Bathroom and kitchen brands are ready for a watershed transformation, and 3D and augmented reality (AR) technologies offer the perfect recipe for home makeovers.
Businesses in the new age need to adapt at the speed of consumer behavior and customer expectations which, thanks to new tech and online selling trends, change faster than the seasons. Manufacturers and brands of bathroom and kitchen products and allied lifestyle items are no different. Indeed, they have a steeper hill to climb.
After all, e-commerce for bath and kitchenware represents a rather curious conundrum. Despite being a (deeply) personal and (often) aspirational segment, businesses have largely failed to tap into the strong emotional currents the category arouses in buyers, and online sales performances remain a far cry from what they could be. The reason isn’t hard to fathom: manufacturers and retailers in the bathroom and kitchen segment haven’t been able to satisfy the inquisitiveness of the ‘new customer’, relying on dated marketing and outreach channels that neither provide product information in a contemporary way, nor engage the modern buyer effectively.
Click in "See in your space" to see this bathtub in your home
No industry is immune to change, of course, and a range of forces are already bringing disruption to the bathroom and kitchen retail industry. To start with, there was the pandemic; per IBM’s U.S. Retail Index report, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by a remarkable five years. Furthermore, the latest advances in 3D and AR tech are accelerating the mass changeover to ‘see commerce’ and digital retail by allowing more and more buyers (78% to be exact) to interact with brands in memorable ways, and shortening sales cycles significantly. It’s safe to say the groundwork has been done, and the stage is set.
As business and commerce playbooks go visual, and manufacturers and brands look to reboot their journeys digitally, 3D and augmented reality tech offers a way for leaders and entrepreneurs to navigate this tricky terrain. In many ways, 3D/AR and retail are a match made in heaven: the immersive, storification-friendly capabilities of the former can bring alive the latter in ways never thought possible, while at the same time opening channels of in-the-moment feedback, to foster valuable conversations between provider and customer.
In many ways, 3D-AR and retail are a match made in heaven.
In spirit, 3D and AR is all about answering the question every shopper (and business owner) asks themself: “What if there is a better way?” 3D and AR addresses that frustration by taking familiar, real world situations and enhancing them with digital effects and additional information, thereby elevating product visualization to a magical new level. The end result enables customers and fans to engage with familiar brands and products from entirely new angles and perspectives, and discover better ways to integrate them into their life and lifestyle. Stuff like this used to be science fiction. Today, it’s still science, but - with consumers listing augmented reality as a technology they are increasingly relying on, and Shopify data indicating AR content delivers 94% higher conversion rates than counterparts without AR - certainly not fiction.
3D and AR viewers come in all shapes and sizes. Some require an app download and wearing headgear, while others, like the hands-free, web-enabled version at Enhance 3D-AR Solutions, allow users to embrace the experience effortlessly.
What style of French faucet goes best with my designer Arabic basin? Is that cabinet going to look good against my flooring and walls? How do I figure out whether the shower unit is the right size for our new house?
3D and AR tech can answer the most pressing questions in the minds of shoppers browsing kitchen and bathroom equipment – be it for an impulse purchase or a full-scale renovation. Here are just some of the ways 3D and AR augments the purchasing process and empowers online buying decisions:
The kitchen is the heart of the household, and as a space that is both functional and, in many cases, also for entertaining, attracts a lot of thought when it comes to design and upkeep. Kitchen makeovers tend to be major undertakings, where poor decisions can not only cost significant amounts of money, but also lead to long-term discomfort and inefficiency. Experiential 3D and AR technologies are addressing these issues by making the purchase experience scientific, creative and fun – letting families determine exactly how items on their wish list will really fit in their space, thereby eliminating guesswork and disappointment.
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San Francisco-based kitchen innovation leader Zephyr uses 3D/AR to let shoppers get up-close-and-personal with various hoods, styles, finishes and features via live animation and helpful pop-ups (while, as a bonus, providing them with sneak-peeks of new products in the pipeline) to determine which style and size best fits their home.
Telecom giant Vodafone has gone a step further by partnering with celebrity chef Steffen Henssler to bring to life the first ‘augmented reality cooking experience’ where a virtual chef – digitally projected in front of the user’s eyes via a regular smartphone – delivers instructions in real time, allowing them to keep their hands free, bypass recipe searches and focus on the cooking. Furthermore, the experience allows them to pause, skip and repeat the action with just their gaze. Manufacturers and retailers of cookware and kitchen gadgets will readily spot the wealth of potential collaboration opportunities.
There are few things more aesthetically-pleasing than a brand new bathroom – and it also happens to be the room in the house people are most sensitive to. As a result, digital shopping – where it can be difficult to get an accurate sense of the finished product – has long been viewed with skepticism by shoppers looking to upgrade their existing space.
The good news is that bathrooms are also highly customizable habitats, and the right product visualization tools can open gateways to bold new dimensions and opportunities for all. That’s precisely what 3D and AR does. With the convenience and versatility of this technology, shoppers can see precisely how products will look and feel in their homes, study important aspects like size, style and fit (just like they would on the shop floor), ‘try out’ products virtually, and blend the convenience of online buying with the assurance of physical shopping in virtual showrooms.
Bathroom equipment specialist Noken leverages 3D modelling, hyper-realistic computer graphics and augmented reality to bring prospects a deeper knowledge of their current and upcoming collections. They also combine sanitaryware bathtubs, faucets, showers and accessories to achieve a uniform aesthetic that delivers integrated experiences for fans of refinement.
Mira Showers use 3D and augmented reality technology to leverage the post-pandemic DIY trend. Their solution allows shower lovers to remodel their existing shower or visualize their next bathroom makeover with mobile-driven augmented reality stories that play out right in the palms of their hands, allowing users to judge aesthetic and spatial requirements, for an ideal ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience.
The SARA Group, the Middle East’s leading distributor of luxury bathroom products, has embraced the online sales and digital customer experience trend in full earnest, empowering customers to playfully mix and match tiles and sanitary elements to plan their dream bodyspace.
Leading global bathroom solutions and kitchen faucets name Grohe designed 3D models that highlight product features in never before seen detail, endearing itself to fans as a brand that embraces tech, ramping up conversion rates in the process.
Engineering and tech icon Bosch helps buyers choose colorful glass kitchen appliances interactively via 3D product configuration and AR, reducing purchase hesitation and boosting revenue.
From introducing a product or idea memorably (be it on the retail shelf or at beta/pitch stage) to bringing the in-store experience into the home, and even unlocking new levels of customer delight (not least through laser-precise product improvement via real-time user feedback), 3D and AR revamps every inch of the buyer funnel by empowering users with greater confidence, convenience and control.
Business transformation exercises have already tasted tangible success globally from their investments in 3D and AR.
For businesses, that means reduced costs (through reduced cancellations and returns), smarter inventory and logistical control, and boosting sales by up to 250%. As Harvard Business Review concludes, “Once a nice-to-have, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers.” Business transformation exercises have already tasted tangible success globally from their investments in 3D and AR. Not surprisingly, global spend on 3D and AR technologies is projected to grow sixfold by 2024.
2021 was the year of upgrade for living spaces, with Google searches for home makeover more than doubling, home appliance searches rising by a quarter and home improvement companies enjoying a 9% jump in revenue. A Harvard study confirms that annual home improvement spending has grown by 13% in the US; globally, market forecasts predict an 8.5% increase in revenue for home improvement companies in 2022, and the juggernaut should continue as we head into 2023 (at nearly 6 percent CAGR from 2022 through to 2027).
Not to be left behind, the global smart kitchen market is expected to balloon to US$43Bn by 2027. Meanwhile, the sanitaryware market is predicted to grow uninterrupted from 2022 onwards, to reach nearly 287 million pieces by 2030. Revenue in bathroom hardware stands at US$115Bn and is predicted to grow at 4% CAGR (2022-2027). When viewed against the context of the global AR market – which is expected to reach the US$200Bn mark circa 2025 – the message for bathroom and kitchen brands becomes a simple one: what are you waiting for?