A year after enabling shoppers to view products in augmented reality, home improvement retailer Build.com expands its 3D-enabled product suite.

Augmented reality shoppers on Build.com spend more and return less.

Home improvement merchant Build.com launched an augmented reality tool on its site in 2017 that allows shoppers to view a few dozen of its products to-scale in 3D via their smartphone screens. After a year of analyzing shopper behavior and its in-house AR team developing new features, Build.com now has more than 650 products and 1,700 SKUs available to view in AR, says Dave Nickens Build.com’s head of emerging technology. The SKU count is higher than products because of the variety of colors and finishes Build.com has available.

The reason the web-only merchant is bulking up its AR product suite is simple: Shoppers that use the feature are its highest lifetime value and average order value customers, Nickens says.

“We are seeing very strong signals that AR is being used by a devoted and loyal group of Build.com customers,” he says.


About 5,000 shoppers a month use the augmented reality feature, Nickens says. Shoppers that use augmented reality on average visit Build.com’s app or site twice as often each month than non-AR shoppers. Plus, the average session length for an AR shopper is nearly one minute longer than non-AR shoppers, Nickens says.

In addition to lighting and faucets, Build.com has 3D product models of vanities, fans, bathtubs, toilets, sinks and bathroom accessories.

build arWhat’s unique about Build.com’s augmented reality feature is that shoppers can interact with the 3D products, such as turning on a faucet and opening the drawer in a vanity. Build.com works to animate all of its 3D models. This is useful so shoppers can confirm everything fits well in their home.

“We often have customers that return a faucet because the way the handle moves, it hits their backsplash,” Nickens says. “Since customers can interact with our AR-enabled products—not just plop and spin—you can ensure that it will function in their space. “


This feature appears to have paid off for Build.com as the return rate for shoppers that use its augmented reality function is 22% lower than shoppers who didn’t use the tool and bought the same product.

Within the past year, Build.com has added a few more AR features, such as a “ghosting product” feature that is triggered once the floor surface is detected. This gives shoppers a transparent view of the product image before they tap it in place. The AR team also increased the speed and responsiveness of its AR functionality, Nickens says. Next up, the retailer will be launching a feature so shoppers can save where they placed their products, a shared viewing experience and a measurement tool, he says.

Build.com is featured in Internet Retailer’s 2019 Hot 100 issue.