IKEA has invested in a virtual design service in the UK and US to compete with rival Wayfair. Customers pay £25 ($34) for a 45-60 minute design advice video call and product list, or can pay £125 for three workspace design consultations, a floorplan and 3D visuals. Ingka, which owns IKEA, has trained 8,500 call centre workers as virtual design advisers since 2021, while Billie (named after IKEA’s Billy bookcase range) has fielded 47% of customer queries to call centres over the past two years. Sales via the virtual service contributed €1.3bn ($1.4bn) to Ingka’s income in 2022, 3.3% of its total. The company wants to raise that to 10% by 2028. Wayfair has launched a digital design studio where shoppers create a digital rendering of a room to experiment with furniture styles and layout. Jocelyn Paulley, co-head of the retail sector team at Gowling WLG in London, said the virtual services needed significant investment to ensure colours, textures and sizes were accurate, and returns were minimised.

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