In its quest to hold onto pandemic-era shoppers who turned to Etsy for masks and other handcrafted goods over the last 18 months, the marketplace took a big step forward in expanding how consumers can interact with sellers, opening the doors to an augmented realty (AR)-powered shoppable house.
With 12 separate rooms full of virtual merchandise — including two children’s bedrooms, a dressing room, a courtyard and a reading nook — the Etsy House, built in collaboration with Boundary, features hundreds of items to consider and incorporates the ability to share the house and its contents on social media, tapping into another hot consumer trend.
In a blog post, Jessica Doyle, Etsy’s vice president of communications and engagement marketing, said the move is meant to help consumers determine how pieces might look in their own home.
“The Etsy House transports shoppers to a one-of-a-kind virtual home filled with holiday decor and gifts, Etsy Design Awards winners (both past and present), bespoke furniture and artwork, and other fun surprises,” she wrote.
This isn’t Etsy’s first foray into AR. In June, the marketplace added an AR feature to its iPhone app, allowing customers to visualize how a painting, photograph or print might look in their home, which the company said will “help create buyer confidence” and potentially lead to more sales for merchants.
PYMNTS research has found that 55% of consumers are interested in trying new connected shopping experiences, whether shopping via AR, using smart mirrors in stores or shopping via voice assistant.
Over 93 million Americans are expected to use AR at least once per month this year, according to eMarketer, an 11% increase compared to 2020. By 2023, that number is expected to top 110 million. A Nielsen global survey from 2019 also found AR and virtual reality (VR) to be the top technology consumers are seeking to assist them in their daily lives, and Shopify says products with AR content have a 94% higher conversion rate than products without.
“It’s expected by consumers,” David Ripert, co-founder and CEO of Poplar Studio, told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “Retailers today, if they want to be innovative and if they want to attract consumers back to their stores, they have to show that they adopt digital technologies as part of that consumer journey.”
Amid the pandemic, several retailers, including Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, also built virtual storefronts for customers to explore, either replicating a real-world location or creating something totally new. Neha Singh, CEO at experiential shopping platform Obsess, told PYMNTS this increases the audience for retail stores and enriches the consumer experience.
“Ultimately, the new generation of consumers … is so used to these interactive experiences, and if brands don’t keep up, then they’re going to become more irrelevant,” she said.
A New Shopping Standard
Though few retailers have gone as far as building a full virtual house as Etsy has, many others have embraced AR in other applications. Perfect Corp., for example, has made a business of partnering with beauty brands to give shoppers the ability to virtually try on lipstick, eyeshadow and other makeup products; earlier this year, the company also expanded into fashion for items such as eyewear and earrings.
And last month, Kohl’s expanded the number of products available for virtual 3-D preview through its eCommerce platform and, through a partnership with Nextech AR Solutions, made 3-D models accessible in organic Google search results. Next month, Nextech also plans to release a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) AR solution to bring the technology to a wider range of merchants.
“With the rise in WebAR for eCommerce, the demand to scale and create high-quality 3D content continues to accelerate and is expected to be standard in eCommerce shopping in 2022 and beyond,” Nextech CEO Evan Gappelberg said in a statement.
Social Media Capabilities
Social media companies have also embraced AR capabilities, both for fun and for shopping, with Snapchat among the most zealous as it moves quickly into social commerce. Users can now use the app’s Scan feature to take a picture of an outfit and get shopping recommendations through Snap subsidiary Screenshop, and brands such as Estee Lauder, Farfetch and Prada are using Snapchat’s AR tools to let users virtually try on clothes and makeup.
The photo-sharing app earlier this year also acquired AR display supplier WaveOptics for about $500 million in cash and stock shortly after unveiling the next generation of its Spectacles, a pair of glasses designed to overlay virtual assets directly onto the real world. Facebook has also launched a smart classes line in collaboration with Ray-Ban, with the ability to take photos and videos, receive calls, and listen to music.
Ripert said even if these smart glasses don’t have full AR capabilities yet, those days are not too far in the future. “And if you think about that, it changes the game because now you’re walking around the streets into interconnected cities that are overlaying content and information all around you,” he said.