Ikea is betting on AI, as well as virtual and augmented realities

Ikea is looking at both artificial intelligence and digital realities as big opportunities for its future, experimenting with a multitude of different customer-facing initiatives.

Ikea's augmented reality app
Ikea’s augmented reality app

Ikea is looking at both artificial intelligence and digital realities as big opportunities for its future.

CEO Jesper Brodin, said a “major shift” in technology over recent years has prompted the retailer to start looking at both for how they can impact business. During the World Economic Forum in Davos, he told CNBC: “(What) we haven’t been able to do before is to find easier ways to connect with people so digital opens up massive opportunities for us.”

Last month, the retailer tested virtual reality in its Dallas, Texas, store. Shoppers were given access to a fully immersive experience that allowed to them play a pillow toss game with a coffee table or hang out with a panda inside a bamboo lamp.

Its also been playing with augmented reality. Using Apple’s ARkit, its new Ikea Place app now allows consumers to virtually try out what furniture looks like in their homes before buying.

Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, is an area many retailers are turning to in a bid to stay ahead of competition from mega players like Amazon. Ikea previously announced research into the idea of its own AI virtual assistant, for instance, that would be able to help customers with “smart furniture”.

AI was also a big focus in Davos at large with Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai, referring to it as more important than fire or electricity.

“Like most retailers, we don’t know exactly where we will land at the end of it, but our curiosity and willingness to create will be a guide for us,” Brodin added.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.