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CSA Exclusive: Bob’s Discount Furniture builds lifelike digital experience

National furniture retailer supports seamless retailing with augmented reality.

Founded in 1991 and based in Manchester, Conn., Bob’s Discount Furniture operates more than 120 stores in 18 states. Despite its continued growth in physical store count, the retailer found that its e-commerce system had become dated and was not intuitive for customers to use. In addition, Bob’s was unable to provide a consistent omnichannel experience.

“We wanted to get an enterprise platform for our e-commerce site and rock and roll,” Scott Perry, VP, executive director of digital marketing and omnichannel experience at Bob's Discount Furniture, said during an interview with Chain Store Age.

In the second quarter of 2017, Bob’s selected Deloitte Digital as a digital transformation partner and began rolling out new features and enhancements to its e-commerce site, running on an SAP Hybris platform.

“We launched a live chat feature, so customers could interact with an agent how and when they want,” said Perry. “We also rolled out videos for most products, which you can watch on your phone or computer, as well as ratings and reviews. Customers can upload photos of their furniture purchases inside their homes.”

To help save customers time in the crucial process of determining how a new piece of furniture would fit in their personal living space, at the end of 2018, Bob’s introduced an online 3-D room planning tool.

“It’s an immersive 3-D experience available on our desktop site, mobile site, and app,” said Perry. “Customers can save 3-D models they create in the app.”

Bob’s also released a natively developed mobile app in late 2018. The app features augmented reality (AR) functionality that lets users visualize how furniture will look in their homes to a degree even beyond that offered by the 3-D room planner.

“AR solves a major problem in furniture shopping – seeing what a product would look like in your space before visiting our store or website,” stated Perry. Enlisting product visualization specialists Marxent Labs to develop the app for Apple and Android mobile devices, Bob’s enables customers to scan any room of their home using their device.

The app then provides an incredibly realistic simulation of how furniture items would fit. Perry illustrated the process with the example of a customer considering a sofa purchase.

“A sofa appears in your living room to scale,” said Perry. “It sticks to the floor; you can walk around it or behind it and zoom in on the fabric. You can see the weave of the fabric or the grain of the leather and see what it looks like with your carpet, flooring, wallpaper, or wall color. The lighting will be different in your home than in the store. You can see if the sofa fits in an area without blocking a doorway or covering a window. You can snap a photo of the AR image in the app and share it via text or social media.”

According to Perry, the app is also becoming a tool for customers to blend the in-store and online shopping experience.

“Inside the store, all product tags have a QR code. The app has QR reader capabilities, so customers can scan the code and view all online reviews, see videos and customer pictures, and add the product to their wish list and share it with a salesperson. We want the app to serve as an in-home and in-store shopping assistant that takes you through the entire journey. When a customer walks in the store, the app sees you’re there and sends you a welcome message. It’s as omnichannel as it gets.”

Since launching its omnichannel experience with Deloitte Digital, Bob’s has seen a significant increase in online sales. “Customers can schedule their own delivery,” said Perry. “A majority of orders are sold this way, but customers can also order over the phone with a salesperson.”

In addition, the Bob’s app is in the six figures for downloads and customers engage with thousands of AR experiences every week.

“We will integrate AR into different things we do,” concluded Perry. “We want to give customers an experience in the store and online second to none. We want to best in retail, not just the best in furniture retail.”
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