It’s not every day that a business that’s been around for 50 years can more than double its sales and conversion rates within three months of adopting a new digital selling tool.
And yet, for Virginia-based furniture rental firm CORT — which was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway 22 years ago — that’s exactly what happened when it added 3D and augmented reality (AR) immersive shopping tools to offset temporary COVID-closure of its showrooms alongside the general consumer migration to digital commerce.
Specifically, since launching the dual tech on its website and mobile app in early January, CORT says shoppers who were able to visualize new beds, sofas and such led to a 111% lift in conversion rates and 122% increase in revenue per visit.
“It wasn’t a proof of concept because we knew this is where we wanted to be,” Ben Clark, senior manager of online business development at CORT, told PYMNTS in a recent conversation. “The data have been what’s really compelling here, and I think it’s certainly opening our eyes to other possibilities,” he added, noting the increased comfort consumers have when making big-ticket purchases as a result of being able to see it and size it more accurately — especially when they’re unable to come in and do so in person.
Peace of Mind
While CORT also offers “Furniture as a Service” and alternative purchasing arrangements to businesses, events and through a resale silo, its newest tech investment is only being offered to B2C residential customers — at least so far.
“This was us dipping our toe in the water,” Clark said of the company’s pivot to immersive commerce, before noting additional features and initiatives would likely be announced soon.
It’s all part of the company’s effort, he said, to meet customers where they’re at, while adapting to trends and changing consumer demands that are driving a new dynamic for alternative acquisition.
“We still have a lot of laptop and desktop users, but mobile is obviously where everything’s moving toward right now,” Clark said.
A 3D Double Feature
With the 3D and augmented reality technology improving, use cases growing and fresh sales data to back it up, the way forward for 3D and AR digital shopping tools is clearly promising.
According to Vince Cacace, founder and CEO of Vertebrae — which was acquired by Snap last summer and also built the system CORT is using — new use cases in retail that go beyond home furnishings and decor, apparel, footwear, eyeglasses, and accessories are emerging, including electronics, outdoor gear, bikes, gifts and more.
“Anything that needs more than a single photo to describe it can be a good candidate for 3D/AR,” Cacace said in an email to PYMNTS, noting that “the best candidates” are typically high volume or high consideration products.
“3D/AR should be treated like any other format such as product photography, and therefore be used in every channel available,” Cacace added.
Beyond these channel expansion opportunities and the ongoing array of consumer behavioral changes, another catalyst is driving a shift for alternative purchasing methods and the more digitized shopping experience that go with it: inflation.
While it is still early in the cycle and price increases are still trending higher, the combined effect of rising prices and consumer belt-tightening is also causing people to at least look at other less permanent options than tying up a ton of cash on furniture.
“I think being tied down to something, as styles change, trends change, people want to renovate, people want to change their color schemes, and sometimes being locked into a very expensive purchase is not going to help people fulfill their dreams,” Clark said, calling this ability to stay flexible and up to date a changing consumer trend.
Add in the fact that PYMNTS data show that half of households earning about $100K per year are currently living paycheck to paycheck with nothing left over after paying basic bills, and the quest for creative financing solutions gets another nudge.
And lastly, anything concerning burgeoning digital commerce opportunities that are powered by 3D and AR technology would be remiss to overlook what is arguably the trendiest niche of all.
“There’s a lot of talk of how the metaverse [and] different immersive shopping experiences could be the future,” Clark said. “We’re positioning ourselves to be part of that conversation and I think consumers are moving that way already.”