Bricks or clicks: The customer’s journey with 3D

Our industry talks a lot about the consumer journey and enhancing the shopping and buying experience. 3D visualization and configuration tools offer the most advanced, practical and effective way to accomplish this while at the same time elevating the product, brand and customer relationship.

Quality product visualization has become not only the norm but also the expectation in the furniture industry to the point of being essential in moving the customer journey along through its various phases of awareness, consideration and purchase.

3D technologies allow the consumer to seamlessly shop and visualize the product attributes within their living spaces, providing a seamless integration with their preferred design style. Highly sophisticated 3D models simplify the process of configuring and visualizing customizable furniture, enabling customers to see important product details like fabric texture and wood grain.

There are synergies to be gained with investing in 3D/augmented reality software whether the consumer is online or in-store.

Enhance the online experience

Many customer journeys begin online with “web-rooming” which is when a customer looks at various styles as they research retailers or manufacturers. Some companies choose to limit what’s available online, which is a sound strategy for items that might be overwhelming in complexity. That’s where the first opportunity exists for 3D technology in that it allows you to show the objects better and much more in-depth.  

A tech-savvy consumer is more likely to buy directly from your site if they are able to see the object exactly as they desire. Additionally, the use of AR can remove further doubt and make the “buy-now” moment easier. All of these things can help position your brand as top of mind for future purchases.

Not every online experience results in sales. However, a remarkable opportunity exists with the integration of 3D configurators that allow us to gain a lot of data about client preferences which can be a gold mine when you’re trying to re-market in the future and target the client with personalized ads.

From web-rooming to in-store

So what happens when an online experience does not end in a purchase? Most people will do web-rooming and then follow up by visiting a brick-and-mortar location. According to a 2021 furniture consumer survey by a leading industry media company, customers reported that the top reasons they liked visiting furniture stores were the ability to see and touch the products (79%), the ability to try out furniture (64%), and the ability to get design ideas (42%).

The smart omnichannel approach is to demonstrate the customization abilities to these web-roomers on the front end, then entice them to visit a store where you can then provide an exceptional purchasing experience while building the relationship with a face-to-face interaction. The 3D technology online helps take away some of the doubt during the discovery phase, and it has the additional value of providing the customer with a positive experience so that they want to shop your store first — and perhaps only.

Elevate the brick-and-mortar experience

When consumers go into a brick-and-mortar store for the discovery phase, you may not consider 3D technology to be the first tool of choice. Some clients need to look and feel first, and that’s understandable — especially for larger more fit-oriented items like beds, sofas, etc. 

The valuable role of 3D tools continues in-store, especially as consumers now expect a seamless experience from online to in-person. A salesperson or design specialist armed with an iPad can use a configurator to talk the customer visually through all of the possibilities — making the item truly “built just for you.”

A few different opportunities exist for effectively using 3D configurators when working with a client in-person: You can either jump directly to a catalog (your website or to look for items the client would like to see next, or a more likely scenario would be to stop at the item that interests your client and quickly personalize it for them using 3D configurators and tools. 

Not every brick-and-mortar conversation ends in sales, and here’s where 3D tools can be the hero to get the customer back in or even close the deal by phone or email. With 3D technology, the sales associate can follow up with new ideas or options and offer high-quality visuals. The 3D tools can be a key differentiator for your retail brand and the RSA’s own brand to stay top-of-mind with the customer as they continue their buying journey.

Make the journey memorable

Regardless of the path the consumer chooses, the same technology can address different pinpoints. A good tech solution should be flexible to fit your strategy. Though it’s possible that tech would be a path itself for the customer journey, in most cases it’s crucial to make it that almost transparent assistant that’s always there and available to assist when a pinpoint arises — be it sizing, style, configuration options, etc.

Giving customers confidence in their purchase with tools such as 3D visualization not only empowers their decision-making ability, but also more often than not can seal the deal — a win-win for all!

To quote one of the retail greats: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” — Jeff Bezos

Michal Stachowski is co-founder and chief visualization officer for Intiaro, a provider of 3D visualization and augmented reality technology for the furniture industry.

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