April 24, 2018 | Written by: Wim Vantomme
Categorized: Consumer Products | Retail
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The furniture-buying experience is constantly changing. We used to present customers with a static physical or online catalog, with pictures and descriptions. Today, even the best catalogs and the most fully stocked showrooms aren’t sufficient enough to keep up with the growing and changing expectations of consumers.
Try before you buy
We’re dealing with a new generation of consumers who have grown up with the Internet. They are used to viewing products online before they go into a shop to buy. However, even with this rise in online shopping, the showroom isn’t obsolete. Consumers still want to see and try out new furniture before they part with their cash. They also want to personalize and customize furniture to their own unique tastes.
Our JORI furniture collection currently has 102 base models. On top of that, we have 151 types of leather and 160 types of fabric, as well various finishing options for the feet and armrests. Equally, customers can mix and match components – for example, to create a corner sofa to precisely fit their living room.
We can’t possibly put that many options in the showroom, or even in an online catalog. Plus, the sheer volume of customization options can overwhelm both shoppers and salespeople. It was becoming increasingly difficult for our customers to understand all the possible options for a piece of furniture, and what the final design would look like.
3D visualization and customization
JORI has created a way to capture the best online shopping experience and merge it with a personalized design encounter. We decided to create an online 3D configurator to allow consumers and salespeople alike to build, visualize and customize 3D models of furniture. Now customers can see our furniture in 3D. It’s like buying a car—they can “walk” around the product and view it from all angles.
We worked with IBM Business Partner CD-Invest and IBM to build a 3D object database to run on IBM i on our existing IBM Power System S814. One of the key advantages of the new configurator running on IBM i is that it uses existing business rules to guarantee that the output will be comfortable, attractive and technically possible to manufacture. Simply put, it will not permit incorrect combinations of options.
Customers can use the solution online or in store to access our full range of customization options and visualize exactly how their finished items will look. The configurator also makes it easy for in-store sales advisors to create the perfect item for a customer, without needing weeks of training in all our options. In addition, they can instantly give customers accurate pricing no matter how complex the chosen options.
The configurator also speeds up the order-to-delivery timetable. The process is integrated from start to finish. The configurator output is based on simplified versions of the same 3D models used by JORI’s designers, which are further integrated with manufacturing. This slashes production and wait times by around 50 percent! That means happy customers and less paperwork both for us and for the dealer network.
The future of furniture design is now
We discovered an interesting and somewhat accidental side-benefit of the configurator. It enables us to design new products and gauge their market appeal without the delay and cost of physical prototyping. When we design something within the configurator, we know that we can manufacture it because the specifications already comply with our business rules. Furthermore, we don’t need to create physical prototypes, and we don’t need to print updated catalogues for our dealers. If customers are interested in the new items, they can configure and order them, and we can build them.
Thanks to this virtualization of our business processes, our time-to-market is now very short. It used to take up to six months to bring a completely new model to market—now we can do it within a few weeks. This amounts to a more than 80 percent reduction in production time.
We’re not planning to rest on our successes from the configurator. It will need to keep changing, because the market is always changing. We already have a few competitors starting to offer something similar. I think it will become normal to shop this way, so it’s important we stay ahead of the curve.
For example, we already have plans to start using IBM Watson AI technology to help consumers personalize their furniture even further. We’re currently creating a solution where the customer can submit a photo of a fabric they like, and Watson will cross reference it with our system to find something similar.
I’m excited to see what the future holds for JORI and the home furnishings industry. I know that building our configurator IBM i on Power gives us the ideal foundation for the future.
Learn more about how JORI is transforming the furniture-buying experience with its 3D configurator on IBM i on Power by reading their client success story.