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David Hood

IKEA Australia launches virtual reality store for regional areas

Hailed by many in the tech space as yet another ‘year of virtual reality’, 2017 has seen the release of a shelf of new VR games, films (surely a number adult) and experiences, with IKEA Australia announcing a IKEA Virtual Reality store set to join the ranks.

Designed to enhance a customer’s online shopping experience, the VR experience allows users to complete a digital ‘walkthrough’ of an IKEA store while browsing products.

Malcolm Haylett, IKEA Australia’s Multichannel Specialist, said the introduction of the store comes off the back of IKEA launching online shopping for areas in the ACT, Tasmania, North Queensland and the Northern Territory – areas distant from bricks and mortar IKEA stores.

“The IKEA Virtual Reality store has been developed to support our online shopping service. We know that it’s important for customers to see and experience our home furnishings range. IKEA has recently made a move towards online retailing, but we want to offer the full IKEA store experience to our online shoppers,” he said.

Customers in areas with access to IKEA online shopping, which includes regional NSW, will be able to make purchases while navigating the virtual reality experience via a desktop service.

Although users can see the products they buy, however, they still have to travel from their regional locations to one of the 10 “collection points” around Australia.

Haylett described the VR experience as similar to walking through an actual IKEA store, where customers can “self-navigate” which direction they walk in.

“We know that IKEA customers like to look online for inspiration before making a purchase. The IKEA Virtual Reality Store is simply a different and more immersive tool that allows you to do that. Through the innovative tool you can stand in a room-set and visualise it as if you were there in person, and you can for example, see our full range of sofas or beds at a glance,” he said.

“Online shopping at IKEA is all about giving more accessibility to customers who want to shop with us wherever, whenever. Our unique Virtual Reality experience will support our current online shopping offering through our Canberra store and 10 collection points around the country.”

The IKEA Virtual Reality app can be accessed through Matterport VR, an Android and IOS app, a platform which shelves ‘real world’ VR content such as travel experiences, real estate, celebrity homes and now IKEA.

Looking to spread its product offering to new customers, last year saw Myer launch a new virtual reality store in partnership with eBay. The shopping app allows customers to enter a virtual department store where they can browse over 12,000 products and add them to their virtual cart by locking eyes on the cart, while staring at a product brings up pricing information.

In addition to the app, the companies also released an exclusive, affordable cardboard VR headset to accommodate the experience, aptly named the ‘shoptical’.

Image: IKEA Country Manager David Hood. Source: AFR.