Using interactive 3D design to change the shopping experience
At the end of February, Foresight Factory hosted the second Creative Exchange (a new programme which invites innovators, experts and industry disruptors to share their ideas with our team) with UK interior design startup Stitched. Co-founder Will Verrill came in to tell us about the company’s interactive 3D design platform, and how it is changing the customer shopping experience.
Who are Stitched and what do they do?
London-based Stitched launched its 3D online shopping experience for made-to-measure curtains and blinds in October 2017, aimed at consumers who are looking for an easy-to-use service. Made to be hassle-free, Stitched customers can upload a photo of their window to determine measurements, order free fabric samples, and then design their own curtains or blinds using the 3D design tool on the website. They can also speak to the Stitched team via a webchat service on their home page.
Customers’ designs scale dynamically, altering their 3D curtains or blinds as they go. The product is made in component form, so the curtain pole width, cap and finish can be altered in real time, as well as the curtain colour and type of pleating. Verrill says “we’ve upended the shopping experience and tried to do it in a way that makes it friendly for customers” by using platforms and tools they are already familiar with.
Sustainability is another core component of the Stitched offer. 70% of its fabrics come from UK based mills, where all materials are made from natural or recycled fibres, have a zero carbon footprint and zero landfill impact. The made-to-measure aspect of the business helps to reduce waste in the supply chain – i.e. no more inventory, no more “end-of-line” fabric” and no more waste. These savings can be passed on to the consumer.
Stitched’s key learnings for brands
The consumer journey from 2D to AR is slow: Verrill anticipates that it will take five to ten years for consumers to become completely “au fait” with shopping in augmented reality (AR), and believes that technology can not rush the journey but should be used to smooth the pathway. Stitched’s 3D design tool is a first step towards an AR future, as the interface helps consumers to imagine what furnishings will look like in their home. According to Verrill “there is currently still a place for lifestyle, aspirational 2D imagery where people can make a mental leap about what something is going to look like in their home, which will be mixed up with emotion in a way that cold, hard AR can’t be”.
Simplicity is key for path to purchase: Customers buy products, therefore significant focus and energy should be spent on making digital products look real. However many AR applications focus on the whole room, ignoring customer behaviour and detracting from single products. Verrill says “we tested this on customers in the early design phase…the reaction to having the whole room was this is really, really great, but they lost sight of the purchase”.
The future of shopping is fluid, intuitive and customised: Customers will no longer need to gauge the scale of their purchase from photos or take their own measurements. 3D technology will be used to customise the product, a combination of AI and AR will analyse the customer’s space, and display her designs in it. Once the customer is happy, the final design will be sent to a local manufacturer to be made. Technology will allow all these different components to come together, transforming the shopping experience from stilted to seamless.
Use personal interaction via a digital medium to build trust: Although Stitched’s business model is largely based on technology, the company is wary of using chatbots as a way to communicate with their customers. Verrill believes that a human touch behind the technology is very valuable – both to get feedback and reassure customers. “We sell high value products, so for us a personal experience is important in building trust from day one”.
The Trends Impact
Stitched is on the path to Customised Reality, where augmented technology will allow consumers to interact with digital objects in real spaces. For consumers, the ability to visualise how products such as furniture and furnishings will look in their home rather than in a retail space or a poorly rendered lifestyle image on a website reduces risk. Although this is the ultimate aim for Stitched, Verrill believes that focussing on the 3D platform and getting the real-life product to shine is more important in the short term, giving the example of Ikea’s “best-in-class” AR app showing what is “very very good but still noticeably a digital asset in the real world”.
By offering only made-to-measure furnishings and using technology to create personalised, direct-to-consumer products, Stitched helps consumers wage the War on Waste whilst designing products they love. Meanwhile for Pragmatic Green customers, the nudge to buy comes from the fact that Stitched gets the majority of its fabrics from sustainable sources. Sustainable doesn’t have to mean lower quality – according to Verrill, “feeling is believing”, with many customers persuaded to purchase by the luxurious nature of many of their fabrics.
Stitched took part in The Creative Exchange at Foresight Factory, a programme which invites innovators, experts and industry disruptors to share their ideas with our team. Please contact your account team or write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out more.