The virtual showroom is a whole new world of possibilities: unique customer experiences, short production times, products designed and tailored to customers’ personal wishes and expectations – VR facilitates international collaboration.
VIRTUAL REALITY – PRESENTING PRODUCTS IN A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION
Virtual reality, or VR, is currently one of the most significant technological milestones, and opens the door to completely new worlds and ways to develop and present products. Much like online shopping revolutionised product accessibility, and social networking gave consumers a bigger role in product design, virtual reality will have a very real effect on customer experience and the production process. The potential is massive.
3D simulations are already being used in the car industry, and with great success. Here, the customer can view an animation of an exact replica of their dream car, and experiences it in real time. What used to require an individual’s own imagination is now a fully immersive, emotional experience. It’s possible to view the interior and exterior of the car, and to make small alterations to the product. The customer can look around as they please, or take a virtual test drive, where they can press down on the accelerator and feel as though they truly are driving the car itself.
The virtual world is increasingly focusing on products and space. The VR headset can transport you to a beach on the Maldives, where you can hear the murmur of the sea in the background, or let you walk through a house and investigate every corner of every room – the furniture is all within your reach. You can also visualise things and processes that you wouldn’t be able to see in real life, such as the inside of the human body, or how the new Gotthard Base Tunnel works.
THE VIRTUAL REALITY SHOWROOMS IN A B2B CONTEXT
Sooner or later, the 3D world is going to turn the consumer goods industry on its head. Realistic product visualisations and observations won’t just have an effect on the customer’s experience, but will also influence brand management and the production process. Let’s look at the possibilities a virtual showroom opens up, for example. In a B2B context, a virtual showroom can showcase new collections and present these to the customer. The ways with which these products can be displayed are almost endless: they could be presented as though they are on a shelf in a shop, or through a truly immersive experience and discovery process with the help of 3D marketing films. These films may use spectacular animation and cinematic product presentation, and last for over several minutes.
The virtual showroom can be designed to mirror a physical showroom, and present articles to be examined comprehensively – any place, any time. This would make the production of model parts unnecessary, and save both time and money. Trend-driven industries that produce numerous collections in a short period of time such as the fashion world would benefit from this in particular. Furthermore, multiple customers can then place an order simultaneously without an appointment. The sales team can accompany the process of the sale through an online chat, provide explanations of the product, and answer any questions. The virtual showroom can act as an additional customer service, and complement the “normal” showroom as a way to impress customers. Furthermore, this virtual showroom would be available to the consumer at any place, any time.
VIRTUAL REALITY SHOWROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS: LAUNCHING IN 2016
This year, the first companies have begun to launch their virtual reality showrooms for customers. The Swedish furniture company Ikea is one of these trailblazers. Their virtual showroom allows customers to experiment with different installations from the comfort of their homes. Customers can create a kitchen, for example, and adjust the colours and cupboard models at the click of a mouse. This virtual reality showroom lets customers interact with the furniture, giving them an insight into how it will look: something which was previously unheard of. Users can take a frying pan out of a cupboard and put it on the stove, all in their own virtual kitchen. IKEA manager Jesper Brodin thinks that virtual reality will develop rapidly. He estimates that within 10 years, virtual reality will have become an integral part of our lives. (Source: Digital Trends http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/ikea-kitchen-vr/#/2)
This June, Audi also launched their myAudi Sphere, a digital laboratory for customers and traders in the former Audi Forum in Munich. The showroom is a platform for customers to experience new cars and services, and is hoped to open up a dialogue between customers, manufacturers, and traders. Digital innovations are at the centre of this lab, connecting the real world with Audi’s virtual one: you could call it the next generation virtual reality headset. Visitors can use the VR headset to view their dream Audi, freely move around it, and even sit down in the driver’s seat. With the rapid advancement of digital sales methods, Audi believes that they will be soon able to add additional modules to the myAudi Sphere. (Source: Audi)
VIRTUAL REALITY SHOWROOMS FOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT NETWORKING
The development of VR is just the beginning. Thinking ahead, it’s likely that a virtual showroom could become the way to introduce new products to the market. Customers, sales departments, and interested parties could virtually test the products and makes suggestions about the style, colour, form, and material. These adjustments can be implemented immediately, and further feedback can be promptly delivered to the product development team. These kinds of collaboration transcend the restrictions that we experience today. Virtual reality showrooms can significantly speed up the development process, and focus specifically on customer’s wishes and expectations. VR showrooms also offer more freedom to experiment. Involving the customer in the early stages of the development process can improve market identity, and minimise the risk of producing unpopular products.
Virtual reality trailblazer Ikea is also convinced of the possibilities that this ‘cross-border’ collaboration can offer. During a statement, IT manager Martin Enthed explains: “We also see [the] Ikea VR Experience as an opportunity to co-create with people all around the world. We hope that users will contribute to our virtual reality development by submitting ideas on how to use virtual reality, and how to improve the virtual kitchen.” (Source: Livescience.com)