On Tuesday night, Mike Festa, the Director of Wayfair Next, led a fireside chat on the future of shopping during the monthly Boston Voice Meetup. Mike has been at Wayfair for the last five years, spearheading what started as a hackathon project, and now is a team of 13, bringing millions of products into the third dimension for use in photo-realistic renderings, virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
“We love to get our hands on anything we can from a new technology perspective,” he said. “Some of it is experimental and early, like VR, and others are much more immediate like AR. AR can help our customers envision how their space can be spruced up with a couch or armchair before they buy, completing the final touches to their new apartment or passion project.”
Wayfair Next doesn’t just tinker with the most exciting technology to push the boundaries of consumer interaction. Mike’s team also leads the charge on how technology can be used to solve immediate customer or business problems.
The future of Wayfair Next is one that Mike inivisons as less of an “innovation team” and more of a way to integrate technology and experimentation throughout each team at Wayfair. The AR experience, which started as a hackathon project, has been transitioned to the mobile team, where further investments are being made to improve upon what the Wayfair Next team started. More recently, Wayfair launched a Google Home integration, with the hopes that voice can help answer questions their customers might have, such as: “What’s the status of my last order?” and “When will my couch be here?”
That integration started as a hackathon project by an intern, but will serve as the foundation for how voice and AR will be the future of how consumers interact with the Wayfair brand.
“In the next three to five years, we want you to be fully immersed in the Wayfair experience with AR, voice and other forms of technology,” Festa said. “You should be able to say, ‘Here’s my space. I have a couple arm chairs and a side table. What can I do with this?’”
Festa envisions a world that jumps between the inspiration for a space, similar to Pinterest and what 3D designers are doing in the community, with what you can put in your home or office. Once you gain that inspiration, you want to ask for recommendations based on the theme of the room or space, and then ask for darker couches, or taller statues. It’s all around having conversations.
And as Wayfair continues to increase its headcount and double down on memorable customers experiences, it will be exciting to see where technology will take them.