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Explore The Influence Of Augmented Reality On Consumer Shopping Behaviour - IKEA Place Case Study




Acknowledgements


I'm thankful to my dissertation advisor for her guidance and encouragement as I worked on my dissertation. I appreciate her thoughtful feedback, which enabled me to further improve my work.


I want to express my gratitude to all the research participants who provided their valuable time to participate in my study and share their experiences.


I will always be grateful to my family for their unwavering support, especially my parents who gave me the strength to keep pushing my limits and empowered me to fulfil my dream of studying abroad.


I would also like to thank my two friends, you helped me put my best version forward. My year spent abroad thanks to your friendship and support has been wonderful, exciting, and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of.


Abstract


The impact of augmented reality (AR) applications in the furniture shopping environment has not received much attention in the academic literature in the past. Researchers have previously noted how the usability of IKEA Place affects consumer shopping behaviour, but the majority of their work has been quantitative. Numerous reports indicate that within a decade, AR technology will significantly impact consumers' lives across a wide range of industries. Therefore, it is essential to understand how AR shopping applications can influence consumer shopping behaviour. Using qualitative methods, this dissertation closes substantial research gaps regarding how IKEA Place, an augmented reality shopping application, offers new benefits to furniture buyers over and above conventional shopping methods via websites and physical stores. This research mainly focuses on finding out what factors motivate consumers to use IKEA Place while shopping for furniture and the limitations and challenges attached to shopping for furniture using the application. Furthermore, to understand how consumer shopping changed after the Covid-19 pandemic, the study looks into how IKEA Place could have enhanced the furniture shopping experience of consumers when they stayed home due to the pandemic, which would highlight the usefulness of an AR shopping application in any future pandemic. 


This qualitative research was carried out by conducting 10 semi-structured in-depth interviews and collecting 10 product review blogs of IKEA Place for thematic analysis. The findings suggest that having the ability to augment furniture items in personal space drive high levels of motivation to start using IKEA Place, along with assistance in better decision making. Lack of product reviews within the app, privacy and security issues, and lack of personal touch in the shopping experience are identified as some of the limitations of shopping for furniture via IKEA Place. Lastly, the application is useful during a pandemic when people need to fulfil their furniture purchasing needs under social distancing measures and the fear of catching a deadly disease.


Table of Contents


Acknowledgements

Abstract

Chapter 1.0: Introduction

1.1 Context of the research

1.2 Purpose of the research

1.3 Outline of the dissertation

Chapter 2.0: Literature Review

2.1 Background of AR

2.2 Application of AR in a shopping environment

2.3 Consumers’ interaction with AR applications in a shopping environment

2.4 Use of AR in the post-Covid-19 world

2.5 Adoption of AR by furniture brands and the use case of IKEA Place

2.6 Research gaps

Chapter 3.0: Methodology

3.1 Research questions

3.2  Research philosophy

3.2.1 Ontological & Epistemological considerations

3.2.2 Axiological consideration

3.3 Research design

3.3.1 Data collection method

3.3.2 Research sample design

3.3.3 Data analysis

3.4 Research ethics

3.5 Research limitations

Chapter 4.0: Findings

4.1 Motivation for consumers to use IKEA Place while purchasing furniture

4.1.1 Utilitarian motivation

4.1.1.1 Augmentation of furniture in personal space

4.1.1.2 Increased value of the purchase

4.1.1.3 Improved decision-making

4.1.2 Hedonic motivation

4.2 Limitations of using IKEA Place

4.2.1 Extent of trust in IKEA Place

4.2.2 Privacy concerns

4.2.3 Barriers to shopping online only

4.3 Motivation to use IKEA Place during Covid-19 pandemic

4.3.1 Overcome pandemic restrictions

Chapter 5.0: Conclusion

5.1 Key findings

5.2 Theoretical contributions

5.3 Managerial implications

5.4 Recommendations for further research

References

Appendices

Appendix 1 - Interview guide

Appendix 2 - An extract of the analysis/coding applied to the data

Appendix 3 - Participant consent form

Appendix 4 - Participant information sheet


Chapter 1.0: Introduction


1.1 Context of the research


IKEA Place, an augmented reality (AR) application, was launched in 2017 by a global brand, IKEA (Ozturkcan, 2020). By augmenting virtual furniture products into the user's actual surroundings, the app addresses practical issues that arise when shopping for furniture (Ozturkcan, 2020). IKEA Place offers a ‘try before you buy’ experience by allowing consumers to see furniture products' appearance in different settings, their size, and if they complement the surroundings (Smink et al., 2020). Past research found that IKEA Place provides a more exciting and motivating shopping experience compared to the IKEA website due to its unique offerings (Stumpp, Knopf and Michelis, 2019). Another study showed that users who used IKEA Place perceived enhanced levels of hedonic and utilitarian values compared with users who just used the IKEA website (Raska and Richter, 2017). This indicates that IKEA Place is an upgraded substitute to traditional shopping websites, where users can only have a look at product pictures, which is not sufficient to understand how the product will appear in a real setting. AR technology is turning the future into reality by generating functional benefits that cannot exist in the absence of such technology, for instance, the ability to check how furniture items will look in the real setting via IKEA Place even before buying them. AR technology is becoming more and more popular among consumers, as leading global tech companies like Meta and Google are providing AR filters on social media platforms such as Instagram and Google Meet, a video calling application. This argument can be strengthened by a report showing that the contribution of AR to worldwide GDP will increase from 33 billion U.S. dollars to 1 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030 (Alsop, 2021). These promising forecasts increase the importance of studying an application such as IKEA Place that could revolutionise the furniture shopping industry in the future.


1.2 Purpose of the research


As discussed above, AR technology has the potential to change experiences in consumers’ everyday lives in the future. However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the importance of digital shopping, and accelerated the pace at which consumers shift to shopping digitally by roughly five years (Papagiannis, 2020). In a scenario, where people cannot go out of their houses because of a pandemic, there is a constant fear of catching a deadly disease, and alternatives to shopping offline are more suitable for consumers. Mobile AR applications have proven to be a great addition to the journey of shopping, as consumers can view products at a convenient time and place (Dacko, 2017). Especially, in the case of shopping for furniture, having a look at the product in person could be very important to understand the product’s dimensions, overall appearance, and to imagine how that product looks in a real setting. The ability to accomplish these goals while sitting at home using IKEA Place could be of great importance and an interesting area to conduct research. While there is past literature on consumer’s attitudes toward IKEA Place, there is a lack of qualitative research providing an in-depth understanding of factors motivating consumers to use IKEA Place, the limitation of shopping for furniture using the application, and motivational drivers for consumers to use IKEA Place during Covid-19 — highlighting the application and usefulness of IKEA Place in a pandemic. The forecasted growth of AR technology and its impact on consumers increases the importance of this qualitative research in the context of the use case of IKEA Place. The research gaps outlined above shape the execution of this research. The objective of this study is to answer the following research questions.

  1. What motivates consumers to use IKEA Place while purchasing furniture?

  2. What are the limitations of shopping for furniture with IKEA Place?

  3. What motivates consumers to use IKEA Place during a pandemic or in a post-Covid-19 era?


1.3 Outline of the dissertation


This dissertation consists of five chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Findings, and Conclusion. In chapter 2, the literature review firstly explores the background of augmented reality, and how this technology is implemented in the shopping environment. Secondly, it studies how consumers behave while interacting with AR shopping applications. Thirdly, it explores the application of AR shopping apps in the post-Covid world, and lastly, the case of IKEA Place, an AR furniture shopping app, is discussed. Based on reviewing the literature the research gaps are identified. The methodological approaches for this study are discussed in chapter 3. The research follows a qualitative approach. Ten in-depth interviews were conducted for this study, and ten product review blogs on IKEA Place were studied, while both interviews and blogs were analysed using thematic analysis. Chapter 4 discusses the findings from this study that answer the three research questions. Lastly, Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation, discusses theoretical contributions and managerial implications, and outlines the scope of further research.


Chapter 2.0: Literature Review


The literature review will explore the background covering history, meaning, application of AR, and consumer behaviour in the context of augmented reality. AR is applied in various domains but the literature review will focus on understanding the use of AR in the shopping environment and how consumers have been interacting and behaving with AR technology. Since Covid-19 disrupted many ways in which consumers make decisions, this chapter will identify the role of AR applications in a post-Covid-19 world to further complement the discussed consumer behaviour theory. The literature review will study the use of AR technology by furniture brands and the case of IKEA Place, which is a furniture shopping AR application. Lastly, the literature review will be concluded by discussing the research gaps in the existing literature and how qualitative research will be conducted to fill gaps in the existing literature by further studying the case of IKEA Place.


2.1 Background of AR


The research on augmented reality can be traced to the late 90s. Azuma (1997) explained augmented reality as a system that can superimpose virtual information over physical space (Azuma, 1997). The definition of AR has not evolved much in the past. Craig (2013) defined AR as a “medium in which digital information is overlaid on the physical world that is in both spatial and temporal registration with the physical world and that is interactive in time”; while Li et al. (2018) defined AR as “an emerging technology that integrated virtually simulated objects in the real world”. Both definitions signify that AR systems augment virtual objects and integrate them into the real world. While humans are becoming more dependent on technology, the gap between the real and the digital world is getting confined (Li et al., 2018). Contributing to this trend, mobile augmented reality applications are making AR technology more accessible, as users can use AR applications on their smartphones, thus firstly removing the constraints of time and place while using AR technology (Benou and Vassilakis, 2010), and secondly getting access to see products before they own them (Riar et al., 2021).


In this digital age, both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) unlock new avenues of application. Being distinct from each other, many times the terms AR and VR are interchanged, so it is crucial to understand the difference between them both before proceeding with this study. The difference between the two terminologies can be explained by breaking them down further. Both AR and VR have the word “Reality” in common, which refers to the actual and real-world in which we exist and sense the environment and people around us (Farshid et al., 2018). Cambridge dictionary defined augment as “to increase the size or value of something by adding something to it”. It can be derived that AR adds value to reality by adding virtual objects to it, whereas, VR experience exists in a virtual environment. In augmented reality, users experience virtual objects superimposed into the real world (Azuma 1997, p.356), thus providing a more immersive experience. In contrast, virtual reality offers a 3D computer-generated environment in which users can interact with a world that may or may not be based on a real one (Li et al., 2018; Sherman and Craig, 2003).


The integration of AR technology is revolutionising many businesses. AR-based applications are now used in the real estate sector, saving time and money to visit different places and view different properties (Sihi, 2018); In the tourism industry, self-service technology (SST) is gaining popularity, where AR provides information to travellers regarding the destination and attractions and self-guided tours through navigation systems in mobile devices (Chung, Han and Joun, 2015). The leading furniture brand, IKEA, also launched an AR app for smartphones, that can be used to augment virtual furniture items in customers’ rooms (Raska and Richter, 2017) for a more immersive shopping experience. AR is gaining popularity in the gaming industry as well, an AR mobile game called Pokemon Go entices players to travel physically to play the game (Zach and Tussyadiah, 2017) and was named “the biggest mobile game in U.S. history” by CNBC (Jr, 2016). These applications of AR technology only scratch the surface of its true potential as Goldman Sachs (2016, pg. 4) stated AR could become the next big computing platform that could create new markets and disrupt existing ones. For example, Microsoft Hololens AR headset can augment virtual television in personal space, which is an economical alternative to buying an actual television and can potentially disrupt the television industry. 


AR applications can augment objects in the real world which could save the efforts spent on travelling and then comparing multiple alternatives. Thus AR provides the advantage of convenience and enhances consumers’ perception of products using computer graphics and visual elements. This shows that AR could impact the purchase-related decision-making process of consumers (Lister et al., 2008) and change the way they shop. AR’s role in influencing consumers’ purchase decisions has also increased the significance of Augmented Reality Marketing (ARM). Rauschnabel et al. (2022, pg. 2) defined ARM as “the strategic integration of AR experiences, alone or in combination with other media or brand-related cues, to achieve overarching marketing goals by creating value for the brand, its stakeholders, and societies at large while considering ethical implications”. The implementation of ARM is not only about generating extra sales (Rauschnabel et al., 2022), rather it is about enhancing customer experience during a purchase, brand value, and empowering customers with a greater understanding of the product in an efficient and self-guided manner.


2.2 Application of AR in a shopping environment


The most common application of AR in the context of shopping is the augmentation of interactive virtual objects (portraying different products such as furniture, clothes, apparel, etc.) in a customer’s personal space. The use of AR in shopping is still new to many shoppers, overshadowing the presence of traditional stores and online digital stores offered by brands (Caboni and Hagberg, 2019). But the future of AR seems promising, as the market size of AR in 2021 was valued at US$25.33 billion and it is expected to reach US$597.54 billion in 2030 (Grand View Research, 2021). The role of AR technology in building a meaningful relationship between customers and the brand will be significant, as the focus of brand advertising has changed from sales to consumer engagement, and this is done by enhancing customer’s shopping experience (Kumar and Gupta, 2016 cited in Sung, Han and Choi, 2021). Previous literature has found the use of AR in different shopping environments such as  Zara for clothing, Nike Fit for shoes, Warby Parker for Eyeglasses, and IKEA for Furniture (Alimamy and Gnoth, 2022). There are several reasons why brands are integrating AR into their shopping and brand experience. Firstly, with the use of AR applications, users can see how the product will appear in the real world and real settings, which solves issues related to ordering the wrong size, colour, style, etc. of the product (Zhang et al., 2019). Even if product pictures are available on the internet, it can be difficult to visualise the actual dimensions and other attributes of the products based on some online pictures. Secondly, if the customer makes the right order after understanding the product using AR, the probability is high that it would reduce the chance of product replacement (Kim, 2019), leading to reduced costs associated with product return and replacement. AR could also be helpful for physically disabled people, who find it difficult to travel outside for shopping irrespective of the social distancing measures in place. By using AR, such people can independently make shopping decisions and forget their disabilities for the time being (Rashid et al., 2017).


AR enriches the value created for buyers and sellers in a retail and e-commerce environment (Pantano, Rese and Baier, 2017; Scholz and Duffy, 2018), having said that, there are key reasons to think about why AR shopping apps did not bring a revolution in the market, even after existing in the market for a couple of years. In research by Alimamy and Gnoth (2022), it was found that there was no difference in perceived trust based on the effects of personalization between AR and online shopping websites. Over and above that research surveys have revealed that AR shopping apps have still not reached realism (Chavan et al., 2021), meaning the extent to which augmented products look real, which also questions the effectiveness of AR shopping apps. For example, a user installs an AR shopping app to get a visual representation of a product, but in return, the app provides inaccurate dimensions of the product, such an experience would disappoint the customer. Additionally, Chavan et al. (2021) revealed other shortcomings of AR systems, such as lack of acceptance of this technology among consumers, less availability of the required hardware, or slow performance of such applications. These issues must be addressed to provide a more suitable experience to customers and increase acceptance of AR systems among them.


2.3 Consumers’ interaction with AR applications in a shopping environment


There has not been extensive research on how AR can be exploited (Hinsch, Felix and Rauschnabel, 2020), but past research suggests many ways to promote the wide use of AR technology among consumers. Chung, Han and Joun (2015) claim that building a positive attitude towards AR is important to promote the wide use of the technology, and this should be done by conducting surveys to understand the desires of consumers. Here “attitude” means positive or negative feelings and evaluations of the product (Van Slyke et al., 2007). As per Qin, Peak and Prybutok (2021), consumer response depends on their attitude and behavioural intentions (Figure 1), meaning how AR experience influences the actions of the consumer, combined with the consumer’s attitude towards AR technology, which in turn builds the response of the consumer and indicates whether or not the consumer will use the technology again. 


Figure 1. Mobile Augmentation Reality Conceptual Framework based on S-O-R (Qin, Peak and Prybutok, 2021; pg. 3)


A significant contribution in this area is by Qin, Peak and Prybutok (2021), who highlighted the importance of technology acceptance in the use of AR. Technology Acceptance Model — introduced by Fred Davis in 1985, helped in understanding factors affecting acceptance or rejection of technology among people (Marangunić and Granić, 2014). The model defined four factors driving consumers’ motivation to use technology: perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, attitude, and behavioural intention (Davis, 1985). Venkatesh and Davis (2000) further defined variables affecting perceived usefulness, including the influence of other people, self-image, the applicability of technology, quality of output, and demonstration of achievable results. Many MAR applications in the market are still new to consumers. So, to create value for consumers via AR, understanding the factors driving the acceptance of AR technology becomes crucial. As suggested by Qin, Peak and Prybutok (2021), if consumers are allowed to control the content, presentation and imagery of objects in MAR apps, they will likely perceive the application as useful and easy to use, leading to lower barriers to the acceptance of AR technology. Over and above that, brands could think about ways in which their AR application could become easier to use, useful in an increased number of scenarios, and improve the quality of performed tasks to further motivate consumers toward this technology. The use case of AR applications can also vary depending upon the hedonic and utilitarian motivation they generate. Hedonic motivation is linked with the pleasure an experience creates, whereas utilitarian motivation is linked with how certain experiences can provide functional benefits in exchange for the price paid. Previous research found that when AR apps provide more interactive functionality, they elevate the level of enjoyment (Nichols, Haldane and Wilson, 2000), and thus improve the hedonic and utilitarian value of the consumer post the use of AR apps.


As AR is still relatively new for consumers (Smink et al., 2020), to widen the usage of AR in the context of shopping, brands will need to implement this technology in a way that the application of AR leaves a positive and lasting impact on consumers’ purchase journey. Sihi (2018) made a prominent contribution in this area by analysing the impact of the use of AR on the different stages of the Engel Kollat Blackwell (EKB) consumer decision model. EKB consumer decision model (Figure 2) breaks down the five different stages of the consumer decision-making process. The first stage is where consumers arouse problem recognition, this can be influenced by various modes of advertising and communication by marketers (Bruner and Pomazal, 1988), and people around consumers. AR applications could be ineffective at this stage unless consumers are aware of such applications. Once consumers start using AR apps, Sihi (2018) found that the application of AR can improve the decision-making process of consumers at the information search stage, as it enhances product understanding & perception in the real world. The ability to compare different alternatives in AR helps consumers at the “Evaluation of Alternatives” stage. After carefully evaluating the augmented versions of actual products in the past two stages, AR apps could help consumers move to the “Purchase” stage. At the “Outcome” stage, based on how the product performs, consumers re-evaluate their expectations and form new ones for future usage (Fornell, Rust and Dekimpe, 2010). It can be argued that the use of AR could provide a positive experience at the outcome stage if the information provided by the technology is accurate and fulfils pre-purchase expectations.


Figure 2. EKB consumer decision model (Sihi, 2018; pg. 15)


The majority of consumer purchases are transactional because, to acquire a new resource, consumers must relinquish something—it can be money, time, or effort. Therefore, as the EKB consumer decision model progresses, customers face the risk of losing money, time, or effort, where risk is defined as the consequences of making a mistake (Batra and Sinha, 2000). It is possible to infer that AR can lessen the likelihood of making a poor decision because engaging with augmented objects will increase customers’ understanding of the goods and assist them in forming reasonable expectations for them.


Numerous studies mentioned above show how AR improves the shopping experience, but questions can be raised on how close to the reality experience AR objects can provide. Gibson (1951) discussed lighting and illuminance are important to building a perception of an object. For instance, Areni and Kim (1994) claimed that a product placed in a bright light leads to high consumer arousal, which subsequently increases the likelihood of the product getting picked up and checked. However, the reflective index of AR objects is static and brands have to show the actual colours of the virtual product, in this scenario, the augmented product does not appear the way it appears in a retail environment. Hence, questions can be raised on the ability of MAR shopping applications to trigger stimulus and hedonic gratification of consumers compared with consumers experiencing products in different lighting. Contrary to the practical benefits of AR applications and devices, some consumers were found to be sceptical about using AR because of privacy and security concerns related to the data collected by such applications (Roesner, Kohno, and Molnar, 2014; Kotsios, 2015), this remains a challenge for brands to overcome and address.


2.4 Use of AR in the post-Covid-19 world


The past two to three years brought significant shifts in the shopping environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, because of which countries all around the world adopted closed isolation and social distancing measures to stop the spread of the virus (Jiang, Wang and Yuen, 2021). Some countries even imposed “lockdowns”, during which people were not allowed to move out of their homes for non-essential activities (Proner and Blahút, 2021). The impact of the pandemic affected people in several ways. Firstly, people feared contracting the virus because of the heavy death count and limited availability of beds in hospitals (Sarmento et al., 2019 cited in Gordon‐Wilson, 2021). Secondly, in an environment where the supply of goods is disrupted and many people lost their employability status and started relying on their savings, people were forced to move their consumption to Maslow’s primary level needs such as food, safe indoors, clothes, etc. (Mehta, Saxena and Purohit, 2020). Thirdly, shopping online became the preferred method of shopping for many during the pandemic (Shetty and Pai, 2021) likely because people feared going out of their homes to purchase goods. 


During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw huge shifts in consumer habits as well, which require an examination of how consumers would perceive the use case of MAR applications. At the time of a crisis, habits were invented and discarded by consumers to invest resources under constraints (Sheth, 2020). For example, the habit of shopping online instead of offline, prioritising expenditure on essential commodities, reducing interactions with other people, etc. While consumers retained some habits, Mehta, Saxena and Purohit (2020) argued that consumers could also go back to old habits if newly adapted habits do not bring significant changes in consumers’ life or behavioural restrictions are lifted by governments. For example, the use of the Zoom application for meetings has almost become permanent in many organisations because it did bring significant change in people’s habits during the pandemic, whereas, people have started visiting retail stores again after social distancing measures were lifted by governments.


Even though the world is now recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the implementation of AR technology could enhance the shopping experience and utilitarian value for customers in the post-Covid-19 shopping environment or even in any future pandemics. As discussed above, several people are shifting from offline retail shopping to web-based shopping, the adoption of web-based shopping could provide convenience to shoppers and save their time. However, it will not let users clearly understand how the product looks in real life. AR, on the other hand, can help customers see how their selected product exactly appears and could support the web-based shopping experience (Proner and Blahút, 2021). Personal care brand L’Oréal implemented AR to improve shoppers’ purchase experience by letting them try how products will look on them. This reduced the need to actually try the products and doing so led to a 49% increase in ​​L’Oréal’s sales (Proner and Blahút, 2021). As the pandemic caused forced closure of many stores, shoppers could not visit stores to make a purchase, this was problematic when shoppers wanted to make high-involvement decisions without the help of sales agents at physical stores. Products like furniture items could require high-involvement decision-making, because they are expensive, should ideally match the interior of the home, and need to adjust within available room size. In such a situation, augmented reality could help customers overcome all these hurdles by simply augmenting the virtual version of the product in their space and understanding the product before purchasing it (Proner and Blahút, 2021).


2.5 Adoption of AR by furniture brands and the use case of IKEA Place


In the past, furniture brands have used various modes of digital and traditional promotions, such as print catalogues, and printed and online advertisements (Wiley, 2017). One major reason why brands opt for visual promotions is that 70% of sensory information sent to the brain is from the visual sense (Wiley, 2017). Considering the extent to which visuals can trigger stimulus, AR application can be taken advantage of as an additional branch of service offering. Barhorst et al., 2021 (cited in Ramdani et al., 2022) found that the presentation of AR objects results in an increased level of motivation among consumers to process information. It can be argued that this phenomenon leads to a better understanding of a product because motivated consumers eager to learn more about the product will benefit from the use of AR by building better product understanding. This argument is further supported by Ramdani et al. (2022) where the author found that using AR improves consumer perception of the functional benefits of products while shopping online. Considering furniture items are more expensive than groceries and require critical thought before purchase based on their emotional, utilitarian, and monetary value. The use of AR in shopping furniture could provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience (Baek, Yoo and Yoon, 2016), leading to increased product understanding and trust while shopping online (Ramdani et al., 2022). The integration of AR to the online shopping experience lets consumers augment and interact with furniture items in their own space, this helps build better product perception compared to an online website where only 2D pictures and 3D models are available. However, this way AR technology can be used to collect information about customers’ surroundings using the hardware and software. This raises concerns about the safety and privacy of the consumers because a data breach could reveal very sensitive and personal information about its users (Poushneh, 2018). So companies must inform consumers how they will manage their data ethically to build trust between brands and consumers. Having said that, AR provides an advantage over the retail shopping experience in terms of virtual furniture without place and time constraints, but the retail environment lets consumers touch, feel, see, and sit on the furniture - an experience AR applications cannot provide. So, it can be derived that both offline and AR furniture shopping experiences have their advantages and disadvantages.


This research will study the case of IKEA Place, which is an MAR (Mobile Augmented Reality) application launched in 2017 (Ozturkcan, 2020). The idea behind this free app was to let consumers try furniture virtually in the real world before purchasing it (Ozturkcan, 2020). In terms of functionality, consumers can check out IKEA’s product catalogue and select an item to look at its augmented virtual version in the real world using the IKEA Place app. To use the application, consumers can scan their room using their smartphone’s camera, augment a virtual mockup for their selected furniture, then place it in the room, and check how the furniture looks from different angles (Smink et al., 2020). IKEA already has an online website that can be used to purchase furniture. Research revealed that the IKEA website provides quick access to information in a clear structure (Stumpp, Knopf and Michelis, 2019), however, compared to the traditional website, the users who used IKEA’s AR app (IKEA Place) ended up having a higher intention to purchase furniture items because of boosted hedonic and utilitarian values after using AR (Raska and Richter, 2017). Considering IKEA is a global brand, buying a product from them would provide a sense of reliability and trust (Rosenbloom and Haefner, 2009), which is also beneficial for IKEA Place. Additionally, the functional benefits of IKEA Place lead to improved consumer attitudes toward the application (Ramdani et al., 2022). 


Past research on consumer attitude and response towards augmented reality sheds light on potential reasons behind the motivation to use IKEA Place app. As some people may perceive AR as science-fiction, looking at virtual objects augmented in the real world, as if they are right there, evokes some reactions. Firstly, AR increases users’ interaction with reality via an environment using computer-generated graphics (Fuhrt, 2014 cited in Ramdani et al., 2022). This increased level of interaction, as per (Yaoyuneyong et al., 2016), creates a new dimension in which consumers can interact with the brand, service, and product. These drivers motivate users to use the IKEA Place application in their journey of furniture purchase decision-making. Moreover, the research found that after using IKEA Place, users were surprised by how real the augmented objects looked (Stumpp, Knopf and Michelis, 2019). It can be argued that this level of realism increased the confidence of consumers in IKEA Place to use it as a tool to make better decisions while purchasing furniture, this argument is supported by another study by Alves and Luís Reis (2020) that identified users finding IKEA Place useful for purchasing furniture in the future and easier to make a furniture purchase compared to other channels available to users. Last but not the least, users were motivated to use IKEA Place to minimise the risk and uncertainty about the product they intend to purchase (Ramdani et al., 2022), for instance, to avoid purchasing a piece of furniture that would not fit into the place or match the theme of the place. IKEA Place app solves these issues by showing consumers the actual augmentation of the product in a personal space or any room before the purchase, thus removing the element of risk and uncertainty.


2.6 Research gaps


The prior literature about augmented reality encapsulates its usage by brands and organisations to firstly build better product understanding by showing them how the product will look in the real world and secondly reduce their time and effort in shopping in person or reduce the risk of making the wrong choices. Considering the value AR applications can provide to businesses and consumers, the concept of augmented reality marketing is gaining more recognition. Based on prior studies, it is found that interaction with AR applications generates positive hedonic and utilitarian values, which further leads to impacting consumers’ attitudes and behavioural intentions. These responses affect consumers’ decision-making, as explained in the EKB model.


The usage of augmented reality (AR) in furniture shopping is growing in popularity as well (for example, the IKEA Place app), as it can help consumers make complex decisions more easily from the comfort of their homes. However, firstly there has been limited research done on furniture augmented reality applications, and there has not been much qualitative research done to fully grasp the various aspects influencing consumers' motivation to use IKEA Place when purchasing furniture — this study aims to close this research gap. Secondly, this research will explore the limitations of shopping for furniture using IKEA Place, which could highlight the shortcomings of purchasing furniture via this AR application, and also explain why consumers do not fully adopt AR technology while shopping for furniture, even though augmented reality technology has advanced substantially in the past two decades. Lastly, there is one key research gap in the literature is the role of AR technology (the case of IKEA Place) in helping consumers make better furniture purchase decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers have become more conscious of social distancing. After Covid-19, it is possible that if another pandemic forces the closure of companies, public spaces, and workplaces in the future, people would probably react by shopping online and staying at home to stay protected. Examining customer motivation to utilise IKEA Place during the Covid-19 outbreak is vital because it will help us understand why people will use augmented reality technology to buy furniture in the future.


In this paper, research will be conducted to find out answers to the three research gaps mentioned above. The findings from the analysis will help evaluate motivations to use and limitations of using IKEA Place, providing useful insights to better develop the application to meet consumers’ needs. This study will contribute to the existing literature by improving the understanding of ways in which augmented reality influences the furniture shopping behaviour, and decision-making of consumers, and shedding light on the role of AR applications such as IKEA Place during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Chapter 3.0: Methodology


Chapter 2 discussed gaps in the literature and past studies that focused on understanding the attitude of consumers towards IKEA Place using a quantitative approach. However, this research took an interpretivist approach to explore factors driving consumers’ motivation and behaviour to use IKEA Place in the furniture purchase process, and the values IKEA Place can provide in crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic or any future pandemic. Conducting qualitative research will best resonate with the exploratory nature of this study as it will be “concerned with words rather than numbers” (Bryman, 2012; pg. 380), and uncover in-depth experiences of research participants and data subjects. This chapter focuses on explaining the research philosophy, research purpose, the research design and the limitations associated with the methodology.  


3.1 Research questions

The literature review chapter outlines a brief background of AR technology, how AR is applied in a furniture shopping environment, and its impact on consumer shopping behaviour. This research finds answers to the three research gaps highlighted in the literature review. The findings from the analysis will help evaluate the offerings of IKEA Place, provide valuable insights to better integrate the application of augmented reality into overall IKEA’s marketing strategy, shed light on how IKEA Place can impact the furniture shopping behaviour of consumers by revealing the motivational drivers behind the use of AR technology in the furniture shopping context, and reveal the influence of IKEA Place on shopping furniture post-Covid-19 pandemic. The followed research questions are designed keeping in mind the points mentioned above:


  1. What motivates consumers to use IKEA Place while purchasing furniture?

  2. What are the limitations of shopping for furniture with IKEA Place?

  3. What motivates consumers to use IKEA Place during a pandemic or in a post-Covid-19 era?


3.2 Research philosophy


The research philosophy explained below is related to the development of knowledge based on concepts of beliefs and assumptions (Saunders et al. 2019). These assumptions include the understanding of different realities confronted in the research, the knowledge of humans, and the values of the researcher impacting the progress of conducting this research. 


3.2.1 Ontological & Epistemological considerations

According to Saunders et al. (2009, pg. 130), “Ontology is concerned with the nature of reality”. There are two widely accepted ontological positions (objectivism and subjectivism) to understand the researcher’s assumptions about how the world functions and the nature of social reality (Saunders et al. 2009). This requires the consideration to understand whether social reality is built upon independent social entities external to social actors or formed over “perception” and “consequent actions” of social actors (Saunders et al. 2019; pg. 137). From the interpretivist standpoint, this dissertation takes a subjectivist position to study the reality of different consumers that is subjective according to their interpretation and constructed socially (Saunders et al., 2019). That is why, I follow a less extreme version of subjectivism, i.e. social constructionism, because “reality is constructed through social interaction in which social actors create partially shared meanings and realities” (Saunders et al. 2019; pg. 137). In the literature, it is found that consumers can use an AR application to satisfy different needs and drive different values from it (Baek, Yoo and Yoon, 2016; Ozturkcan, 2020; Raska and Richter, 2017), thus further strengthening the selection of this ontological approach.


IKEA Place is an augmented reality app that can superimpose virtual furniture items in real surroundings. Users can use this application by augmenting selected items from the catalogue present within the app and then interacting with these items. It can be argued that the value created by the application for users can differ based on the technology acceptance level of the users, the device used, perceived experience, etc. Due to this, the experience of each user could be different from the other user, suggesting the creation of more than one reality by social actors here (Saunders et al. 2019). That is why I am keen to find out and understand the realities formed by each interview participant in this research process.


According to Saunders et al. (2019, pg. 159), “epistemology concerns assumptions about knowledge – how we know what we say we know, what constitutes acceptable, valid and legitimate knowledge, and how we can communicate knowledge to fellow human beings”. As this dissertation seeks to interpret the understanding, attitude, and feelings of different consumers, a positivist approach cannot allow us to study due to its nature of rigidness and generalisation (Saunders et al., 2019). This dissertation aims to explore and explain the motivational factors affecting the use of IKEA Place among consumers. Therefore, this study will follow an interpretivism philosophy that will enable an understanding of the subjects of this research from their point of view toward the world and interpretation of realities (Saunders et al., 2009).


3.2.2 Axiological consideration

My values at all the stages of this research uphold great importance in interpreting credible results (Saunders et al., 2009). As I selected the topic of this dissertation due to my interest and motivation in this area of research, at every stage of this dissertation, I relied on my skills to understand literature, gather data, and analyse data subjects, allowing me to act following my moral principles (Saunders et al., 2019). The findings of this research are driven by recognising the data collected from data subjects having an interest in furniture shopping and IKEA Place. To delve into their social worlds and comprehend their points of view, the respondents were asked semi-structured and open-ended questions. When gathering, evaluating, and analysing the data, I was sure to avoid adding my bias due to previous understandings and interpretations.


3.3 Research design

Given that this research is exploratory, it has a subjectivist ontological and interpretivist epistemological stand-point, and an inductive approach is followed to bring new understandings and insights on motivational and behavioural drivers of furniture buyers in the context of shopping in an AR environment using IKEA Place. It has been found that there is little or no qualitative research focusing on these topics and the role of IKEA Place in a post-pandemic world. Therefore, there is a need to explore consumers’ attitudes from a qualitative angle, which will provide rich data and an in-depth understanding of the motivational and behavioural attitudes towards IKEA Place.


3.3.1 Data collection method


There are multiple methods to collect data for both qualitative and quantitative research. Since the nature of this research is qualitative, ten semi-structured interviews were conducted and ten product review blogs were analysed to understand the motivations behind the use of IKEA Place and consumer behaviour towards AR technology. Semi-structured interviews are suitable because the focus of the research is fairly clear (Bell, 2018), and the open-ended questions combined with the semi-structure nature of the interview will allow exploration of participant’s responses and add depth to the data collected (Saunders et al. 2009) and discuss their experiences. The interviews were conducted based on an interview guide (Appendix 1), which consists of a list of open-ended and non-leading questions to be asked (Bryman, 2012). The interview guide has a funnel strategy, starting with broad topics and then focusing on specific study areas. To avoid questions being closed-ended, interviewers were asked questions that began with "why" and "how" (Malhotra et al, 2012). Since not all participants had used IKEA Place, a video displaying the app's features and functionality was shown for everyone to create an equal level of understanding for app users and non-users. Before asking participants questions about IKEA Place, the IKEA-produced video was played. Zoom was used to conduct the online interviews (a video calling application). The interviews lasted for about 45 minutes in total. Participants in the study provided written consent and received information about the study.


The Internet is a powerful source of documents for qualitative data analysis because of its vastness and rising accessibility (Bryman, 2012). Product reviews in the form of website blogs were collected to further strengthen the research findings. The product reviews blogs provide detailed product information and usage experience (Raposo Junior et al., 2022). Important criteria such as authenticity & credibility of blogs were kept in mind while selecting them (Bryman, 2012) from sources that have been publishing numerous product review blogs for years, and that do not have paid collaboration with IKEA in the publication process to form a bias in blogs. Even though the video shown to participants was adequate to empower them with the knowledge to answer the interview questions, however, the product review blogs increased the level of relevant information collected and revealed some information that was not shared by the interview participants. Given that product review blogs have a significant impact on many consumers' daily lives online (Ghazisaeedi, 2012), it can be assumed that the content of blogs influences a sizable portion of online consumers. As a result, the analysing opinions expressed in the selected product blogs could be a good indication of how many other consumers view the reviewed products. This is another justification for gathering product review blogs as a data source.


3.3.2 Research sample design


This research aims to explore the motivations and behavioural patterns of consumers who would likely buy furniture items in the UK. To achieve this goal, purposive sampling is used. Purposive sampling is the process of selecting suitable participants/data subjects who are relevant to address research questions (Bell, 2018). This method is more suitable than other sampling techniques in this case such as convenience sampling, because convenience sampling does not focus on recruiting participants/data subjects in accordance with the research goals (Bell, 2018), thus it may not be an effective method to sample participants/data providing valuable data within the time constraints to finish this research. After conducting purposive sampling to select initial participants for the research, Snowball sampling was used to select the remaining participants suitable to provide answers to research questions and further add value to the research. Snowball sampling is a form of purposive sampling, where initial participants in the research can be used to form connections with others contacts (Goodman, 1961). The criteria to include participants was that either participant must have moved to the UK recently, and thus purchased furniture in an urgency, justifying the selection of international students for interviews; or else participants should have bought furniture in the recent past. This research selected website blogs to further increase the research output. Many professional app reviewers put great emphasis on testing apps. In this research, the top 10 product review blogs were selected to understand the point of view of experts towards IKEA Place. This was done to fill any possible gap in findings after conducting interviews. The primary focus of purposive sampling is to reach the data saturation point, which is the point where no additional useful information can be extracted from participants/data subjects (Etikan Musa, and Alkassim, 2016). In my research, I conducted ten interviews to reach the data saturation point (Table 1), and I could see that participants were providing the same information again and again. After conducting interviews, I selected IKEA Place product review blogs chosen from the top 10 product review blogs in the Google search results in the UK. The minimum count of words in a blog was 307, while the maximum count was 1,423 words, and the average length of ten blogs was 830 words.


Table 1 - Information of Participants Interviewed


3.3.3 Data analysis


The data collected by the means of interviews was transcribed using the interview recordings. Afterwards, both interview transcripts and product review blogs were analysed using a “thematic analysis” (Braun and Clarke, 2012; pg. 57). Thematic analysis is based on identifying recurring patterns of codes highlighted in or across datasets forming themes (Bryman, 2012). Firstly, the content of the interview transcripts and product review blogs was coded to label different features of data sets. Following Saldaña’s (2021) codes-to-theory diagram (figure 3), the codes identified were then added under different categories, subsequently, these categories helped in forming themes (Appendix 2) that answered the research questions. Because of the exploratory nature of this research, an inductive approach is followed to conduct the thematic analysis, meaning the themes and codes were derived from the data content (Braun and Clarke, 2012). This process summarised here helped in discovering themes shedding light on types of motivation to use IKEA Place, the preference to use IKEA Place while shopping for furniture, and practical issues that could have been solved by IKEA Place for consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the blogs are written by professional reviewers, their expertise in reviewing IKEA Place revealed some of the values of IKEA Place that were not revealed by all the participants. Additionally, the blog content projects the experience of using IKEA Place concisely but with more clarity compared to the response of participants. Thus, the response of participants and product review blogs are analysed separately to further strengthen the findings, wherever possible throughout the findings and discussion chapter.


Figure 3. Codes-to-theory diagram (Saldaña, 2021; pg. 18)


3.4 Research ethics


To minimise any potential risks or threats to interview subjects and bloggers, this study adhered to ethical standards established by the University of Edinburgh. All the participants in the interview process had experiences of purchasing furniture and understanding the functioning of IKEA Place, which helped me collect meaningful data and answer my research question. The participant information sheet was shared with the research participants to share important details about the research and how their data will be handled. The participants gave written consent by signing the “Consent form” to participate in the research (Appendix 4), and their verbal consent was taken before starting the interviews. This defined the conditions of consent and compliance with data protection laws, as the research involved the collection of personal data (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2012). The name of the participants was kept confidential to respect their privacy. Additionally, I made sure that no details present in the research led to the disclosure of the identity of participants or bloggers to preserve their privacy and security. For data collection, product review blogs available publicly were only selected. However, to ensure the confidentiality of the blogger, no direct quotes that could lead to revealing the identity were utilised in the research output and the identity of the person making the quote on the platform was anonymised. This eliminated the possibility of identifying or harming people who posted content online.


3.5 Research limitations


Firstly, the findings of this research are based on ten interviews and ten product review blogs. During the research, I found the participants sharing experiences unique to them, thus allowing me to see through the eyes of participants and add depth to this research. However, the uniqueness of the response and the limited sample size of this study may not be generalised and represent a bigger population (Bryman, 2012). Secondly, not all participants of this study were users of IKEA Place. Some of them talked about their motivations to use the app based on the explanatory video of the app shown during the interview. The findings could have been more defined if all the interviewees had used IKEA Place before participating in this research.


Chapter 4.0: Findings


The last chapter described the methodology to collect, process, and analyse the data. This chapter covers the findings and discussion based on analysing the response of participants and product review blogs using thematic analysis. Following are the key findings and themes that emerged in this research:

  1. Motivation for consumers to use IKEA Place while purchasing furniture

  2. Limitations of shopping for furniture with IKEA Place

  3. Motivation to use IKEA Place during Covid-19 pandemic


The findings and discussion are based on the themes identified by using the methodology suggested by Braun and Clarke (2012), and the themes are discussed in detail below (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Code To Theme Chart (Braun and Clarke, 2012)


4.1 Motivation for consumers to use IKEA Place while purchasing furniture


The response of participants and product review blogs are studied to find key motivations to use IKEA Place in the furniture buying process. These motivations are bifurcated into utilitarian and hedonic motivations. Utilitarian motivations emerged more prominent compared to hedonic motivations, indicating the importance of the functional and economic benefits of IKEA Place.


4.1.1 Utilitarian motivation


These motivational drivers are linked with the functional and economic benefits of using IKEA Place. As Qin, Peak and Prybutok’s (2021) study found that interaction with AR applications impacts the consumer perception of utilitarian gratifications, this study discovered various factors affecting utilitarian motives to use IKEA Place. Participants described the ability to augment virtual items in their surroundings and make well-informed decisions while purchasing furniture as a key functional benefit of the application, whereas an improved cost-effectiveness leading to an increased value of purchase by using IKEA Place emerged as an economic benefit.


4.1.1.1 Augmentation of furniture in personal space


Among all participants, the ability to project virtual furniture items in personal space was found to be the most prominent utilitarian value of IKEA Place that would motivate them to use it. Since the ability to augment virtual items is made possible by AR technology, there is no other way to try furniture at home without actually buying them. The findings below support Zhang et al. (2019)’s claim that AR applications improve the engagement and shopping experience of consumers by solving key issues associated with shopping products. Participants shared some of the issues in the furniture buying process that IKEA Place addresses,


“[...] knowing if it would go with my room if it would go with my aesthetic. And if I want to buy that and how it would look in my room. So I think it would be very, very useful to place it in my room to figure out if everything in the room is matching or like what the size of it is.” (Participant 6)


Participant 6 demonstrates the desire to use the app because IKEA Place will let her check whether the selected furniture item matches the surroundings of the space, how it will look, and what would be its dimensions. This response sheds light on some of the issues consumers face while buying furniture, such as relying on the imagination to envision how the actual product will match the aesthetics and how it will appear in a room based on looking at either the pictures of furniture online or the actual product in an offline store. With the help of IKEA Place, Participant 6 will not only overcome these issues but will be able to pick the desired product from the app’s catalogue and augment it in their room, thus increasing users’ engagement with the product (Zhang et al. 2019). The experience of trying furniture inside the home first adds an element of a personal touch that is missing in other mediums of shopping furniture, because consumers may develop a sense of attachment by interacting with virtual furniture immersed in their surroundings as if it is real. This finding adds further context to the study of Zhang et al. (2019) by identifying key issues involved in the furniture purchase process and how an application like IKEA Place improves the shopping experience by letting consumers customise their surroundings and trying augmented furniture items.


Also, visiting stores offline and purchasing furniture is regarded as a tedious process. As described by Participant 1 “I definitely got sick of doing the amount of IKEA trips that I have. So if we could literally do everything in one big order with IKEA Place and have it all come, yeah, it makes it much easier” shopping furniture offline is tiring and something she did not enjoy. After learning about IKEA Place during the interview, she identified the advantage of “ease of use” provided by the app, which is another utilitarian benefit of IKEA Place. Based on the Technology acceptance model (Davis, 1985), the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of IKEA Place identified here could motivate consumers to accept this technology - as the quote illustrates that IKEA Place could make furniture shopping easier by reducing the need to visit offline stores, and get bulk order delivered by deciding which furniture items to get depending upon their look and fit in advance.  


The product reviewers unveiled some of the other utilitarian values of IKEA Place that would develop while using the application in the personal space. As Blogger 1 stated “[...] It's not too difficult to arrange things in your room. The item's scale also changes automatically as you move it, which is great for having a more accurate idea of what to expect.”, by using variable product scale and 3-d models, IKEA Place augments products that appear how real furniture would look like inside the home, additionally, users can move around the augmented furniture and have a look at furniture from different angles. This increases the perceived usefulness of the application as the realism of augmented furniture will directly correlate with how useful the user experience is, which would impact whether consumers will continue using this technology or not, thus relating to Davis’s (1985) Technology Acceptance Model, that found increased perceived usefulness leads to positive behavioral intention towards acceptance of technology. This argument can be further strengthened as “The furniture scale in IKEA Place is designed to be displayed with 98% accuracy.” (Blogger 5), meaning the augmented furniture items displayed by IKEA are 98% accurate in comparison to how they look in reality, thus implying a higher level of perceived usefulness for end users. Both blogger 1 & 5 agree that IKEA Place augments real looking furniture items which would be a useful experience for furniture shoppers using AR application to fulfil their needs.


This study shows that adding furniture to personal settings offers several practical advantages that encourage participants to use IKEA Place, including the ability to match the aesthetics of the product with surroundings to ensure that "everything in the room is matching" as stated by Participant 1. It also enables each user to try furniture items at home before ordering them, which reduces the need for store visits. It can be derived that IKEA will improve the furniture shopping experience, as the values listed as important by the participants are fulfilled by IKEA Place, as product review bloggers wrote.


4.1.1.2 Increased value of the purchase


In addition to its core functionalities, there are a few cost-related motivators for using IKEA Place. These motivators increase the value of money when furniture is purchased via the app and improve the overall value created for buyers and sellers in a business environment, consisting of retail and online stores (Pantano, Rese and Baier, 2017) — thus empowering consumers to make the right product choice, building brand trust (Ramdani et al., 2022), and increasing the probability of more future purchases from the same brand. On being asked how IKEA Place can impact your online shopping experience, Participant 2 replied,


“You're not travelling, you don't have to go anywhere, you just order it from the app, and it delivers to your place. And it has good return policy also. So yes, it would make a lot of difference in the shopping experience”, (Participant 2).


What Participant 2 means in the quote above is that IKEA Place would enable furniture purchases without the need to travel to furniture stores, and instead get them delivered by ordering online. Another concern raised by Participant 2 is the nature of the return policy, which she considers “good” in the case of IKEA. The response highlights how IKEA Place increases the value of the purchase and provides direct monetary benefits. Firstly, it is a fact that big furniture retailers such as IKEA have their stores on the outskirts of cities, thus requiring consumers to spend time and money travelling. If consumers decide to visit physical stores to look at furniture items during the research stage of their furniture purchasing process, IKEA Place can help by augmenting furniture items, saving the customer's time and money spent travelling. Secondly, many consumers do not own a vehicle, meaning after purchasing bulky furniture items, they may rely on a cab service to bring that item home, and they may need to incur more expenses to return if they do not like the product. Therefore, shopping via IKEA Place would minimise these expenses as well. As Pantano, Rese and Baier (2017) identified the values created by AR applications in terms of speed of information obtained, service improvement, and positive shopping experience, this research adds context to their study by identifying monetary benefits availed by consumers with the use of IKEA Place resulting in the prevention of money spent in travelling, thus identifying another key value generated by AR technology. 


Bloggers who reviewed IKEA Place put light on another factor that indirectly improves purchase value while shopping via IKEA Place. As Blogger 1 mentioned “IKEA Place, one of the most well-known free apps created with Apple's ARKit, earned recognition among app fans quite rapidly”, notably IKEA Place is a free app accessible to all users using Apple devices meeting minimum hardware and software requirements. Therefore, it can be accessed by millions of people without paying any money and the availability of the app for free further adds up to the money saved in the furniture buying process facilitated by the app. 


After comparing Participant 2's and Blogger 1's responses, it can be concluded that IKEA Place offers several economic benefits, including the ability to avoid travel costs when purchasing or returning furniture. Additionally, the fact that the app is free may encourage users to download it and increase the app's perceived value. As observed by Ramdani et al. in 2022, interactions with AR applications increase trust, this research adds context to Ramdani et al., (2022)’s findings by identifying cost-related factors that encourage consumers to increase their interaction with AR applications. It can be argued that consumers will perceive shopping via IKEA Place as economical, thus increasing their engagement with the app — this shows that cost-related drivers could increase the number of people trusting the app by increasing app interactions.


4.1.1.3 Improved decision-making


According to all the participants except one, IKEA Place can help them make better purchase decisions. While sharing their thought process behind purchasing furniture, participants discussed the involvement of guesswork in imagining how the furniture will look in a real setting. For instance, Participant 10 goes on to say “I keep asking myself if I really need this thing? What if it's not going to look nice in my place? What is going to be awkward? What if it is different from what I'm expecting? So IKEA Place will reduce that overthinking.”, this highlights the ambiguity present in participant’s minds while purchasing furniture because it does not matter where consumers purchase furniture, either online or offline, they would need to imagine the chosen product placed in real surroundings and think about how it will appear in their imagination. However, augmenting furniture with IKEA Place will eliminate this hurdle and improve purchase decision-making. This finding relates to the study of Riar et al., (2021), as their research also found that AR apps are efficient at giving users access to products that are not physically available, which improves consumer decision-making and product understanding.


In addition, Participant 8 who uses IKEA Place emphasised that the app eliminates the need to manually measure furniture by saying “Yes, it does make shopping for furniture easier than it used to be. Because earlier I remember I had to like, measure everything, how much space do I have? And now I check it online. I know how big it is.”. This response indicates that when consumers have limited space, they make sure that new furniture will fit in the available space. IKEA Place helps at this stage by eliminating the need to use a measuring tape by augmenting real-size furniture. This finding is related to Pantano, Rese and Baier's (2017) study claiming that by providing this visual information IKEA Place positively influences a purchase decision. 


As mentioned in the literature review, IKEA Place reduces the risk and uncertainty connected with a furniture purchase motivating consumers to use IKEA Place over shopping offline (Ramdani et al., 2022). My findings support Ramdani et al.’s (2022) study, as Participant 1, shared how the use of IKEA Place could reduce risks associated with purchasing furniture online.


“I tried to visualise this is how the rug will look here. This is how big it will be. Is this going to fit and then learning that you haven't measured it out properly? That was like the number one thing. So I think having peace of mind that what you've ordered is going to fit and it's going to look how you want it to look and not having to worry about returns and that sort of stuff [...] So it would make me feel more secure in getting something online, rather than having to go and look at it.” (Participant 1) 


In the quote above, Participant 1 firstly described the need to imagine and self-visualise how the furniture or related items would look in her personal space because product pictures available online do not provide sufficient understanding. Secondly, share finds it difficult to measure product dimensions correctly and ensure the product will fit based on information available online. Both these factors are significant in purchasing suitable furniture items. Participant 1’s statement highlights the risk associated with making a wrong decision about product size or appearance, which leads to increased stress and the hassle of returning the product. Her response reflects that IKEA Place’s ability to showcase how the product looks would help overcome the risks and concerns mentioned above. Thus, it can be interpreted that the use of IKEA Place minimises the risk and uncertainty of furniture purchase, making consumers feel “more secure” in ordering furniture online.


While the response of participants highlighted how IKEA Place can improve their decision-making, the findings from product review blogs contribute to understanding the impact of IKEA Place at different steps of the EKB consumer decision-making model. In the literature, Sihi (2018) contributed to showcasing the usefulness of AR applications in improving decision-making. Still, previous literature does not discuss how furniture AR applications like IKEA Place plays a role in influencing different stages of the EKB consumer decision-making model, thus signifying the importance of the contribution of this research to the literature.


This research reveals the primary impact of the usage of IKEA Place is on the ‘information search’ stage of the furniture purchase process. As Blogger 7 said “The app makes planning and relocating less time-consuming and tiring than graph paper and a list of measurements and less risky than guesswork.”, it is interpreted IKEA Place minimises the headache of searching for the dimensions of various furniture items when consumers are looking to buy and compare new furniture. However, IKEA Place augments actual-sized furniture items appearing the way they would look in reality, thus eliminating the need to search for dimensions of products and saving consumers’ time in purchasing furniture and improving the information search process.


This research also found that by using IKEA Place, consumers can better evaluate different alternatives, which is the third step in the EKB consumer decision model. As Blogger 10 described “Another fantastic element of this app is that it makes it simple for users to share photos on their social media sites, which only adds to the enjoyment factor by making it simple for them to receive feedback from friends and family.”, IKEA Place allows consumers to take pictures of augmented furniture items in real surroundings and share them on social media platforms. Since furniture in the home can be used by more than one household member, the stakeholders in selecting furniture could be more than one. With the ability to share furniture settings via IKEA Place with others, the app allows consumers to receive the opinion of all the stakeholders in this decision-making process, making evaluating alternatives easier and reducing the chances of disappointing household members. Secondly, as per Blogger 8, “[...] You can browse IKEA Place's selection of more than 3,000 products from the Swedish company and set them up anywhere you like in a room.” Thus the ability to compare a plethora of furniture options at home is impossible outside of the AR application such as IKEA Place because the freedom to place furniture items into personal space before purchasing them is not feasible otherwise. In light of this, Bloggers 10 and 8's responses offer two distinct viewpoints on how AR technology might facilitate the ‘evaluation of alternatives’ stage of decision-making in the context of furniture purchasing and contribute to Sihi (2018)'s research on the use of AR in consumer decision-making.


4.1.2 Hedonic motivation


As discussed above, IKEA Place offers a variety of utilitarian values in the furniture buying process. However, this research found more evidence for utilitarian values compared with hedonic values. Thus, the scope of findings on hedonic motivation is limited in this research. Previous literature discovered that high-definition imagery generated by computers leads to an increased level of enjoyment (Nichols et al., 2000). The same phenomenon is interpreted from the findings, as IKEA Place was found to impact participants’ enjoyment and excitement levels. This can be further understood by interpreting the response of Participant 7, “[...] But this looks pretty neat, and very real. So I think they've done it very well. And I would definitely like to try it if I have to make a purchase in future”. After watching the IKEA Place product demo video during the interview, Participant 7, who had never used IKEA Place before, displayed increased enthusiasm. This corresponds to the findings of Raska and Richter (2017), who asserted that the experience of using an AR application affects the intention of buying. She was persuaded by the near-realistic AR experience to "definitely" try the app while shopping for furniture in the future.


Raska and Richter (2017) left room for future research to determine the influence of the app's user experience on users. My research fills this gap by revealing how a bad app usage experience can impact expectations negatively. Participant 6 who used IKEA Place mentioned this after watching the product demonstration video, “I don't like it. To be very honest. I feel like there is a discrepancy between what has been shown in the ad and what is it like to be used [...]  So I tried to put a lamp on the table. But the placement was so wrong that it dropped on the floor”. From her response, it is vivid that her experience of using the app was unpleasant due to the functioning of the app. This resulted in a terrible user experience, which in turn produced negative hedonic value and shaped unfavourable perceptions of IKEA Place.


Product review bloggers also identified hedonic pleasure attached to the use of IKEA Place, for instance, Blogger 10 mentioned, “The company had created this application in an effort to make the process of purchasing furniture more enjoyable than exhausting. Customers only need to point, click, and choose to use the application!“. It can be interpreted that Blogger 10 discovered the element of “enjoyment” attached to ease of use, which led to a pleasant usage experience. Similarly, Blogger 9, who mentioned “IKEA Place's robust and thrilling app design makes purchasing furniture more enjoyable, and the easy-to-use interface makes it simple.”, also identified the element of “enjoyment”, over and above that, here friendly design and ease of using the application lead to a good experience. This is an intriguing finding since it implies that utilitarian qualities, like ease of use influence customers' hedonic values.


4.2 Limitations of using IKEA Place


Consumers' motivation to use IKEA Place is greatly influenced by their utilitarian and hedonistic values. However, there are a few limitations that could restrict the use of IKEA Place or applicability and, in some cases, discourage users from adopting the app. The degree of trust in IKEA Place, privacy concerns associated with its use, and some restrictions that might prevent IKEA Place from being used throughout the entire furniture-buying process are some limitations described in detail. 


4.2.1 Extent of trust in IKEA Place


One of the most significant factors in participants’ motivation to use IKEA Place is the ability to have a ‘try before you buy’ experience by looking at the augmentation of virtual furniture items in personal space and interact with these augmented furniture items by changing their placement and position. This research found that participants who used IKEA Place and enjoyed its utilitarian benefits consider it a trustworthy application, which relates to the findings of Ramdani et al. (2022), that show AR applications with high system quality increases users’ trust in the app for online shopping by improving their perception of the functional benefits of the app.


As Participant 3 said “Yeah, I always use IKEA Place. Also, whenever I buy furniture next, I will use it”, his extent of trust in the app leads him to use IKEA Place every time he buys furniture. For Participant 3, IKEA Place adds up to his overall furniture shopping experience by providing him ‘try before you buy’ experience, as he says “Before I'm going to a store I will check the IKEA place. So that I'm making sure how it will look in my home and then I'll go touch and feel it in retail store to see if I want to get it.”, thus the application provides him assurance that the furniture item he wants to purchase will fit inside the home, and once it is confirmed that the chosen product is suitable for the home, a need emerges to finally check the item in offline store before actually purchasing it to make sure the wrong choice is not made. This behavioural pattern increases the alignment of this study with Ramdani et al. (2022), who showed a correlation between the usage of the app and a positive perception of the application’s functional benefits.


However, this study adds depth to the findings of Ramdani et al. (2022) by discussing factors other than the quality of AR systems affecting trust in AR applications. For example, Participant 6 says “[...] I don't think the app alone can help you because I think this firstly, I didn't understand the app. It was not. I mean, I didn't feel it was user-friendly. Secondly, I'm not that good in technology. So maybe if it was someone else, they would have had a great experience with the app.” From Participant 6’s response, it can be interpreted that technology acceptance could act as a barrier to the extent of trust users have in the app. The above quote reveals that Participant 6 did not find IKEA Place user-friendly. But is that the case because none of the other participants talked about the bad user experience of IKEA Place? As Participant 6 used phrases like “I didn't understand the app” & “I'm not that good in technology” it would be appropriate to say that her lack of openness to adopt new technology could limit her trust in modern technologies such as AR. This study is essential to rethinking AR applications for seniors, who may be reluctant to use AR technology due to their lack of technological competence. Because until AR applications are not user-friendly for people who are not equipped with the understanding to use AR technology, they will not develop trust in it.


In my research, I found other factors that would impact the level of trust consumers have in AR applications. These factors include the origin of the brand and the availability of online reviews on furniture items. As Participant 8 said, “I don't know I guess the level of trust, I guess this might sound bad but like IKEA is Swedish. And I just think I just have more trust towards other brands from other European countries I would say”, one may conclude that Participant 8 bases her trust in brands depending upon the origin of the brand, because as the quote above illustrates, she trusts brands from other European countries except for Sweden. Therefore, this attitude of the participant may hold her back from making a purchase using IKEA Place. Research by Rosenbloom and Haefner (2009) on 292 individuals from over twelve countries reveals that the consumers’ trust in the brand can differ based on the place of the origin of the brand. For instance, in their research, brands associated with the United States were trusted the most and another key finding was that consumers have a greater extent of trust in global brands, compared with non-global brands, especially for durable goods. IKEA is a well-known and global brand selling durable goods, however, the response of Participant 8 challenges the findings of Rosenbloom and Haefner (2009), because Participant 8 does not trust a brand that even has a global presence. This increases the importance of studying the sentiment of consumers toward international brands and factors affecting their international brand preference. Additionally, it adds context to the findings of Ramdani et al. (2022) by introducing the impact of the country of origin of AR applications on the level of trust consumers have in brands.


Lastly, during the research, participants discussed the impact of product reviews on brand trust. Participant 3 said “I think their app does not have enough product reviews. I mean, when you buy something online, the review matters. So if I'm going to buy a chair from Amazon, then sometimes 40,000 people have already given the review.” Here Participant 3 considers product reviews important while shopping online, and he compares the number of product reviews available on Amazon, an online shopping website, with IKEA. It can be interpreted that the lack of product reviews on the IKEA website could motivate the participant to purchase products from another website where there are an adequate number of reviews available to make a purchase decision. The main research behind this behaviour could be a lack of trust in the products available on IKEA Place, mainly because of the absence of reviews. As per Kusumasondjaja, Shanka, and Marchegiani (2012), positive reviews play a crucial role in developing the initial trust of consumers. Therefore, it is more likely that customers will develop trust in other online shopping platforms to buy furniture in a scenario where they offer a higher number of favourable product reviews than IKEA. As a result, this study provides additional context for the research by Ramdani et al. (2022) by showing the significance of product reviews as a key factor in influencing user trust in the app. This suggests that IKEA Place should encourage customers to submit reviews after completing a purchase, as more reviews would help the platform win the trust of customers looking to buy furniture via IKEA Place.


4.2.2 Privacy concerns


While interviewing, Participant 4 highlighted the impact of IKEA Place on his privacy, which can get compromised by using the app. Considering concerns regarding data privacy in the past few years have increased due to the evolution of technology, understanding what privacy concerns make consumers resist using IKEA Place is insightful. 


“you know, take a video of my entire house and send it to IKEA. I don't really know. Like, it's AR technology is cool. But then it also gives a pretty detailed map of the environment to whoever's handling all the calculations, […] So it's the question of security. And I don't know if, like, I don't mind pulling out the measuring tape and checking if a table is gonna fit where I think it will.” (Participant 4)


The comments of Participant 4 reveal his concerns about using his phone's camera to film a video of his house to augment furniture items using IKEA Place. Participant 4 considers his home a private space, and he does not feel comfortable sharing that information with IKEA by filming his private surroundings. That is a key reason why he will not use IKEA Place. This makes it evident that the participant is unaware of how the data collected by the application is processed, as a result, he is sceptical to share personal data in the beginning. Secondly, in this situation, the participant described that his privacy and security are very important to him, and showed a lack of overall trust in AR technology by saying “AR technology is cool. But then it also gives a pretty detailed map of the environment to whoever's handling all the calculations”. Participant 4’s concerns are similar to Roesner, Kohno, and Molnar (2014)’s study that discussed data risks associated with AR applications, because AR applications need access to a variety of phone sensors, including video, accelerometer readings, etc., granting this access can create an impression of intrusiveness (Poushneh, 2018), and a leak of this data could potentially be exploited against customers. This mindset may also be influenced by the history of augmented reality technology, as demonstrated by a survey that revealed that 20% of UK respondents believed that Google Glass, an augmented reality device, should be outlawed (Kotsios, 2015). To gain users' trust in the application, IKEA Place needs to safeguard user data and explain how it is handled.


However, it is important to note that the privacy concern discussed above only affected a few participants, as other participants did not raise questions on how IKEA Place handles their data. On being asked, what your attitude is towards IKEA Place requiring the use of a phone's camera to scan personal space, Participant 3 showed trust in the brand IKEA by saying “Because I guess IKEA is well known and I have some trust on IKEA. But maybe suppose there is some company comes with like, ABC name, then maybe I will think why how they are using the data [...]“. The response of Participant 3 brings in another factor that affects the intention to use the application, which is the brand name. It can be interpreted that the participant considers IKEA a well-known brand, and because of its reputation, it is assumed by the participants that IKEA will not mishandle their data. Therefore, the brand name of IKEA Place changes the extent of the app-usage intention of Participant 3, because he seems concerned about data handling and privacy only when he uses an app owned by an unknown company.


In contrast to the response of interviewees, after studying the product review by Blogger 2, it was found that IKEA Place does provide information about data handling in their privacy agreement. Blogger 2 has written  “[...] a brief chatbot-based onboarding process takes place. You learn more about the app's capabilities, the reasons it needs your consent to use your camera, and the privacy agreement you must accept in order to continue.” It can be understood that before accessing the camera of the app, the app requires an acceptance of the privacy agreement, and then only users can use the app. None of the participants, however, voiced their opinions regarding the privacy agreement. The user's disinterest in reading through a potentially lengthy agreement before using an application download could be the cause. To provide users with the necessary information easily, it is important to make the privacy agreement more accessible and prominent within the app or the app store from which it is downloaded. Otherwise, many users may voluntarily skip reading lengthy privacy agreements. Therefore, it can be concluded that the information required to clear privacy and security concerns is not provided intuitively.


4.2.3 Barriers to shopping online only


Participants described scenarios in which IKEA Place would not be able to provide them with the experiences they need to make a purchase decision, which can be considered barriers to shopping for furniture online. These factors bring out some of the instances where IKEA Place could not be as useful because of the different needs of the consumers during the furniture purchase process.  


On being asked whether IKEA Place could change the frequency of visiting offline furniture stores, Participant 4 said “...if I want to get an expensive couch for my home, I want to feel the material, I want to feel how the cushions are, you know, I want to check it out. So I'd probably go offline and buy it then.” This quote reveals that the participant is keen to shop offline when it comes to purchasing expensive furniture items such as a sofa. Multiple factors motivate Participant 4 to visit a store, i.e. need to experience the comfort of the sofa, and to make sure furniture occupying a considerable amount of space fits in the home. Furthermore, a couch costs more than a smaller type of furniture, and there might be additional costs associated with its delivery, and having a look at the sofa, in reality, could help in understanding how well the furniture item will go with the theme of the house. Considering all these points, making the right choice could become crucial for consumers, thus requiring them to look at the furniture in person. Very similar statements were made by Participants 1 and 3, who said “But if it was something like a sofa, that sort of furniture, like, I want to be able to touch it, feel it, sit on it, and see what that's like” and “Because in person, I can feel the texture as it also matters”. Three participants agreed that it is important to touch the furniture item to feel its material, texture, etc. (Participant 4, Participant 1, and Participant 3). 


As per the study of Sihi (2018), it was found that AR improves the conversion of consumers at the stage of evaluation of the alternatives to purchase decisions by providing them with high-quality and customised features in an AR application. My study adds further depth to this study by discussing other factors such as the cost of the furniture, the comfort and the experience provided by the furniture requiring consumers to visit furniture stores in reality to affirm their purchase decision. This means that IKEA Place can complement the furniture purchase process by helping consumers with information seeking and evaluation of alternative stages of decision making, but when it comes to purchasing furniture items such as a sofa, then it gets difficult to understand the impact of IKEA Place on consumer’s decision to purchase because the final decision might be made after visiting the offline store only. The discussion highlights some of the abilities that AR technology can still not provide, i.e. the ability to feel the product, which is a huge factor when buying furniture items like a sofa or even a bed. Hence it can be interpreted that IKEA Place supports and complements the furniture purchase process, however, it cannot replace the in-store shopping experience by providing an online-only experience. That is why this phenomenon can be considered a barrier to shopping for furniture online only.


4.3 Motivation to use IKEA Place during Covid-19 pandemic


4.3.1 Overcome pandemic restrictions


Based on the data, it is found that the shopping behaviour of consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic was affected due to social distancing measures, such as the inability to go out of the home because of lockdowns, and the fear of getting infected with the virus. Due to this, consumers did not visit retail stores to shop, and even if they could, they resisted doing that because of the risk of getting infected. The Covid-19 pandemic had a deep impact on the preferred medium of shopping and the need of purchasing new furniture. Participants described different motivational factors to use IKEA Place during the pandemic. It is found that the most prominent motivation to use the application would have been the ability to overcome the restrictions in which consumers were living during the pandemic and avoid catching the Covid-19 virus. The response of the three participants below reflects an agreement that IKEA Place would have enhanced the participants’ furniture shopping experience during the pandemic. 


“I mean, people not meeting each other was the only thing during COVID. So IKEA Place could have helped in actually controlling the spread of COVID. Also, people on larger scale needed furniture in their house, actually, to build up their workstation during COVID. Because everybody was working from home. And most of us didn't have work place setup at home. So this is one of the things I could have put together with IKEA Place.” (Participant 7)


Participant 7 emphasises the significance of the presence of social distancing measures in society. She used the phrase “I mean, people not meeting each other was the only thing during COVID”, which suggests she resisted meeting other people during the pandemic. She had to buy new furniture as a result of her place to work getting changed from office to home. That is when she felt the need to build a “workstation” that could provide her with the infrastructure to fulfil her professional responsibilities while staying at home. This scenario aligns with the findings of Proner and Blahút (2021), where it was found that the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to shop and work in a virtual environment. For Participant 7, the pandemic forced her to work from home. However, this research adds a completely new perspective to Proner and Blahút (2021), i.e. emergence of shopping needs due to adopting workplace shifting at home. Although participant 7 acknowledged the need for remote work, she lacked a "work place setup at home," which led her to buy furniture items. IKEA Place was significant in this situation, she said, as it could have aided in virtually purchasing items for a workstation. The majority of people had never considered working entirely remotely and had no plans to set up a workstation at home before Covid-19 took the world by surprise. This is also suggested by Participant 7, as she said “most of us didn't have work setup at home”. In a situation, where people are forced to buy additional furniture as a consequence of the pandemic, IKEA Place could have helped in finding the furniture that would get accommodated in the space available at home. Echoing the importance of IKEA Place in setting up workstations during the pandemic, Participant 9 said “if I physically cannot go to the store, then obviously I will use the IKEA Place app”. For Participant 9, using IKEA Place is an “obvious” choice during social distancing measures in place, which further supports Proner and Blahút's (2021) argument that Covid-19 forced people to adopt shopping in a virtual environment. While Participant 7 described new needs to purchase furniture because of the pandemic, and how IKEA Place could have helped her in this situation, Participant 6, shared other motivations to use IKEA Place during the pandemic.


“So, I think because we're stuck inside the house, we can't go out, all the shops are closed, and you wouldn't even want to go out because you're like, you have the fear of infection and everything, right? So I think to buy something that's also a necessity in terms of furniture, you don't want to go out you don't want to get infected, you don't want to get anything back. That can infect your family. I feel like ordering online at that point was a necessity. And a feature like Ikea place could be really, really helpful. And I think in that context because in normal context, you know, you would just go and buy the furniture and you can like understand, like you can fit in and everything but like at that point where you can't have your friends help or someone else's help like fit furniture inside your home and you still want the furniture and you can just like pay the delivery costs and then look at how it fits through IKEA place and then you can just get it I think that that will make furniture shopping fairly very easy during the lockdown.” (Participant 6)


Participant 6 also describes the experience of being “stuck inside the house” and having no option to shop outside because of the closure of stores. She described shopping online as a “necessity” during the pandemic. Participant 6 provides a new perspective to the existing literature by sharing the prolonged effect of the pandemic on shopping habits. As per Sheth (2020), consumers adapted to new technologies after living under house arrest for a longer period due to lockdown and social distancing measures. However, as Participant 6 said “you wouldn't even want to go out because you're like, you have the fear of infection and everything”, it can be argued that the participant must have developed the habit of purchasing online, even when shops outside were open, and not only during the lockdown and social distancing restrictions in place. As described, the key reason behind this decision was the fear of catching the virus or infecting the family members. Thus it can be interpreted that health and safety concerns had an effect on the shopping habits of the participant because of the fear of the virus, and she identified these concerns would nudge her to use IKEA Place by describing the application as “really, really helpful”. Since Participant 6 resisted shopping offline during a pandemic, she thinks that IKEA Place would make furniture shopping “fairly very easy”, because of the virtual augmentation feature of the application that would allow her to augment furniture virtually in her home. Additionally, from the response of Participant 6, it can be interpreted that consumers could prioritise health over money in a pandemic. This adds context to Sheth (2020)’s study discussing how technology modifies the habits of consumers. Participant 6, who earlier said that “Okay, so basically in IKEA I tried to order online, but the delivery fee is like almost the same as I'm ordering the items and the more items I ordered that keeps going up. So I feel like that's a lot of waste of money for me”, which shows she generally does not buy furniture from IKEA online. But in a situation of a crisis, she seemed convinced to use IKEA Place and pay the exorbitant delivery fee, for the safety of her family and herself.


Chapter 5.0: Conclusion


5.1 Key findings


While this study unveiled many reasons behind the motivation to use IKEA Place. It is found that the ability to augment furniture items in personal space is the most important aspect of this application. As per the response of participants and product review bloggers, it is evident that IKEA Place reduces the ambiguity and uncertainty embedded in the process of buying furniture, by letting users have a look at furniture in their surroundings to make sure it matches the decor and aesthetics and fits well within the available space for furniture. With the availability of the app, it is easy to avail of its benefits anytime and anywhere. According to the study, the app can cut down on participants' trips to physical stores during the research phase of furniture shopping, saving time and money on travel and transportation. Participants & bloggers agreed that the application improves their decision-making by removing the guesswork, decreasing the chance of selecting an unsuitable piece of furniture, and avoiding having to start the product return process. The hedonic response that participants experienced after watching the IKEA Place promotional video in the form of enjoyment and a futuristic experience, which led to a positive attitude towards the app, was another significant motivator to use the app.


Participants identified IKEA Place as a link between the traditional website and offline store shopping experiences. Participants used this functional benefit to refine their decision-making because IKEA Place offers the additional benefit of augmenting furniture items in comparison to website images of products, but they still relied on actually seeing the furniture in person if it was expensive and large due to the presence of financial risk and limited space availability at home.


Finally, it was found that IKEA Place was the best substitute for offline furniture shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants discussed the emergence of new needs for furniture purchases, such as a "workstation" to conduct business from home during the pandemic, as well as their fears of contracting the deadly virus and spreading it to their loved ones. Participants were found to think of IKEA Place as a tool that could improve their furniture-buying experience by providing them with a close-to in-store experience while they were unable to visit stores due to the pandemic.


5.2 Theoretical contributions


This research fills gaps in the literature discussed in Chapter 2 by firstly identifying different factors on how furniture AR applications such as IKEA Place can impact the different stages in the EKB decision-making model discussed by Sihi (2018). The findings reveal that the availability of thousands of products within the app assists consumers at the information search stage of the model, and by allowing consumers to augment furniture items, IKEA Place makes the information search stage efficient and effective by putting important information in perspective and making it available within seconds, such as product measurement, dimensions, and its appearance and utilising this information to facilitate better decision making. By choosing between different alternatives available, augmenting them in various settings in consumers’ surroundings, and even getting opinions of others by sharing pictures of augmented furniture items, it was found that IKEA Place positively impacts the evaluation of alternatives stage, thus increasing the probability of consumers purchasing the product from IKEA Place. Secondly, Ramdani et al. (2022) discussed the role of the quality of AR applications in affecting consumers’ trust in them, this study contributes to the literature by identifying other factors that change the level of trust consumers have in AR applications. Apart from the quality of the AR application, firstly participants identified the user-friendliness of the application as an important aspect of the overall product experience, thus participants who did not find IKEA Place user-friendly did not show trust in the application. It was also revealed that user-friendliness can also depend upon the technology acceptance level of the user because if some users are not familiar with using technology, they might find the application less user-friendly due to their lack of competence. Lastly, reviews of products available in IKEA Place were also identified as an important indicator of having trust in the application while shopping for furniture. A lack of product reviews might nudge users to buy products from another alternative where a higher number of product reviews are available.


5.3 Managerial implications


This study discovered new opportunities for digital marketers in the retail industry to integrate the use of AR applications into their marketing strategy. The development of AR applications by retail brands is necessary due to the consumer demand for increasingly technologically advanced smartphones, the enormous impact of AR technology on the global GBP in the future, and the more favourable effects on consumers' attitudes toward product purchases following use of IKEA Place compared to traditional websites. Thus, the findings of this research increase the importance of implementing augmented reality marketing strategies by retail brands. Participants in this study highlighted that privacy and security concerns attached to the use of IKEA Place hold them back from using it. Therefore, brands need to mitigate these concerns in a world where more and more people are becoming protective of personal data. Lastly, the research found that AR technology can play an enormous role during a pandemic by augmenting products available in a store or a website in the real surroundings of consumers, thus letting consumers make a good purchase decision even if they cannot go outside their homes. By focusing more on upgrading and investing in AR technology, brands can future-proof their business by reducing their reliance on offline sales during any future pandemic.


5.4 Recommendations for further research


This research studied a set of participants consisting of users and non-users of IKEA place who watched a promotional video of the application before answering interview questions. However, the perception of consumers towards IKEA Place could be studied more extensively in future studies by recruiting more participants who are regular users of the application, as that could unveil additional benefits, shortcomings of IKEA Place, and the gap between expectations and performance of AR applications. Additionally, future research could study participants from older age groups, because the level of technology acceptance varies as there is a shift in the age group of users using technology. This would help in identifying how user-friendly IKEA Place is for the older generation and how it impacts their furniture shopping behaviour.




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Appendix 1 - Interview guide



Appendix 2 - An extract of the analysis/coding applied to the data 



Appendix 3 - Participant consent form



Appendix 4 - Participant information sheet


PARTICIPANT INFORMATION SHEET


Exploring The Influence of Augmented Reality On Consumer Behaviour - IKEA Place Case Study


You are being invited to take part in research on Exploring The Influence of Augmented Reality On Consumer Behaviour - IKEA Place Case Study. **********, an MSc. Marketing student at the University of Edinburgh is leading this research. Before you decide whether to take part it is important you understand why the research is being conducted and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully.


WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY?


The purpose of the study is to explore the role of augmented reality (AR) in influencing consumers' shopping behaviour in the retail environment by analysing the use case of the IKEA Place app. The research will help in understanding the influence of IKEA Place on product perception, shopping behaviour and its scope of growth in the post-covid world. The results of the research will reveal a detailed description of the AR shopping experience.


WHY HAVE I BEEN INVITED TO TAKE PART?


You are invited to participate in this study because you have moved to the UK in the past and bought furniture or related items, or you have been living in the UK and buying furniture or related items for your home in the past. Understanding your past purchase experiences combined with the exposure to augmented reality-based furniture app will help in conducting this research project successfully.


DO I HAVE TO TAKE PART?


No – it is entirely up to you. If you do decide to take part, you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. Deciding not to take part or withdrawing from the study will not affect your healthcare or employment. 


Please note that your data may be used in the production of formal research outputs (e.g. journal articles, conference papers, theses and reports) prior to your withdrawal and so you are advised to contact the research team at the earliest opportunity should you wish to withdraw from the study.


WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DECIDE TO TAKE PART?

If you do decide to take part, please keep this Information Sheet.  You will be asked to sign and complete an Informed Consent Form to show that you understand your rights in relation to the research, and that you are happy to participate. The form will be sent over an email via Adobe Sign that will let you digitally sign the consent form.


You will be asked a number of questions regarding past shopping experiences and opinions toward the usage of augmented reality in the context of furniture shopping. You are encouraged to use IKEA Place app (available on iOS devices) to understand how the app works before participating in the research. If in case, using the app is not possible, a product demo video will be shown to you to build foundational understanding of the product before commencing the in-depth interview. The interview will take place in an online environment over Teams at a time that is convenient to you. Ideally, we would like to audio & video record your responses (and will require your consent for this), so the location should be in a fairly quiet area. The interview should take up to one hour to complete.


Your response in the interview will be combined with the response from participants in the rest of interviews. The provided information will be combined to conduct data analysis for the purpose of this research.


WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF TAKING PART?


There are no direct benefits, but by sharing your experiences with us, you will be helping ********** and the University to better understand the effect of augmented reality on consumer shopping behaviour; explore how IKEA Place influences IKEA product perception; understand the impact of IKEA Place on consumers' purchase decision-making process; and if consumers perceive IKEA Place to be an app that can improve their product understanding and reduce their visits to check the product in person in the store.


ARE THERE ANY RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH TAKING PART?


There are no significant risks associated with participation.


WHAT IF I AM UNWELL?

If you feel unwell then please contact the researcher ********* by telephone on *********** to postpone or cancel the online meeting.


WILL MY TAKING PART BE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL?


All the information we collect during the course of the research will be kept confidential and there are strict laws which safeguard your privacy at every stage. 


HOW WILL WE USE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU? 


We will need to use information from/about you for this research project. 

This information will include your 

  • Age 

  • Occupation 

The research team will use this information to do the research or to check your records to make sure that the research is being done properly.

People who do not need to know who you are will not be able to see your name or contact details. Your data will have a code number instead. 

We will keep all information about you safe and secure. 

Unless they are anonymised in our records, your data will be referred to by a unique participant number rather than by name. If you consent to being audio & video recorded, all recordings will be destroyed once they have been transcribed. Your data will only be viewed by the researcher/research team, and a small number of anonymised transcribed samples by advisors or markers. All electronic data will be stored on a password-protected computer file and all paper records will be stored in a locked filing cabinet.  Your consent information will be kept separately from your responses to minimise risk of identification. 

If you wish to withdraw your data from the study, please contact the researcher within a week time of the research interaction.

Once we have finished the study, we will keep some of the data so we can check the results. We will write our reports in a way that no-one can work out that you took part in the study.


What are your choices about how your information is used?

  • You can stop being part of the study at any time, without giving a reason, but we will keep information about you that we already have. 

  • We need to manage your records in specific ways for the research to be reliable. This means that we won’t be able to let you see or change the data we hold about you. 

Where can you find out more about how your information is used?


You can find out more about how we use your information at https://www.ed.ac.uk/records-management/privacy-notice-research


WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE RESULTS OF THIS STUDY?


The results of this study may be summarised in published articles, reports and presentations. You will not be identifiable from any published results. Quotes or key findings will always be made anonymous in any formal outputs unless we have your prior and explicit written permission to attribute them to you by name.


WHO IS ORGANISING THE RESEARCH?


This study has been organised by ********** studying MSc. in Marketing.


WHO HAS REVIEWED THE STUDY?


The study proposal has been reviewed by The University of Edinburgh Business School Research Ethics team.


WHO CAN I CONTACT?


If you have any further questions about the study, please contact the lead researcher.


If you wish to make a complaint about the study, please contact:

 

[The Business School Research Ethics team (ethics@business-school.ed.ac.uk)  or Research Governance Team (cahss.res.ethics@ed.ac.uk)]



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