Doug Logan

Online Visualization for High-Touch Home Products

New visualization tools are transforming the modern retail consumer landscape. It's fair to say that their arrival marks the advent of a new digital shopping age. Innovative product visualization approaches are in use to revamp the websites of cabinet manufacturers, appliance makers, fixture producers, home decor designers, and others in the home products and services industry.

Industry data indicates that upgraded 3D, augmented reality (AR), product configurators, and other forms of visualization are proving to increase engagement on websites. For example, brands in many cases are seeing notably increased conversion rates and reduced bounce rates.

What is Online Visualization?

The new digital product presentations generate versions of reality that are more engaging and that contribute to an overall more satisfying end user experience. Early visualization methods were as simple as the familiar charts, graphs, and basic product illustrations. Today’s visualization tools include everything from Augmented Reality (AR), i.e., digitally enhanced reality, all the way to fully immersive Virtual Reality (VR). These and other image enhancements now offer broad application in diverse forms for marketing, sales, management, training, medical practice, entertainment, and other business uses.

Visualization Options

The latest product visualization techniques are creating the next level of customer experience for home furniture & appliance brands:

3D Visuals Shoppers can browse photorealistic visualizations of products.

360 Degree View Viewers can flip, rotate, and zoom visual product representations.

Product Configurators Shoppers can change style, color, material, accessories, etc.

Virtual Reality (VR) Fully immersive experiences showcase products, with or without a headset.

Projection-Based AR 3D objects appear in the viewer’s actual space.

Overlay AR The real view of objects are replaced with superimposed images.

Mixed Reality Multiple forms of visualization are combined. (This currently requires users to wear a device for the experience.

Many Others From special effects in the film industry to contour-based AR enhancements for vehicle navigation systems, there are other applications across a multitude of industries.

The New Standard

Many companies are now offering samples of next-level visualization experiences via their websites, TV ads, onsite digital signage, retail kiosks, video walls, billboards, and more. Some are providing VR headsets to captivate visitors on trade show floors, at conventions, marketing events, training experiences, and entertainment venues.

Augmented reality is ready for broad-scale rollout. It’s no longer the mystifying and cost-prohibitive new thing for larger and many medium-sized competitors in the high-end home appliances industry. At this point, enough big brands have taken the leap that smaller brands can afford to adapt this technology to meet their needs.

Over the coming years, sellers and buyers will find that 3D, AR, VR and other forms of enhanced visualization have developed around them as the new standard way of being in the market environment. Shoppers will have a visually stunning and stimulating new consumer experience without leaving the couch.

Closing the Gap

Consumers now have the digital resources to make better-informed buying decisions than ever before. Brands are adapting to accommodate their audiences in the way that data has shown people prefer to obtain information about products and purchase. They’re offering realistic 3D images of major home appliances and other high-end, high-touch products that shoppers can examine from all angles. For example, buyers can visualize how appliance products look and function in their own homes — with their mobile device and without downloading an app.

Augmented reality, 3D, and other visualization applications overlay visual, auditory, and/or other sensory data on real objects in real or created places, to enhance the individual’s experience of it. Providing realistic digital interaction with items gives shoppers a sense of reduced risk in remote purchasing of normally high-touch products.

Shopify data and other marketing industry reports indicate that:

  • Conversion rates increase by as much as 250% when shoppers view products in 3D.
  • 42% of shoppers will pay more for products that provide a 3D introduction.
  • 3D visual configurators yield an average ROI of 40%.
  • 66% of shoppers find that a 3D introduction increases their confidence in their purchase.
  • In the coming years, 30% more furniture and appliances consumers will purchase online.

Brand Usages

Coca-Cola was the acknowledged forerunner of the coming digital transformation of the product marketing industry. Now that the global transition is well underway, many consumer goods, including high-end product classes, are implementing visualization strategies to remain competitive. Some leading retailers in home products are utilizing augmented reality and other visualization applications:

Kitchen Appliance Manufacturer Using Augmented Reality

The Zephyr Kitchen Experience

The Zephyr Ventilation company lets customers see their new gas range hood in their homes using their mobile phones. The manufacturer introduced the industry’s first enhanced digital experience of its luxury range hood in the Zephyr Kitchen Experience. Zephyr’s interactive 3D models feature multi-sensory tools that allow shoppers to choose from a variety of range hood styles, sizes, and feature sets. The remote exploration of the product takes viewers on an in-depth excursion through the inner works of the unit using live animation and pop-ups. Viewers can virtually place the range hood into their own kitchens via AR to see which style, size, finish, and other options suit their kitchen best. Shoppers can even sample the hood’s lighting, fan speeds, and delay timers all through augmented reality.

Leading Paint Manufacturer Paints Virtual Rooms

The Benjamin Moore Color A Room Visualization Feature

The famous paint producer Benjamin Moore & Company has always been recognized for its high-quality paint products and savvy marketing. Now the company has taken the lead in providing its target audience with advanced visualization opportunities. In the company’s Color A Room array of residential room types and virtual palette of luxury paint options, shoppers can browse and select any exciting wall paint they desire. Then, they can instantly click a paint color onto an entire fully furnished and accessorized virtual room. Users can see a near-panoramic view of various living spaces, each painted with one fabulous paint color after another, and envision their own rooms transformed the same way.

High-End Kitchen Appliance Maker Announces AR Shopping App

Viking Range Corporation

U.S. manufacturer Viking Range, has introduced its app for kitchen appliance shoppers. The app enables customers to build their own virtual dream kitchen. It’s intended to make shopping easier for consumers and provide a lot of information not previously available to them without going to a store, examining the products, and asking a sales rep questions. Viking emphasizes the convenience that the app provides for customers who prefer to shop from home instead of driving and see a helpful image of their idea for a new kitchen instantly. The app also features abundant information about Viking products and the locations of local dealers.

Other Uses

The application of vast numbers of communications enhancements is trending beyond the business sector. For example, the consumer advocacy agency Consumer Reports has conducted its first “360-Degree Video Tour” of a high-tech refrigerator from Samsung. The organization has announced its intent to use the 360 video in more of its published review processes going forward.

Add that to all the major retailers and manufacturers now using various versions of multimedia for training, convention presentations, and other events. There are also the everyday just-for-fun applications like Google ARcore, which inserts nonexistent animated characters in real locations amid real-life activity there. There’s Google Glass for a new computer projection experience, and 3D internal body images used by hospitals to prevent surgical errors, vast applications in scientific research, education, entertainment, and so much more. It’s becoming easier to imagine a world in the near future with ubiquitous displays of digitally-enhanced reality around every corner in daily life.

User Ratings Enhance Visualization

Deeper implications of visualization applications include evidence from the all-powerful star rating system, which has demonstrated social proof of the effectiveness of an enhanced customer experience. A McKinsey report reveals the digital star rating system as arguably a visualization facilitator if you will. As all online consumers know, the star rating system now pervades the web retail environment. It’s the predominant system for registering customer feedback and assisting shoppers in making buying decisions.

Per McKinsey research, even small changes in a star rating can accelerate growth for a product to a staggering rate of 30% to 200%, depending, of course, on the category. The advantage for brands implementing visualization aids is that sustaining increased conversion rates at scale after the initial sales surge necessitates just that kind of unique approach.

Product quality along with the overall customer experience is the pivotal pair in today’s most effective marketing strategy, vs. traditional campaigns that often rely on hyperbolic product claims. Vivid, engaging product visualizations are now the centerpiece of the first-visit conversion process.

Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty has been dwindling since the early 2000s. The pandemic multiplied the rate of decline. Along with all the negative effects of the past convulsive years in the business sector, one exceedingly positive after-effect is that consumers now try new brands much more readily than in the past. Reportedly, 75% of U.S. consumer respondents to a McKinsey survey said they had changed brands twice as many times as they did in 2019.

In this new unsettled consumer environment, any previously unknown product can gain market share quickly if it’s getting great reviews, especially if it’s competitively priced. Innovative companies in most industries can now disrupt their market with comparatively low-cost but highly engaging initiatives.

McKinsey notes that even small changes like simplifying assembly instructions or just clarifying the product description can sometimes raise product ratings. These are ideal steps in the process for visualization applications to enhance product offerings and after-sale services further, according to a Deloitte TTL analysis.

What’s Next?

Options for appealing to consumers are expanding in revolutionary ways, from 3D, AR, to VR. Digital venues are unfolding new dimensions of life-like experiences for users. Shopping and purchasing habits have already very fluidly adapted to all viable digital opportunities rolled out to make people's lives more convenient over the past two decades. Ultimately, the retail environment can be anticipated to become ever more virtual, augmented, interactive, facilitative, and engaging.

Consumer behavior data have proven our willingness to trade product touching for travel reduction. We’ll adapt to just about any alternative that simplifies any transaction to a quick web search, just a few more clicks to a product page, the cart, and the Buy Now button. Visualization enhancements are among today’s most effective alternatives for helping build relationships with customers while supporting their preference for independent, remote shopping.

So, the consumer-driven growth of AR and other product presentation applications can be recognized as the start of a broader migration to visualization methods online. The new enhancement modes can now be predicted to alter the dynamics of the retail environment in the next decade as much as online shopping transfigured it in the past one.

However, just as, despite all predictions, TV didn’t really kill radio and print isn’t really dead due to digital, online visualization will not replace the in-person touch approach to high-end home product shopping. And, it’s not intended to do so. The new tools are not to replace but to support the methods home products brands currently use. They are to help bridge the gap between remote and in-person experience by enhancing the former. The most effective business use of visualization is in helping people become better engaged customers.

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