The industry is in the midst of embracing one of those technologies that can be considered game-changing.
And Ferguson and its Chico, California.-based Build.com online-only home-improvement retailer are the latest to hop aboard with the recent announcement it launched an augmented reality (or AR) in-app experience.
The e-tailer’s In-Home Preview leverages Apple’s new ARKit development platform and allows users to gain an interactive insight into how products will look and function in their homes. Through the app, end users can turn a faucet on and off, adjust temperatures, move handles, while also experimenting with water flow and spray patterns with bathroom fixtures. Lighting fixtures can be rotated 360°, moved up and down by adjusting chain or downrod lengths, while illumination patterns can be seen by turning the fixture on through the app.
Products currently offered on this platform include Delta Faucet, Kichler, Hansgrohe, Progress Lighting, Miseno and Park Harbor.
“For many years in the building business the one constant from customers has been, ‘I want to touch and feel it before I buy it,’” Build.com Chief Technology Officer Dan Davis told Supply House Times recently. “They are interested in things such as the finish and how products operate. These are very important details that in the past we’ve invested in the imaging and description to communicate those features. Bridging that touch and feel gap is something we’ve always been striving toward. We see AR as a great way to do that. You are taking accurate representations of these products and dropping them into a home space where the customer can see a preview of what it will look like in the house.”
Davis told Supply House Times use of this technology is as simple as opening the app, holding an iPhone and scanning the room with the device. “The scan will detect surfaces in the space and is able to drop the product in and the customer can move it around,” he said.
So far, the AR experience has been a hit with Build.com customers. “Forty-five percent of our install base is AR-enabled,” Davis said. “We’ve seen AR-enabled product sales double since launching In-Home Preview. We are seeing the confidence to convert to a sale is being impacted. To us, that’s a huge leading signal. It’s telling us customers are engaged with that specific feature and are spending an extra amount of time in the app.”
Davis stressed In-Home Preview is useful for not only consumers, but the professional contractor and installer, as well. “A number of contractors have specific SKUs they buy and are set with those and others are helping build homes and remodel homes,” he said. “They work with us because they know we will help their customers pick the right products. Contractors want the job done right the first time and they want happy customers. We want both. AR helps us ensure the customer gets the right product they like and for the pros to install it once and not have to return it.”
Davis gave an example of AR’s significance with a lighting product. “Someone buys a pendant light meant for a three-story foyer and sometimes it’s hard to get that scale out of a 2-D image,” he said. “With AR, you drop it in the dimensionally accurate space and you get that space awareness and accuracy.”
The In-Home Preview AR feature (accessed through the Build.com app) can be experienced on devices running iOS 11 (iPhone 6s/6s Plus and later) and all iPad Pro generations since 2015 as well as the new iPad fifth generation. Davis noted the company will be expanding its inventory of available products on this platform for iOS and is considering an Android version using the new AR Core technology.