Swedish furniture store chain Ikea is testing two virtual kitchen applications in three of its stores: one in Canada, one in Sweden and one in Belgium (Hasselt). The apps should help customers plan their kitchen better and enhance customer experience.
Two applications trialled
The two apps are tested until 20 May 2017, and if successful, they may be implemented in other stores worldwide as well. "It is an addition to, not a replacement of, the human interaction between the customer and the Ikea employee. We want to simplify how we guide people in their purchase behavior”, Ikea said. The VR Kitchen Visualizer lets customers create a virtual kitchen and walk around in the result, while the VR Pancake Kitchen presents an Ikea kitchen’s range of options through a virtual and interactive pancake session.
The company already has a 3D kitchen app online, but the VR app turns it into what can be considered a highly advanced videogame. The connection to gaming is not a coincidence, because the app was created in collaboration with developers from gaming platform Steam. During the press demo, we opened doors and drawers and were presented a range of pop-up menus. You can even become a child, to see how it would be like if your child walks around in the kitchen: it may be surprising to see how high a table actually is, especially if you want to place plates on it without dropping them…
Remove the stress of choice
Why does Ikea want to use VR and other digital appliances to help the customer purchase a kitchen? “It is highly stressful to buy a kitchen: everything has to fit because you are spending a lot of money. We want to limit that stress of choosing”, Ikea said. Everything is possible on paper, but it may not turn out as nice in real life. “It is much easier to evaluate distances and spaces in real life or in this case, virtually.”
The pilot program should help the company decide whether this VR experience actually helps customers to make more informed decisions. “It should also be a playful way to inform customers about distances, heights, ergonomics, safety and more.”
Hasselt is pilot
Ikea Hasselt is very proud to have been chosen as a pilot project. “It is an honour to be at the birth of this revolutionary innovation. It is hugely challenging for us.” The pilot is a first step: “Every employee who has tried the app, is positive about it, but we need to see how customers will react to it, both in the kitchen division and elsewhere. We will report our findings to Sweden once the pilot is over and then we will see what will happen.”
Ikea Hasselt not only hopes to reach the customers, but also hopes to entice others to schedule an appointment. “Annually, about 80,000 Belgian people plan a kitchen in Ikea and about half actually proceeds to a purchase. These apps should facilitate the planning process.”