Retailers’ Holiday Wishlist? More Sales Powered By New Technologies

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world, Ikea stores feature a similar layout with furniture and other housewares for sale. A shopper can browse the showroom, artfully designed to mimic someone’s home (before confronting the warehouse full of unassembled items to take home and build.) Now, the Swedish retailer is using virtual and augmented reality to further blur the lines between home and store.

Fancy a new minimalist Scandinavian-inspired kitchen? Ikea provides VR headsets that allow people to “cook” in their new kitchen, seeing how far it is from the stovetop to sink or how high that shelf is where you could keep your stand mixer. The feature also allows you to view the space through the eyes of someone who’s, say, 6 feet 4 inches tall (can you fit under the vent hood?) or child-sized (giving parents a better vantage from which to spot sharp objects or other kiddie dangers).

By using the Ikea Place app, which was released in September, shoppers can virtually try out furniture in their homes using a smartphone.

To be sure, legacy IT systems for many retailers often impede how quickly they can integrate new technologies, says Dvorak of the National Retail Federation. Amazon, which she says follows a tech-friendly “fail fast” strategy, is pushing traditional stores to change their culture at a faster pace than normal. “I do think [new tech tools] will be a gamechanger for retailers with profitability gains anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent,” she says.

In addition to enabling consumers to make purchases via laptops and smartphones, e-retail innovations are also starting to change the in-store experience in meaningful ways.

In October, Seattle-based Nordstrom launched its Local store, a boutique space that has no inventory. Instead, the store is billed as more of a “service hub,” a place that shoppers can pick up online orders (or return those that didn’t work out), access personal styling services, and even drop in for a manicure while sipping a glass of wine. “The idea is make it more experiential as opposed to a mere transaction,” Dvorak says.


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