Savvy Showrooms Strike a Balance Between High-Tech and Hands-On

By Trey Barrineau

Drive around any urban or suburban area in North America, and you’ll quickly realize that the door and window showroom remains a ubiquitous part of the retail landscape.

But for how long?

The bricks-and-mortar display spaces that dealers have relied on for decades are facing stiff competition from multimedia and virtual reality technology, a niche that’s growing rapidly in the retail sphere.

According to ARtillry Intelligence, consumer virtual reality (VR) will grow from $1.6 billion in 2016 to $11.5 billion in 2021. Consumer augmented reality (AR) will grow from $975 million in 2016 to $15.8 billion in 2021.

And while the learning curve for VR and AR might be steep for many dealers in the door and window industry, a lot of them are already incorporating multimedia displays into their show-rooms. But don’t expect your local home-improvement store to go full-on high-tech in the next week or two.

Fred Cizauskas, the director of marketing with Chameleon Power, a maker of photorealistic visualization technology in 2-D, 3-D, virtual reality and augmented reality, says it will take a few years.

“The VR industry is truly in its infancy from a commercialization standpoint,” he says. “It will be several quarters/years before it is a necessity for most industries, and, as is typical, the leaders are and will be first to embrace the tools for deployment in their marketing campaigns.”

Multimedia Moment

While they may not be rushing to embrace VR, forward-thinking companies in the door and window industry have been using multimedia displays for several years.

After launching fancier websites, savvy business owners next integrated high-tech touches into their show-rooms. And some, such as Dustin Anderson, president of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas, and a regular on the hugely popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, take it in a unique direction.

“We added a digital signage player in our showroom about a year ago that is linked to our company’s Instagram profile, and I love what it’s done for the customer experience,” he says.

There are many ways to incorporate multimedia displays into a show-room. They can be as simple as a flat-screen TV running an ad or other video on a loop, or they can be as complex as full-on virtual-reality gear such as Oculus Rift headsets that aim to make a potential customer feel like he’s standing in a room with new doors and windows.

But even basic videos with elements of interactivity can be effective.

For example, at the 2018 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla., LaCantina showed off new interactive videos that dealers can use to help consumers better understand the company’s open-space products’ design considerations and material options.

The company’s booth featured dual touch-screen monitors for 360-degree interactive videos. The videos allow builders, architects, and consumers to select materials and designs that best fit their project needs.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

Here’s how these two technologies are defined by Augment, a company that provides augmented-reality solutions to customers.

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or re-creation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing. VR is typically achieved by wearing a headset like Facebook’s Oculus equipped with the technology.”

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world in such a way that they enhance one another, but can also be told apart easily.”

The Marvin Method

One major industry manufacturer has found a way to strike a balance between old-school showroom and high-tech display space.

At Marvin at 7 Tide, a new facility the company opened in Boston in 2016 in conjunction with longtime Marvin dealer A.W. Hastings, the tactile and the virtual coexist seamlessly.

The space was designed by A.W. Hastings and the C.J. Katz Studio, a Boston-based interior-design firm.

“Marvin didn’t want this to be a showroom,” owner Jeffrey Katz wrote in a blog on the 7 Tide website. “They wanted it to be inspiring and experiential. Most people don’t think of windows and doors as very sexy; however, light-filled rooms are. That’s what inspired us.”

No products are sold at the facility. Instead, it’s a place where designers and architects can meet with clients after they’re installed.

Finally, there’s the Smart Touch Table, where customers can build their own doors and windows.

Get the Mix Right

For Cizauskas, that combination of low-tech and high-tech can be especially effective.

“Traditional showrooms allow you to display vignettes of products, while VR allows customers to experience the placement of all the selected products in a scene that is a completely finished environment,” he says. “The client can transport themselves around the scene to view this from every angle and aspect, see the many ‘what if’ options and make instant changes. It allows brick-and-mortar stores to be more effective in selling products that are custom-order if space is limited.”

Of course, there are some barriers to entry. The cost of file creation, equipment and set-up can be prohibitive, Cizauskas says, because you need special software and high-quality digital assets to create the 3-D models.

Beyond that, there’s the problem of acceptance in an industry that still likes to do things the old-school way.

“It will probably be a struggle convincing the channel/dealers that their customers value the tools as an enhancement to the buying experience,” Cizauskas says.

However, it can really pay off.

“Integrating web, mobile and VR/AR technology into showrooms and retail improves the customer experience and moves the prospect closer to purchase,” he says. “We advocate plugging a VR/AR suite of tools into a retail/showroom display as an enhancement to the merchandising platform. It definitely distinguish-es the forward-thinking showrooms from the rest.”

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *