Concrete numbers on costs and … the solution!

What is the Imagination Gap?

The Imagination Gap refers to a problem that affects all retailers in the furniture and home goods industry, which indicates the problems customers have visualizing furniture or home decoration items in their own homes, especially in combination with their own items. The infinite choice of materials and colors and the fear of making a choice that they will regret later on, will ensure that consumers postpone their decisions for making a purchase, or simply will not purchase at all. For furniture retailers this is not only a problem, but also a huge commercial challenge that they need to overcome.

What is the Imagination Gap

The costs of the Imagination Gap; concrete numbers

A study by Digital Bridge among 1.000 consumers in the United Kingdom proves that this Imagination Gap actually exists and shows significant numbers of the drawbacks and, in particular, the missed turnover when consumers aren’t helped to overcome the Imagination Gap. The actual costs of the Imagination Gap consist, among others, of; postponed purchases or purchases that are simply not made, and customers who regret a purchase and return their bought items. For example, the study shows that 51% of consumers postpone the purchase of furniture because they cannot imagine what it will look like in their homes. For accessoires, such as lamps, curtains and cushions, this percentage is somewhat lower (29%), but this shows that álso in home decorating items, consumers postpone their purchase because of the Imagination Gap.

It get’s even worse when consumers decide not to make a purchase at all, because of the Imagination Gap. The results of the study show that 36% of consumers decided not to buy furniture or home decorating items, because they could not imagine what it would look like in their homes and, thus, were afraid to make the wrong choice.  When we think of these numbers and the amount of money that could have been spent at home furnishings stores, this is a huge missed opportunity that runs into millions. With that, it also shows the need to improve the shopping experience for customers in the furniture industry.

Improving the shopping experience for customers in the furniture industry is not only needed to help your customers make a purchase, but also to help reduce the number of returns. The results of this study show that the main reason why articles are returned, is also due to the Imagination Gap. 42% of consumers in the survey indicate that they have returned furniture or home goods because their purchase did not look the way how they imagined it would look at home. Other reasons are; not liking how an article looks in a specific room (30%) and not matching a color in a certain room (33%). Another problem is when a piece of furniture does not fit in a certain room. 35% of those surveyed indicated that they had returned items because they had not properly measured the space of the room they wanted to put it in, before making the purchase.

The costs of the Imagination Gap

The solution for the Imagination Gap; make it visible!

You can imagine that returning an article can be a considerable disappointment for customers, especially because they often have to wait a few weeks, maybe months for delivery of the newly ordered furniture. This disappointment and dissatisfaction is then also easily projected onto the retailer. The solution for these problems lies in using new technologies, enabling customers to make the correct decision and making it easier for both the retailer and the customer to avoid disappointment. Processing returns is not only time consuming, it also costs a lot of money; especially in the home and furniture market, where custom-made furniture is produced on request.

New innovations such as virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, CGI and 3D create new opportunities for furniture retailers to help their customers during their search for new furniture or home decoration items, and thereby provide a better shopping experience. By being able to see a virtual preview of, for instance, a couch or smaller decoration items, even projected in their own homes, consumers can judge the result before making a purchase. This was also evident from the results of the study; 55% of respondents indicate that a visualization tool would help them make a decision about a purchase. Indicated was that the biggest advantage (61%) for consumers would be to try out different options, so that they are able to make a well considered decision and are convinced that that decision is the correct one. Furthermore, the results of the study show that purchase intention of more than half of the respondents goes up when they are enabled to use a visualization tool in order to see the exact product that they are going to buy.

For retailers, these are strong arguments and a good opportunity to invest in these new technologies and to take the lead in it. A few big players in the market are doing it already, using virtual reality and augmented reality in order to visualize their products, so why shouldn’t you? What the result is going to be? Congruity between the expectations of your customers on the one hand and the end result on the other. This then leads to a confident, happy customer, more sales and fewer returns!

The solution for the Imagination Gap; make it visual

How to visualize the articles you sell

So, as we have read above, it is important that consumers have the opportunity to see a preview of the exact product that they are going to buy. But what technology are we talking about? The fundamentals for doing this are a strong, integrated product configurator and 2D or 3D models. With these, your articles can be configured as wished by your customers, and the changes are directly visually visible! This way, you are able to help your retail customers overcome the Imagination Gap and make shopping for furniture and home decoration items fun again.

Using a product configurator is not only beneficial for the customer, but also for the retailer. Because the end result, the actual piece of furniture the customer receives, is as the customer had imagined it to be, the chance of the customer returning it is reduced. Furthermore, the technology makes sure that no incorrect choices can be made during the configuring and ordering process. The amount of errors and faults that occur during this process are thus firmly reduced. 

How to visualize the articles you sell

So concluding; using new technology is the way to go for retailers in the furniture and home goods industry. With technology such as 3D models, virtual and augmented reality you are able to help consumers become confident and happy customers. Cside Global is able to offer you this software. Check out our website further to see what we can do for you.

Are you looking for specific information on applying mass customization and visualization succesfully? Check out our whitepaper, where we dive deeper into the matter of customization and visualization in the furniture industry, and discuss how mass customization can be automated with advanced software. Curious? You can request our whitepaper here.

 DigitalBridge. The imagination gap: Retail's £1bn problem.