When people talk about today's technology... sometimes sounds like they’re speaking another language. IoT? AR? VR? While this alphabet soup might be native tongue to those in the tech world, many in other industries are left to wonder: do I need to speak the language, too? And, more importantly: what exactly could this technology do for my business?

For home furnishers, the benefits of these new technologies are many. That’s why encouraging their adoption was a focus of our SHIFT Tech Summit, held this past June in Detroit. Leaders from IoT (Internet of Things), AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) companies joined us for panel discussions about the future of these technologies in the home furnishings industry.

Here’s what we learned.  

IoT Paves the Way for Smart Furniture – and Smarter Selling

Chatter about the Internet of Things (IoT) might sound complex, but it’s really just what its name suggests: a network of physical objects, connected by the internet or wireless technology. This includes products found in the home. So, think thermostats you can control from your smartphone or a doorbell that lets you view who rings it from anywhere.   

For home furnisher manufacturers and retailers, getting onboard with the Internet of Things can open more doors for business success, such as by using these “smart” products to gain data about consumer behavior. With more frequent and accurate insights, furnishers can better optimize products to improve their sales and branding.

Simply connecting products to the IoT might only be the beginning. As Dilip Goswami, CEO of Molekule, notes, making furniture serviceable and upgradeable is likely next on the horizon. Rather than selling an entirely new product, home furnishers can sell a technology upgrade to an existing one. Think about the ways that could increase efficiencies and decrease costs.  

Though selling couches you can control from a mobile device might seem far off, the time to start thinking about how the IoT could play a role in your business is here. According to the Zebra 2017 Retail Vision Study, featured in Forbes, 70% of retail decision makers globally are ready to adopt IoT to improve customer experiences. By 2020, the research and consulting firm MarketsandMarkets projects that the smart home industry will grow to $29 billion.

Augmented and Virtual Reality Advance the Consumer Experience

What if you could let consumers experience a product without it being right in front of them? AR and VR technologies help home furnishers do just that. They offer a fast, convenient way to let a consumer visualize how a piece of furniture would actually fit in their home. For example, AR technology makes it possible for a consumer to capture imagery of their living space using smartphones or tablets and insert different products into the space, in real time. Lowe’s Holoroom and its Vision app offer even more immersive experiences with VR headsets and depth-sensing technology that makes it possible to measure furniture in the home with just their mobile devices.

The neat thing is that AR/VR technologies can be relevant across commerce channels. Your ecommerce site can let consumers upload images of their spaces and insert furniture, while headsets in your showrooms can make it possible to view a product with a fabric, color or size not in stock. Consider that the more familiar a consumer is with your products at every touchpoint, the more comfortable they’ll be buying them.

Aside from offering up a competitive consumer experience, AR/VR integration is just good business. As Beck Besecker, CEO of Marxent Labs, shared in our panel, customers are 5X less likely to return a product purchased using virtual reality. That’s because consumer recall and awareness are substantially higher with AR/VR.  

Embracing AR/VR technologies gives home furnishers the ability to:   
1.  Serve up a better buying experience (shopping is more personalized to buyers’ product needs).
2.   Showcase ecommerce products in more detail (don’t rely on just descriptions and static images).   
3.   Gain insight into consumer buying preferences and product usage.

Technology is becoming an integral part of the consumer experience. As a home furnisher, you have an opportunity to make the most of cutting-edge tech and propel your business forward. The question is: will you fall in line tomorrow, or lead the pack today?