have tried many AR apps, or may think that wearable AR devices, like AR glasses or a headset, is required.
In reality, all consumers need is a mobile device, like an iPhone or an iPad. Over 1 billion devices support Augmented Reality today, and by 2022 that number will surpass 3.4 billion.
Using Apple's ARKit, Google’s ARCore, as well as LiDAR technology, mobile AR platforms like Primer are making sure that their apps are so intuitive that anyone could use them and share their visualizations with others.
This comes in very handy for decor enthusiasts and design professionals, as no one makes a decision for their home in a vacuum.
Homeowners and renters either work with a designer, want to see and try ideas, and have a collaborative back and forth conversation.
Or they want to talk with their partner or friends about their DIY projects, and bounce ideas off of them.
The ability to try products instantly and at scale that AR apps provide empowers consumers to make decisions faster and with more confidence.
There are no surprises, it integrates smoothly into their everyday lives and it's a great way to collaborate at a distance.
At Primer, we’ve made it easy to capture still and video previews and share them via text, email and many other channels, including Instagram and Facebook.
The app is already available for iOS devices (we're currently working on an Android version), while sending an App Clips link to view a product directly via a brand website is just as simple.
AR solutions are still in relatively early stages and are the perfect way to stand out in an increasingly overcrowded market.
And as amazing as current Augmented Reality technology is, it is evolving really fast and the future of AR and computer vision is increasingly exciting.
In the near future, Augmented Reality apps and software will go beyond placing objects into interior spaces and will be able to provide an intuitive guided shopping experience.
With the help of Artificial Intelligence, they will begin to understand the space itself, identifying existing decor, discerning architectural features and distinguishing walls from ceilings and floors.
For example, AR apps will be able recognize a couch and begin to make smart recommendations for paint colors that would pair well with it. Or knowing that the user is looking at the floor, the app will be able to recommend other furniture or potted houseplants.
The importance and proliferation of Augmented Reality experiences, as well as virtual reality and mixed reality, will only grow over the next few years.
By investing in AR now, businesses can position themselves as an industry innovator, boost sales with exciting online shopping experiences and stand out of the crowd with more interactive digital content, social media presence and marketing materials. An all-round win!
At Primer, we're building an AR platform specifically for the home decor industry. We want to bring AR technology to every brand in a way that feels custom, but without the burden of that enormous technical lift or expense that comes with building and maintaining a bespoke AR experience.
We want to take care of the hard parts so that great designers and manufacturers can make use of AR technology at scale. We understand that every product is unique and ensure that customers are getting the most accurate previews possible when they preview something with Primer.
3D modeling is not something that most brands have a lot of expertise in, so we've streamlined this process by simply using whatever 2D images and assets brands have on hand to create 3D renders.
We pass them through a rapid procedural modeling pipeline, where we do the heavy lifting to encode the color scale and surface properties with an exceptional degree of accuracy.
Right now we’re focusing on wallpaper, paint and tile, and have built some pretty amazing partnerships with brands like, Farrow & Ball, clé tile, Eskayel, Scalamandré and Elworthy Studio.
But we'll be expanding our supported categories over the coming months to include flooring, furniture and many other items for the home, and are very excited to collaborate with more brands, big or small.
If you want to find out more about how Primer could help your business, please get in touch here.