Walmart has rolled out a 3D shopping tour in its home category department in the likely hopes of capturing customers and pushing back against Amazon in the estimated $38.5 billion market for online sales of home furnishings.
The home category in U.S. online sales is expected to reach $42.7 billion by 2019, according to Statista. Walmart competitor Amazon continues to eat up market share in the category, according to reports by Jumpshot.
Four months ago, Walmart introduced a new website format for its home category and this week the retail giant said it’s enhancing that experience using 3D virtual shopping tour of a fully furnished apartment, showcasing about 70 items from national and private label brands.
Shoppers can peruse the site as if they were walking through the apartment. Each item has an icon that when clicked brings up more information as well as a link to purchase the product. Walmart unveiled the 3D virtual shopping tour on its site Thursday (June 28).
“It’s hard to believe that it has already been four months since we launched our new digital shopping experience for home on Walmart.com aligned with how customers browse and shop the category. We’ve been laser focused on helping customers save time, effort and money. And when it comes to home shopping, that means making our affordable products are more discoverable,” Anthony Soohoo, senior vice president and group general manager, for Walmart U.S. e-Commerce, noted in a blog.
He said Walmart in July plans to introduce a new way for customers to buy an entire look with a function called “buy the room.” He said as customers shop for dorm rooms and apartments in the summer months, Walmart wanted to help customers add a group of items to a cart to buy a complete look.
“Initially, we’ll have five curated collections with each room featuring up to 20 of the most sought-after items college students search for and purchase. … While we are launching these new features for dorm rooms and small space living, we know that they could have applications elsewhere and will continue to listen to customer feedback to determine how to implement them more broadly on the site,” Soohoo notes.
He said Walmart.com will continue to build its assortment of merchandise for all home shoppers. He added Walmart has received great feedback from customers using the new home shopping experience rolled out in February .
“With the addition of the 3D Virtual Shopping Tour and Buy the Room, browsing and shopping for your home will be even easier,” Soohoo wrote in the blog.
Analysts say Walmart has no time to waste in trying to grow its online home category sales because the competition is fierce. Amazon had a bulk of the market share in the category areas like home improvement tools (93%) and kitchen and dining (94%) in the first quarter of the year, Jumpshot reported.
Walmart has the opportunity to grow its home category through its private brands as does Target. At Walmart, 38% of private brand purchases are in the home category and at Target it’s 16%, Jumpshot reported.
Debra Weinswig, founder of Coresight Research, said several factors are driving robust e-commerce growth in furniture and homewares and taking share away from brick and mortar. She said traditional homeware retailers like Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Restoration Hardware have invested heavily into building internet businesses and now derive a large portion of total revenues through online sales.
Innovative pure-play furniture and homewares retailers like Wayfair are also reaching critical mass and reported to be profitable — a tough feat for online-only ventures. She said while Wayfair may be profitable, they are plenty of others still posting red ink.
Walmart executives are likely hoping the home category and the higher basket totals initiatives like “buy the room” will help stem loses in the online business. Leon Nicholas, vice president of retail insights at WestRock, said retailers are focused on building bigger baskets and that isn’t going to soon change, as more sales move online.
Weinswig said there is an appeal to purchasing home goods online as consumers tend to seek unique and original merchandise and they can have a hard time articulating precisely the design they are looking for. She said curated designs shown online help consumers see what patterns and styles work best together for their own liking.
While the Walmart 3D shopping tour is a step forward, it’s important to note other retailers are already using augmented reality that allows shoppers to visualize how the purchase would look in their own homes. Wayfair launched its augmented reality app in August 2017 that allows shoppers to see what a certain chandelier would look like hanging from their own dining room ceiling.
Lowe’s home and lifestyle brand Magnolia Market also created an app that allows customers to see how their products will look in their homes. They partnered with Shopify to incorporate Apple’s ARKit technology into their app. Anthropologie and IKEA also each use Apple’s ARKit to create personal shopping experiences online which allows consumers to customize looks that fit their own spaces.
Walmart said it’s 3D shopping tour and “buy the room” feature were created organically from innovation from the Store No. 8 incubator.