Making it Work: Unsure about that sofa? Beam a virtual version into your home and decide

Since 2018, Allen Wixted’s augmented reality start-up Plop has been helping clients woo customers by offering 3D virtual versions of products to try out at home

Allen Wixted, founder of augmented reality start-up Plop: ‘It helps people come to a decision really quickly.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

Since it was founded by Allen Wixted in 2018, the Irish augmented reality (AR) start-up Plop has been changing how retailers can advertise their products, helping them turn prospective customers into confirmed buyers.

Using AR, Plop’s clients can let would-be customers project 3D versions of products into their own living rooms, and even allow them to try on shoes or clothes in virtual format.

“When I talked to retailers in the early days, I would see a sparkle in their eyes once I showed them that they could put something into someone’s room just using their phone or iPad,” Wixted, a Limerick native, said.

“If a customer wanted to know what a handbag, a table or a couch looked like in their room before they bought it, they could press a button and see it.”

So far, Plop has mostly offered its services to firms in the homeware sector, as furniture companies have traditionally struggled to convert browsers into buyers.

“In that industry, companies spend more than their peers on advertising but get less back in results,” Wixted said. “Furniture is a large, considered purchase, so firms are left trying to attract customers back to the same site multiple times before they eventually feel confident about their decision to buy.”

If you want to buy a sofa from a client of Plop’s, you simply have to open the site on your phone, and the system will then let you place a virtual 3D version of the couch in your living room. The benefits are obvious for sellers and anxious customers alike.

“It helps people come to a decision really quickly,” Wixted said. “Instead of your typical interior design scrapbook, you can literally plop the product into your house and see what it looks like.”

Plop, which has backing from Enterprise Ireland, now counts EZ Living, Swyft Furniture and Minotti, the London-based luxury homeware company, among its clients. It employs 12 people and is planning to add at least another four staff before the end of the year.

But Wixted said the firm was not only interested in working with furniture retailers. “We are agnostic about who we work with. We’ve done everything from manufacturing equipment, to small buildings to luxury goods like clothing,” he said.

Plop took on investment from Enterprise Ireland last year, but believes it can also expand its operations organically given its healthy balance sheet and swelling list of clients.

“We’re profitable, we’re growing and we’re just trying to nail our sales process before we can get a full team in to manage and scale that,” Wixted said. “Once we do that, we’ll be in a great position to look for more funding if and should we need it.”