IKEA asks, will virtual inventory be key to the new urban showroom?
The completely unique experience of shopping at an IKEA store is part of the brand’s appeal. But at World Mobile Congress, the chain gave a demo of a futuristic small-concept store that is far different from IKEA’s familiar labyrinth — and from other store concepts out there as well.
In partnership with Accenture, IKEA demoed a tech-enhanced store which, according to Retail Detail Europe, fits the chain’s entire expansive catalog into a small-format location. The walls are said to “double as screens filled with product information” and visitors can use an RFID-enabled version of the iconic IKEA pencil to make product selections, check out and specify if they will pick up the physical product or have it shipped.
A tweet by French tech journalist Simon Chodorge features a video of the demo. In it, the journalist can be seen tapping an RFID-enabled version of an IKEA pencil on active pads on tables near touch screens, which appear to be adding items to a shopping cart. The journalist then visits a central touch screen to check out.
The chain has no plans to implement the experimental endless-aisle concept at this point, but the exercise demonstrates the extent to which technology could be used in small-format urban stores to give customers access to a big box store’s worth of inventory.
Though the video in the Tweet didn’t picture the use of AR, as was billed in the demo, AR might be another interesting way to display and order from a large assortment in a small space.
In IKEA’s case, such enhancements would be a futuristic next step for a more practical concept the chain is developing for city dwellers. In 2016, IKEA opened 20 pickup and order point locations globally. The locations allow visitors to shop online and then have their purchases delivered to the smaller, closer stores. The stores also feature computers to browse the e-commerce section, and a limited product assortment for immediate purchase.
- IKEA shows its store of the future – Retail Detail
- #MWC18 @Accenture et @IKEA ont élaboré une preuve de concept pour le magasin du futur. – Twitter
- Is IKEA really going to start selling on Amazon’s Marketplace? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the use of in-store touch screens and AR to display product available for purchase a good way to offer extensive inventory in smaller, urban stores? Would customers shop showrooms with primarily virtual assortments available rather than physical product?