How Technology Is Changing Online Furniture Shopping
Furniture manufacturers are developing new generations of e-commerce software that makes it easier than ever before to visualize and customize furniture online — before placing an order.
TRADITIONAL WAYS OF SELECTING AND PURCHASING FURNITURE ARE CHANGING RADICALLY — THANKS TO NEW FURNITURE TECHNOLOGY SHOPPING TOOLS
We live in a world where furniture technology is transforming the products we use, isn’t it about time that modern technology helps us reinvent the furniture purchasing process as well?
Software developers at Google, Apple, and Amazon certainly seem to think so.
Each of these tech giants has been working on software development kits that make it easier for users to visualize products (such as furniture) that are placed in real-world scenes captured by smartphone cameras. The technology, known as Augmented Reality (AR), comes in many flavors:
- Apple with their ARKit is leading the pack at the moment. ARKit, which works with late model iOs-based iPhones and iPads, has already been used by developers to make sophisticated shopping apps. See Apple’s Augmented Reality website for more.
- Google, hoping to catch up with Apple, recently ditched its previous effort (Tango) in favor of its new ARCore technology, which is designed for Android devices. It’s being deployed on the upcoming new Samsung smartphones.
- Finally, Amazon, which is a formidable software developer in its own right, has used Apple’s ARKit to create its own shopping app, called AR view. See the introductory video below:
WAIT? HAVEN’T WE HEARD ALL THIS TECH SONG AND DANCE BEFORE?
Professionals working in the contract furniture market may be rolling their eyes at this point. How many times before have software vendors promised us the moon and delivered bupkis? From Cyberspace headsets and gloves to VRML-based browser plug-ins, to Flash-based electronic storefronts to virtual reality (VR) goggles, each of these earlier “revolutions” has failed to make significant changes in the way that the professional contract furniture market operates.
So we hesitate to say these famous last words: But wait, this time it’s different.
What we can say with certainty is that the latest generator of e-commerce software has become simple enough for consumers to use. You can’t argue with the fact that many digital natives are already quite adept at using Augmented Reality tools, from SnapChat filters that place virtual doggy ears on their friends to chasing after AR-based Pokémon characters.
The commercial CAD market is also making progress toward making photo-realistic renderings part of the mainstream development process. For example, furniture manufacturer Knoll has entered into a partnership with Swedish CAD software developer Configura, maker of CET Designer, the parametric-based software for space planning and design. This partnership could help Knoll deliver photorealistic renderings, fly-thru videos, and virtual reality experiences for their customers as part of the design process.
SHIFT TOWARD ANCILLARY FURNITURE PURCHASES IS DRIVING MAJOR CHANGES IN THE PURCHASING CYCLE
The need to make the contract furniture purchasing cycle simpler has never been greater.
The problem is exacerbated by the shift in demand toward ancillary furniture solutions. With sales of ancillaries now approaching 80% of the overall commercial office furniture spend, the burden of managing product information from the different vendors has become overwhelming.
Contract furniture consultant Amanda Schneider pointed this out in our Oct. 2017 interview. She said that professionals working in the commercial contract furniture arena had become increasingly frustrated by the slow, cumbersome sales cycle. Too much time is spent obtaining hardcopy catalogs and product sell-sheets from Dealers and Manufacturer’s Reps, then coming back to them again with repeated requests for more material samples and renderings.
Schneider predicts that easy-to-use online e-commerce sales configurators will become a key part of the commercial contract furniture sales cycle.
She also believes that online configurators have the potential to unlock significant growth in the customsegment of the contract furniture business as well — offering more business opportunity for alert Dealers and Manufacturer’s Reps — by making it easier to manage detailed configuration and pricing options.
OUR NEW FORMASPACE OFFICE 3D CONFIGURATOR SPEEDS UP THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS
Here at Formaspace, we’ve taken Amanda Schneider’s predictions about the contract furniture industry’s need for easy-to-use e-commerce tools to heart. In early 2017, we took a survey of furniture professionals and found they were looking for fast, efficient ways to visualize the different options in our most popular product line, our Weldmarx series of office desks, workstations, and tables.
In response, we created our free, online 3D Configurator browser application, which uses the same real-time digital visualization capabilities you’d find in a computer game.
Using this self-service tool, Architects and Interior Designers, as well as Dealers and Manufacturer’s Reps, can view detailed, photo-realistic renderings of furniture configurations — from any angle — and share them with their clients.
The Formaspace 3D Configurator allows you to try out alternative surface treatments and material choices on the fly — without having to wait days for samples to be delivered to your office.
Dealers and Manufacturer’s Reps will also appreciate how the new Formaspace 3D Configurator tool speeds up the sales process — allowing them to focus on higher, value-add activities rather than spending time fulfilling multiple requests for renderings and samples.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Once you launch the Formaspace Office 3D Configurator in your favorite Internet PC or mobile browser, you begin by selecting your furniture configuration to view. Now you can easily orbit around your selected desk, table or workstation, and view it from different perspectives. Zoom in to look at specific configuration details.
Make changes to your configuration (ranging from different power connections, shelving, and storage units), and the rendering will update immediately.
You can also experiment with different color, finish, and material choices. For example, you can see what different hardwood tops (such as walnut or maple) will look like on your selected desk, table or workstation. You can also evaluate different laminate color and pattern choices. Just click different configuration options or surface finish and material options and watch as it updates the screen.
The 3D Configurator makes it easy to see how the different configuration options work together. It also streamlines the decision-making process when specifying color, finish, and material choices. It’s no longer necessary to bother your Dealer or Manufacturer’s Rep with another request to send you additional hardcopy sell-sheets, catalog inserts, material samples, or renderings by snail mail.
Instead, the 3D Configurator provides you with 24×7 access to renderings to help you specify your order easily and efficiently. And you can share the results via email with your clients, so the whole procurement process becomes more manageable and less prone to errors.
PRINTED CATALOGS AND SELL-SHEETS ARE OBSOLETE WHEN YOU CAN SHARE INTERACTIVE, PHOTO-REALISTIC PRODUCT RENDERINGS WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Isn’t it time to get everyone on the same page?