- Walmart is testing a new online feature — 3D Virtual Shopping Tour — that allows shoppers to virtually tour an apartment curated with roughly 70 furniture pieces and other products, with the ability to click on items to see more detail, according to a Walmart Today blog post.
- The retailer will also next month launch a new furniture-purchasing option called Buy the Room, which will allow shoppers to add a group of furniture items from one of five curated selections for dorms or apartments to their carts so that can buy a complete look, according to the blog post.
- The items — from both national brands and Walmart private label offerings — and curated collections are aimed at dorm and apartment dwellers, and represent the latest step in Walmart’s revamped online presence for furniture and home design offerings.
The 3D Virtual Shopping Tour test and Buy the Room launch are the latest moves from Walmart’s Home group, which was reorganized last fall and given a new leader – Anthony Soohoo as group vice president and general manager. That change was in lock step with the launch of Walmart's redesigned e-commerce site, with its home décor and furniture sections cited as the first featured categories.
The broader home furnishings cagtegory is also undergoing great change. Companies like Wayfair helped disrupt the brick-and-mortar home furnishings market with effective online selling schemes and now everyone’s trying to get in on the act, including Amazon, which launched a pair of home furniture brands last fall. Ikea also announced an effort to improve its e-commerce capabilities.
Meanwhile, all of those retailers and many others, including Target and Pottery Barn, are starting to ramp up their efforts to sell via mobile with the help of a new generation of augmented reality apps. These apps are still so new that it may not be clear yet whether or not this is the future of furniture shopping, but it’s a game that every home furnishings retailer needs to be in at this point.
A major component of these apps is the 3D-rendered images of furniture and other products that can be virtually placed in different background settings. Walmart’s 3D Virtual Shopping Tour is a reminder that this technology can be leveraged in a variety of ways — online, on mobile and even in-store.
Walmart is hardly alone here. Among the other new e-commerce strategies in this space, Target last year launched a shoppable virtual reality tour of curated living spaces on its website that sounds pretty similar to what Walmart is pursing with these two new features. For now, Walmart is targeting shoppers of furnishings for smaller living spaces, like dorms and small apartments, but considering the rapid adoption of new technologies in this particular market, Walmart may want to move quickly to appeal to even more furniture buyers.