When furniture, bedding and upholstery customers visit brick and mortar retailers, they are seeking to experience the products before placing them into their homes. Customers measure, test firmness, feel the quality of the texture and try to find just the right fabric and pattern for their living space. Unfortunately, even the largest furniture warehouses are unable to showroom EVERY possible combination. Printed catalogs and fabric samples help to bridge the gap, but understanding how a swatch will translate onto a sofa, lounge or bed still requires a significant imagination for the customer. This is where the online shopping experience becomes valuable. With computer generated imagery (CGI), it’s possible to show not only the fabrics, patterns, textures and colors available today, but it also allows manufacturers and retailers to showcase or test new market design ideas.
High Street Goes High Tech
A high quality clothing, home products, and food goods retailer had engaged with eClerx Digital’s creative team in Verona for many years for 2D asset modeling as well as for recoloring in post-production. Wanting to elevate its customer experience, the client needed a way to show ALL fabrics, but traditional photography was financially and logistically prohibitive. Knowing the client’s objective, eClerx Digital used CGI (computer generation) technology to “wrap” digital images. What that means is, the CGI artists were able to layer on various fabrics, textures and patterns to existing images, so the customer no longer had to imagine whether a white leather or navy upholstered sofa would look better. Customer experience improvements lead to happier customers, increased sales and decreased returns.
As CGI technology improved, the creative team moved to 3D-CGI to deliver a more lifelike experience to customers. Using 3D-CGI technology, the team created photorealistic content such as videos, 360-spin images, moving parts and animations. The retailer could show products in any lifestyle environment digitally, and customers could view these across devices. In addition, CGI assets were leveraged in apps, configurators, mobile, and desktop.
This process made the client an ideal candidate for 3D-CGI-developed assets. Rather than scheduling a photo shoot for a handful of products, and working through the post-production process over a few months, the client was able to build from existing models and turn around new fabrics within weeks. In addition to new launches, the client was able to uplift and update existing products. After the upfront investment in the computer models, the client saw an immediate return on investment when not having to reshoot, perform post-production, or update fabrics.
A Virtual Warehouse
Creating a CG image or lifestyle image is a similar process to sculpting in clay. It requires an artist to reference items, and translate them in a digital space. Each element from the windows to the lamps to pillows and the furniture are unique elements within a lifestyle image. This results in a list of potentially millions of items for a handful of lifestyle assets. In the early stages of a CG project, the artist evaluates all of the products, and recommends a subset of “models”. These models will serve as the base for future products and result in a faster turnaround.
Over time the team had perfected the 3D process, and the engagement created a virtual warehouse of modeled products and fabrics, so when the client decided to expand its CG assets to include bedding and furniture, eClerx Digital were able to create stunning content for its digital platforms.
Managing the Process
When dealing with 10’s of thousands of product SKUs the creative process can appear daunting. With CGI and the use of eClerx Digital’s digital asset management (DAM) platform, FLUiiD4, the process was dramatically simplified. The system was configured to replicate the product hierarchy and client style guidelines. All of the product SKUs were ingested into the tool along with placeholder images to replicate the style guide. The client would then sign off on a handful of master models, fabrics, textures, and, colors for the creative team to then render each product. Our creative team then replaced the placeholders with the approved assets, named to the client specs, so the assets were ready for upload to the website, for use in print, and digital campaigns.
Cashing In on CGI
Previous to implementing the CG bedding assets, the client could only show a few products in bedroom environments and with each seasonal launch the photography was slightly different leading to an inconsistent brand image. From 5 room styles, the creative team created 800 model assets that could be mixed and matched endlessly with different fabrics, patterns and colors. The bedding category saw a 60% year-over-year lift in sales.
Digital transformation of creative assets has enabled this retailer to launch seasonal bedding, furniture and upholstery faster, increased image quality, enabled brand consistency, and improved the customer experience.