Updated: Aug 6, 2018
As kitchen and bath showrooms head into a high-tech retail future, more and more are embracing the advantages of virtual and augmented reality. The tech made inroads in fashion retail, but when you think about it, VR and AR are more advantageous for retailers offering luxury products and services. It’s great to see how you look in a pair of pants before you buy; it’s better to see a customized 3D visualization of a kitchen before investing $20,000.
Tablets, VR goggles and AR software are no longer novel or unfamiliar technologies; consumers of all ages are so at ease with their smartphones and the ubiquity of screens that putting on a pair of googles or trying out new design software is an easy step to take.
It’s part of a seamless shopping experience that starts online and concludes in the showroom. It can mean guiding a client through an entire design process or making it easy for them to use their smartphone camera to see products in their homes.
Practical Uses for Virtual Tech
Just like the client can use AR or VR to redesign a kitchen or bathroom, so can showroom owners use the technology when remodeling or building a new showroom.
Use VR or AR to test out new display fixture arrangements.
Regional managers and owners not on-site can take virtual walk-throughs of showrooms, reducing travel time, expense and stress.
Layering data over a virtual layout can provide much more information than charts and graphs.
Clients and the high-tech showroom
There are many advantages to incorporating elements of VR and AR into the showroom environment. For one, it allows sales staff to showcase more products, and more than that, with the right software clients can visualize what the products will look like once installed.
(Bonus: more virtual products = less clutter on the floor)
Of course, adding VR and AR technology to the showroom requires investments of money, space and time. It is essential to know what your clients want to get out of these new experiences before investing in the wrong technology.
So what do clients want?
A personalized experience
To see new products
To understand how products look in a home environment
Less guesswork during the design process
Confidence in the product and how it will improve their lives.
Imagine being able to offer clients an opportunity to design an entire kitchen or bathroom in 3D! They can play with paint colors, flooring, countertops, hardware, arrangement, you name it. Software also allows people to see how rooms will look in daylight and at night!
Note: A survey of 3,500 consumers in the US and UK revealed that 72% of people would shop in digitally-advanced brick-and-mortar stores. That’s up from 60% in 2017!
Guided by an experienced designer or sales associate, what was once an uncertain process becomes a sure thing. Seeing everything together before construction begins also eliminates mid-renovation changes. There is nothing worse (for both client and showroom) than finding out in the middle of a project that what you picked just doesn’t work in the space.
Simple, intuitive VR or AR experiences lead to higher customer engagement. More importantly, it is what consumers expect in 2018 and will for years to come.
Finding the right balance
As AI, VR and AR become part of our daily lives and the retail sphere, it is critical to remember that great customer service from a living, breathing human will be what makes or breaks a brick-and-mortar establishment.
We’re talking great customer service, the kind that gets people away from their computers and keeps them coming back. People can buy things just by speaking to their virtual home assistants; a showroom has to pull out all the stops to convince consumers to leave their homes.
Want to dig deeper into the customer experience? Click here.
Note: A Gartner study even predicts that 100 million consumers will be shopping with AR by 2020 and AI will manage 85 percent of retail customer interaction by the same year.
Fortunately for the products and services offered by a kitchen and bath showroom, there is no substitute for in-person interaction. Sales associates and designers have the chance to develop connections with clients, and leveraging AR, VR and AI makes for a seamless screen-to-shop experience.