Walmart adds 3D virtual shopping tour for online home shopping

Discussion
Source: Walmart
Jul 02, 2018
Tom Ryan

Walmart is testing a “3D Virtual Shopping Tour” feature on its website that allows shoppers to see what furniture looks like in a staged home. 

Shoppers can navigate through a curated apartment showcasing nearly 70 items from both national brands and Walmart’s private label offerings. Wrote Anthony Soohoo, SVP and group general manager, home, U.S. e-commerce, in a blog post, “As they virtually explore the apartment, customers simply click on different products in each room to get more information.”

Shoppers can use Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR as well to enhance the experience.

Walmart also introduced a “Buy the Room” feature that enables shoppers to easily purchase home items that tend to be purchased together.

The two new features follow upgrades to Walmart’s online home buying experience in February that support discovery, including the addition of curated collections, shop-by-style options and editorial-style imagery and design tips.

In February, Walmart’s technology incubator, Store No 8, acquired virtual reality startup Spatialand to build VR products for the retailer’s stores and websites.

“While we are launching these new features for dorm rooms and small space living,” said Mr. Soohoo of 3D Virtual Shopping Tour and Buy The Room, “we know that they could have applications elsewhere and will continue to listen to customer feedback to determine how to implement them more broadly on the site.”

Ashley Furniture, IKEA, WayFair, Amazon and Target have all tapped either augmented or virtual reality to support the purchase of furniture and décor items for the home over the last year.

In most cases, shoppers view furniture in their actual homes by “placing” them there using their smartphone. Rolled out last October, Target’s augmented reality feature, “See It In Your Space,” promises to let shoppers “place three-dimensional versions of real Target home products within photos of actual rooms at home, and move them around at proper scale to see how they’d look — all before buying the product.” 

This summer, select Macy’s stores are introducing a VR tool that enables customers to visualize how a piece of furniture would look inside a room of the same dimensions as one in their home.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the appeal of Walmart’s 3D Virtual Shopping Tour? Does it advance other ways retailers are using AR and VR to support furniture purchases? What other categories seem best positioned to benefit from 3D-type technologies?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I suspect it's going to end up very niche -- though I don't understand why everyone wouldn't use it!"
"I salute Walmart and all others who are making new paths to purchase, especially into VR. This is going to turn into a “clone,” not close, race."
"The next step is to enable consumers to upload images of their rooms/homes so they can visualize furniture in their actual surroundings."

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18 Comments on "Walmart adds 3D virtual shopping tour for online home shopping"


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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

VR might not be quite ready for widespread adoption by consumers, especially if some kind of headset is required for viewing. In order to sell home furnishings and “big stuff” online, retailers will need to engage customers and create some sort of interactive platform. IKEA and Lowe’s have already demonstrated the power of customers visualizing space, colors and placing items in their home.

If retailers wait until this kind of technology is mainstream, they won’t even be in the race. Kudos again for Walmart taking a leadership role instead of playing catch up to Amazon and the online furniture sellers.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a good move but, as the article states, it’s no longer unique. That said, the fact that Walmart curates the room sets is different — though this could prove to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows Walmart to display a range of products in a coordinated setting. On the other hand, it means Walmart has to take care to design a fairly neutral room environment which appeals to its diverse mass market — a challenge more targeted brands like Williams-Sonoma don’t have.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

It’s not unique and it still is another step in the right direction for Walmart. They’ve jumped on the innovation train and are continually trying out new technologies to see what works and what does not. There’s a tremendous opportunity in virtual shopping like this as consumers acclimate to AR and VR. And with this test, Walmart will already have some technical and cultural know-how to support it.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
Way back in the day (like 20 years ago), I was the CIO of a home furnishings retailer, Domain Home Fashions. These types of apps (not the AR/VR, but 3-D shopping) were around then, and I really wanted to buy them for the stores. The commissioned sales people shot me down because they felt it would slow them down too much. Crate and Barrel pulled the trigger back then, and left the computers sitting in full view of customers. No one ever used them, and I actually asked sales associates about them. So perhaps there has been a generational shift that makes people say “oh yeah, I’d like to do that.” I know it would be useful for me. I tend to make Powerpoint layouts of rooms I’m trying to design (I really do, I have done it multiple times) so I would likely be a user of this kind of app, but I liked it 20 years ago too. I’ve done kitchens, bathrooms and the replacement of furniture in my living room, including a… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest

Retailers are using VR to help consumers imagine how furniture will look in various spaces, but it doesn’t go far enough. The next step is to enable consumers to upload images of their rooms/homes so they can visualize furniture in their actual surroundings. That’s when VR will take off in use and acceptance.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

In addition to furniture, white goods are a very good candidate for VR technology in retail. Apps to position artwork in rooms and along walls are good candidates as well. The product categories prone to the most costly mistakes are likely to be the best candidates for AR and VR.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

VR and augmented reality are fun and highly engaging. Room decor seems a natural fit but so far the awards for VR application are going to bigger ticket items such as automotive and recreational vehicles. Polaris was recently recognized for its use of VR in enhancing the recreational vehicle purchase experience. Walmart’s use of VR for staff training has very high business value but moving from the training room to customer experience (with its inherent staffing requirement) looks to be a bit of a leap.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
1 year 7 months ago

For a company that invented mass everything, it’s refreshing to see Walmart make these probes into new areas. That is a sign of true business leadership.

I view Walmart’s 3-D Virtual Shopping Tour as one of several efforts the company is taking to attract a younger, more affluent shopper. This is important to generate more growth for the company and over the long term it will give the brand much wider appeal.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

” … invented mass everything … ” — good point. Their willingness to help pioneer this is great news for everybody. Lots of businesses will have the opportunity to learn from Walmart’s lessons.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Good move. I think in viewing Walmart innovation it’s key to contemplate the Walmart.com that it wants to be, not the legacy Walmart brick-and-mortar.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Perhaps I’m not a typical enough shopper. But this seems far more like a gimmick than an innovation.

The key question: Do shoppers learn anything significant through this method about the product they might buy? I can’t imagine that they do.

Furniture fabric cannot be fully replicated in 3-D — there is no way to virtually replace the truth of what fabric feels like in person. My own home can’t be replicated in 3-D — only represented in a partial way.

Will shoppers learn enough to make a difference in the purchase? I seriously doubt it. That said, the world of tech is desperate to turn VR into something because it’s not selling that well in general — reasonably but not dramatically.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
1 year 7 months ago

3-D virtual shopping tours and AR/VR are perfect solutions to help consumers make more confident purchases for any home goods. Walmart’s 3-D virtual shopping tour is a great way to make shopping fun and suggest complementary products that consumers may not have thought about.

Consumers can’t bring their homes to the store, but if they can virtually bring the products to their homes they can see how they fit in their home decor. Beyond furniture, any home products are a good fit for these technologies.

Shopping is changing very fast!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

People who already have VR viewers are likely to try Walmart’s new idea of shopping for furniture. However, they are likely to find that it falls short because it is only possible to place furniture in Walmart’s created room. Other places allow consumers to “try” by placing furniture in their own rooms which is more helpful. Consumers who do not have VR viewers are not likely to want to get involved to see how furniture looks in a room that is not their own.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I salute Walmart and all others who are making new paths to purchase, especially into VR. This is going to turn into a “clone,” not close, race. What I mean by that is that every month companies will find new aspects to the use of VR; the ability for customers to pick an item, then shrink it, expand it, turn it 360 degrees and even change its color in their own home.

Those retailers that wait to jump into the world of VR-assisted selling will find it a steep road to go up and catch those retail pioneers who are blazing that trail. Like the old saying; “If you want to predict your future, you must invent it.” And since inventing is based on necessity, retailers must see this as a platform with legs.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

I don’t really see the huge benefit for this over what is already out there — Target’s AR system seems like a more useful application of tech as you can actually see what the products look like in your home. Walmart’s curated apartments might be lovely, but how much will that translate to the average customer looking for furniture. How will they know if that will work for them at home? I think until we’re able to offer customers a VR experience that uses their own rooms to view products in the AR application seems a better way to go.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
It’s great to see Walmart experimenting to find ways to leverage innovative new technology like VR in ways they can attach mass appeal to it. While it may not work for all shoppers — I suspect many will find the idea of only looking at Walmart’s curate room to limiting and will wish they could upload images of their own room — they will no doubt learn quite a bit about how this technology can impact conversions and basket size. Macy’s has found that the VR use int heir furniture department can mean the difference between shopper buying a single piece vs an entire room full of furniture! Personally, I see a lot of potential for these types of apps in product categories where the product is big, expensive, and prone to buyers remorse. Categories like furniture and home furnishings fit well, as would art, and anything else requiring a decision made on fitting a space to be a good fit. However, I see greater adoption of AR via the shopper’s mobile device because nothing… Read more »
Jennifer McDermott
Guest

This seems more like a promotional tactic than conversion tool but I think it’s really interesting! I think it would work well teamed with an activation to promote a home makeover show.

Dave Lebron
Guest
11 months 27 days ago

Thanks for the helpful article!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I suspect it's going to end up very niche -- though I don't understand why everyone wouldn't use it!"
"I salute Walmart and all others who are making new paths to purchase, especially into VR. This is going to turn into a “clone,” not close, race."
"The next step is to enable consumers to upload images of their rooms/homes so they can visualize furniture in their actual surroundings."

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