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How stores will use augmented reality to make you buy more stuff

Is this lamp too big for that side table? Will this couch fit under that window? How far will this chandelier extend from the ceiling when installed?

These are the types of questions online furniture retailer Wayfair aims to answer with its new augmented reality app, WayfairView, which lets users place virtual, full-scale 3-D models of Wayfair products in real settings. Users select images of furniture or décor from Wayfair’s online catalog and use the touch screen on their phone or tablet to position the objects on their room’s floor, walls, or ceiling. The app will be available on a new Lenovo phone later this year and on more devices later.

Wayfair’s augmented reality app allows you to see how an item will look in your home.

“WayfairView should give people more confidence to buy from us without worrying whether something’s the right size,” says Mike Festa, the director of Wayfair’s R&D division.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have not yet hit the mainstream, but retailers are hoping to change that. They see “virtual commerce” as a way to address common shopping annoyances and engage consumers. Lowe’s has installed “Holoroom” kiosks, which apply virtual reality to home improvement design, in 19 stores across the country and is preparing the launch of an augmented-reality app. In April, Ikea released a VR app focused on customizing virtual kitchens. Sephora’s mobile app and website have a feature that lets users apply virtual cosmetics to their faces. Last year, the North Face placed VR headsets loaded with footage of California’s Yosemite National Park and Utah’s Moab desert in some of its stores to get shoppers excited about outdoor adventure.

Consumers seem at least curious about augmented- and virtual-retail experiences. A survey conducted in February by Walker Sands, a digital marketing agency, found that 55 percent of consumers think virtual-reality applications will influence their buying decisions in some way. A third of consumers said they would likely shop more with e-commerce retailers that offer a VR experience.

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