We’ve written before about the advantages and use which applications like 3D and (online) product configurators have to offer you as a retailer. With this, we regurarly mention that, with these tools, you are able to offer your customer an experience, a complete new shopping experience, something which is said to be the way to go in order to attract customers to your store. But what exactly is an experience and how do your customers feel about it? How are we able to apply this within the home decor and furniture market and, when doing that, what is the added value for you and your customers?

We’ve done some research and what better way is there than to illustrate it by your customer’s own vision?

What is ‘creating an experience’ in the home decor and furniture industry?

Let’s start with some theoretical information. Nowadays, as consumers, we focus more and more on satisfying mental needs during our shopping trips. With this, experience is key; an emotion that results from the experiences we have and a key role has during the various phases of a consumer’s purchasing process. Going through these emotions (both positive and negative) is then transformed into an experience.

Creating an experience in the furniture industry

The imagination gap

During my search for new furniture, I experience that these emotions can often be both negative and positive, mostly because of the imagination gap. You see, I am looking for a new sofa. Not just a sofa, no, a large corner sofa that is comfortable, with a rural look and it has to fit exactly in the spot where I want to put it in. I am still a bit uncertain about what colour I want it in, because I do not know which colour fits well with the rest of my furniture and interior.

I have selected a few of my favorite furniture stores based on the commercial folders I receive every week and I am on my way! Happy and enthusiastic, because buying new furniture is a super fun experience! Right?

I enter the first store on my list and, initially, I see a huge collection of all kinds of sofas! Cool, with that much choice they should have what I’m looking for! Some sofas do have the look that I am looking for, but they are just not completely it. I think I would prefer to see that couch in a different colour, or with a different fabric, and of course I want a corner sofa, but i only see a two-seater of the model that appeals to me in the showroom. Maybe I would want a recliner-function, but what does that look like on the sofa of my choosing?

What feelings I’m experiencing right now? Uncertainty and fear of making the wrong choice from the countless possibilities I can choose from. Negative emotions that are converted to a negative experience. So correction; my enthusiasm about shopping for a new piece of furniture is dropping at the moment …

The questions I am having right now?

-          How is the sofa going to look in a different colour and with a different fabric?
-          Do colour and style fit with my other interior?
-          Does the sofa fit in the place I intended it for?
-          Are all possibilities offered to me, or is the sales guy hiding a number of options?
-          Am I able to choose from all and best possibilities offered?
-          What is the total picture going to be in the setup that I want?

Without possibilities to show me this, I am now thinking about possible scenarios I could follow:

-          I leave the store, disappointed, and announce the sales guy that I ‘want to think about it’…
-          I hesitate, but make the purchase and hope that the sofa turns out how I want it to be. It all seems to work out well and after all I can turn
           my hesitation into a satisfied feeling.
-          I hesitate, but make the purchase. After delivery it turns out the sofa is not as I expected and thus I am dissatisfied with my choice. I am
           dissapointed, return the article and the process starts again. Chances are that I will try it at another store, because apparently the help
           I got at the current store was not good enough ...
-          I hesitate, but make the purchase. After delivery I am dissatisfied, but I do not return and I accept that I need to live with the
           dissatisfaction of my purchase. Unconsciously I associate this negative feeling with the store that sold it to me.

In the end, I decide to leave the store without purchasing and go home disappointed. Initially I wanted to visit multiple stores, but now I leave my list for what it is. At home I think about whether I really want to redecorate my room…

A positive experience

In the continuously changing world of retail, where everything has to go faster and we demand a uniform buying experience in every sales channel (online and offline), the traditional way of shopping for furniture no longer suffices. The 'new' consumer is much more visually oriented. We want to orientate ourselves (online) before we visit a physical store and, by doing this, making sure that the purchase we make is the right one. This also includes being able to see furniture that still needs to be made, in order to gain insight into what possibilities there are and to immediately see how a piece of furniture will look like. With the continuous rise of online possibilities, the orientation and buying processes also change. The orientation phase, and with it that first customer contact, is happening more and more online. And of course this also works the other way around; when we have visited the home decoration or furniture store of our choosing and we are not entirely sure of the purchase we want to make, a good website where all information can be found and all options are visually visible, can certainly help us to make the right decision. New techniques such as 3D, virtual and augmented reality and a good (online) product configurator ensure this!

Create a positive experience in the furniture industry

With this in mind, let’s go back to my situation. Despite my negative experience, I am still looking for that new corner sofa. My old couch really needs to be replaced; I'm ashamed when friends are visiting and they have to sit on my worn out couch. In good spirits I start my search again. To avoid the disappointment of last time, I now start by orientating myself online. The advantage is that I am not overwhelmed by the huge collection of sofas, because online I have the feeling that I have an overview and can click through the offer in a quiet and peaceful way. I find out that a furniture store that previously was not on my list, offers the possibility to customize and compose the available sofas yourself online. This is great, because this way I can already compare possible choices, see which colors fit into my interior and go well together with my other furniture, and I can see directly, based on the online information and measurements, whether this sofa fits in the spot where I want it to be. This is perfect! Why did I not find this before?!

After I have chosen my favorites, I am on my way again. This time already confident and happy, because I know the furniture store I’m visiting has what I'm looking for! Once I’m in the store, I can extensively test and check out my choices, test the seats and cushions, and assess fabrics and colors. The sofa that appealed to me most at first, turned out to be not that comfortable. Great, that is the advantage of visiting the store! Together with the sales guy, I configure the corner sofa of my choice. He shows me some matching articles and I can immediately see what the end result will look like. Cool, this sofa is going to look so good in my living room!

Because this large corner sofa is a big investment, I think again about some scenarios that I could now follow:

-          I will make the purchase immediately! Because of the visualization possibilities of the sofa of my choice, I don’t hesitate at all! This is the
           sofa I’m looking for! Upon delivery, it turns out to be exactly as i figured it would be. No surprises, because I have been able to see and
           experience everything.
-          I am enthusiastic, but I still need some time to consider. I save my custom configured sofa, so I am able to think about it a bit longer. I go
           home and ask for a second opinion from friends and family. Then I configure it again online, check again if the colors match my interior
           and check the sizes of the sofa to be sure. And I'm sure now, this will be my sofa! For this I do not have to go back to the store, I can just
           order it, customized and all, online.
-          I am enthusiastic, but I decide to postpone the purchase for other reasons.

What I do? Of course I am going to purchase this sofa! I'm sure this is the corner sofa I'm looking for! Furthermore, I am sure that it fits in the space I want it to place, that it fits with the rest of my furniture and interior and that it’s comfortable.

10 weeks later my new corner sofa was delivered and it is indeed perfect!

When we look at ‘creating an experience’ again, at this time I have much more positive than negative emotions. I never needed to doubt the choices I made, because there is constant transparency at every step in the process. Both in terms of appearance and other information (dimensions, prices, etc.) related to my sofa. I could immediately see the change in every option I chose, and with that making the choice if I wanted that option quick and simple.

The technological possibilities and the service that it generates, ensures that we are able to, at first, shop much more focussed and better informed, and second, make a well-thought-out choice. Creating a positive experience is therefore very important, certainly in the home decor and furniture market!

The use of online configuration and 3D in the furniture industry