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Brief Published: 12 Feb 2015

John Lewis: Virtual Sofa Simulator

Interactive Sofa Studio, John Lewis, London

British department store John Lewis has created a ‘try before you buy’ virtual furniture simulator to ease the decision-making process of buying a couch. The Interactive Sofa Studio will be launched in its Peter Jones store in London’s affluent Chelsea district on March 1 2015.

Previously trialled in the brand’s Oxford Street John Lewis flagship, the tool is designed to complement the retailer’s existing Any Shape, Any Fabric customisation service, which lets consumers upholster furniture in the fabric of their choice.

Within the studio, shoppers can play with a range of 3D-printed, RFID (radio-frequency identification)-enabled furniture props such as sofas and armchairs, and multicoloured fabric swatches. Once placed next to each other in designated spots, a visualisation of the final design appears on a nearby screen. Consumers can witness their chosen product changing colour or texture on-screen every time they place a new fabric swatch next to it.

The reassurance-based initiative also allows consumers to explore the product in detail from different angles, including viewing sofas in relation to other items for a better sense of scale. According to John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis, the technology was deployed not only for accuracy, but also to “connect… the physical to the virtual space in a more humanised way” than has been observed in the past.

The project is part of the brand’s JLab programme – a platform created in early 2014 to nurture new tech innovations, and the entrepreneurial talent behind them, in a bid to place the company firmly at the cutting edge of retail technology. See the full blog post for more.

For more on virtual simulation technologies used by retailers in the homeware, beauty and real estate industries, see Virtual Immersive Commerce, part of the Post-Digital Macro Trend.

See also Product Hubs: Customisation & Co-Creation, The Omni-Channel Store Space and In-Store Interactive.