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EDITORIAL How Wickes and Kingfisher are making the virtual a reality

Today's DIY toolkit – metaverse not pictured

The DIY and home improvement sector received something of a boost over the pandemic, with many of us forced to finally admit defeat and fix all those niggling things wrong with our homes, things we were forced to stare at seven days a week.

Accompanied by ‘advice and encouragement’ from partners and spouses, many of us have now not only fixed that wonky shelf, but also have taken on bigger and ever more elaborate projects (why just reboard the loft, when we could extend it, to cite my own personal experience).

And DIY retailers have been doing their own DIY projects around their user experience and have, without mentioning the ‘M’ word, taken their own tentative steps into the metaverse. 

Wickes, for example, has brought together the new staple of the DIY toolkit, the explainer video, with its own curated range of tools and items to build a sector leading shoppable video channel.

There are more than 130 videos available, including buying guides, step-by-step tutorials and design inspiration. Items featured in each video are listed in the sidebar, with the option to ‘add to basket’ without opening a new tab or disrupting the video. 

Having also teamed up with RangeMe, the retailer is now hoping that budding builders and enthused home improvers will not only turn to Wickes to work out how to grout the bathroom, but also then buy all that need to do it.

The combination of video tutorials and the ability to easily buy what you need directly from that video is ideally suited to the DIY world. It is a sector that really lends itself to the use of video and, in many cases mine included, the viewer never has all the tools they need for any given job. 

Combining shoppable video – and all the SEO and hits that that can also bring – with RangeMe’s product sourcing tools is likely to see many an inspired DIY dabbler legitimately watch videos while not getting on with the job.

On a grander scale, DIY giant Kingfisher Group – owner of B&Q, Castorama, Brico Dépôt, Screwfix, TradePoint and Koçtaş across the UK, Ireland, France, Romania and Poland – is making a tentative step into the metaverse of sorts, with the introduction of 3D and virtual reality visualisation, planning and design tech to aid planning and design of kitchens, bathrooms and storage spaces.

Working with Marxent, Kingfisher is allowing shoppers to work from a single app to visualise items in place, map rooms and plan and design virtually, either on their own or alongside store agents. 

Like Wickes’ offering, this is a power combination. Across lockdown we saw an increase in the tentative use of AR in DIY, but the offering Kingfisher has produced takes it to a whole new level of sophistication, allowing for the consumer to go from the basic overlay of an item in their house, to full, 360, immersive VR of their rooms planned out and viewable as if you are in the room.

Both this and Wickes shoppable video has pushed these two DIY retailers forward as some of the most innovative players across the whole of retail and, to mind, mark out the first real applications of virtualisation technologies – a sort of on ramp to the metaverse – that we have seen. Together, they take the concept of using the next generation of digital tools to lift both ecommerce and physical retail to the next level. 

For the avid DIY-er, there is now the ability to plan out a job in forensic detail, watch a set of videos as to how to do it and then to be able to buy the tools and materials needed to make the virtual a reality. 

For other retailers it shows what is possible and will start to push consumers towards expecting interactive, shoppable video, VR and even the metaverse as standard when they are looking to buy. 

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