POST WRITTEN BY
Co-founder and CEO of Marxent, the leader in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for homes, furniture and spaces.
Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz and Google Image Search hold massive power when it comes to brand discovery and the formation of product preferences. Just ask direct-to-consumer furniture companies like Article, Maiden Home and Interior Define.The influence of lifestyle imagery on purchase behavior is stunning. According to Pinterest (via SocialMediaToday), 83% of all women in the United States ages 25-54 visit Pinterest. Of that total, 43% of those visits are related to purchases for the home within the next five years.
This endless stream of inspirational photos is easily curated by consumers into boards or lists that illustrate the idea of a perfect kitchen, a perfect living room, a perfect lifestyle, a perfect future.
The new ‘location, location, location’ is personalization
It’s true that physical location still matters. Retailers have to be where the eyeballs are, but those eyeballs are increasingly on Instagram and Pinterest searching photos that illustrate the possibilities, seed ideas and help refine their tastes. How do these images translate into sales? Good question.
Photos provide inspiration, but what shoppers really want is to explore how the products featured in photos fit into their lives. In most cases, that means advanced personalization — the tailoring of the experience to the individual customer. It’s one reason my company created Photo to Floorplan, a design method which allows shoppers to look at an inspirational photo, tap on the items they like and have them instantly populate the floor plan of their real-world space.
The use of high-quality visual content translates into sales. For example, Pinterest reports (via AdWeek) that people who engage with Promoted Pins spend seven times more than people who don’t. But what comes after inspiration? Instagram recently introduced a feature that lets users buy the items seen in photos, and Pinterest Pins and Instagram posts can now be curated and made shoppable with platforms like Curalate. That’s a good start but it’s only the beginning.
The answer is clear: Let shoppers design from photos and give them the power to control the journey.
Inspiration is where purchases start, not where they end
We all know that vertical visual search engines like Zillow, Houzz and Pinterest are helping shoppers to envision their perfect future before they ever enter a store. I’ve used this technology myself, and I’m assuming most of you have as well. In a recent study conducted by MFour Mobile Research (via AP News), “Two-thirds of millennials prefer to research significant purchases online.”
The natural next step for complex kitchen and home projects is to translate inspirational photos into relevant, personalized designs. This can be as easy as selecting a style profile, finding a photo or collection of photos that resonate and adding the items from the photos directly into a custom floor plan.
Traditional visual merchandising and photos both leave users with questions like “will it fit?” or “will it work?” Inspirational photos on their own do the same. That’s why owning the design phase has long been the holy grail for furniture and kitchen retailers — it is essential to clinching the sale and reducing returns.
Examples of companies already using high-quality visual content and translating it into sales include Ikea, whose Ikea Place app allows shoppers to place 3D products in their homes via augmented reality, and Macy’s (a Marxent partner), which is using an in-store 3D room planner and virtual reality showroom installation to sell furniture.
What comes next?
Inspirational shopping trends extend far outside the world of furniture, with 3D visualization tech now in use in fashion, beauty, apparel and more. Zara, Nordstrom, Gap, Sephora and others are experimenting with visual virtual try-on and shopping services. Ben and Jerry’s is deconstructing their flavor profiles with gorgeous Instagram posts. Nike is taking a more wide-ranging approach, using augmented reality to not only offer virtual try-on services but to create exclusive, geo-targeted shopping experiences. And across the pond, French fashion house Balmain is using CGI models — in this case, computer-generated people depicted wearing the brand’s fashions — to market clothing.
With shopping journeys now more likely to start and end on mobile devices instead of in stores, designing directly from photos is a great way to give the customer control of the process. Augmented and virtual reality are taking these shoppers from inspiration to action.
Allowing customers to unleash their creativity and ensure that they love their purchases through design by photo provides a new level of personalization through inspiration. Major retailers that want to preserve their edge both online and in stores are using it to deliver the combination of inspiration and personalization that consumers crave.