Williams-Sonoma is the latest home furnishings retailer to hop onto the augmented reality (AR) bandwagon, following retailers including IKEA, Target, Wayfair, Lowe’s, Anthropologie and Chairish. But unlike these companies, Williams-Sonoma is acquiring its own third-party technology provider.
The company, which operates under its own namesake brand as well as West Elm and Pottery Barn, acquired Outward, an AR and 3D imaging startup, in an all-cash deal for $112 million.
Williams-Sonoma and Outward have already been partners for three years. The startup made an AR app for Pottery Barn called 3D Room View earlier this year that ran on Google’s Tango AR platform, allowing 3D models of furniture to be placed in real rooms.
In an environment where more consumers are seeking experiences throughout their shopping journey, Williams-Sonoma wants to add distinct value to all of its brands. Shoppers seem to be enamored of AR’s capabilities: research from L.E.K. Consulting revealed that 80% of consumers want to use AR or VR to design rooms. As many as 61% of consumers prefer to shop at stores that offer AR over ones that don’t, and 77% of shoppers want to use AR to see product differences, according to research from Augment.
Following the acquisition, Outward will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, and will continue to be managed by Outward’s current leadership team, led by Co-Founder and CEO Clarence Chui.