Here at Virtual Worlds we are celebrating two decades of innovation by touring the UK with our very latest virtual reality (VR) technology.
Virtual Worlds turns 20 in July, and we’re marking the occasion by inviting KBB retailers to try out the very latest innovations during a roadshow at various locations throughout the year. We plan to show designers the power of virtual reality and offer advice on how it can help to generate sales and increase conversion rates.
The tour started at leading sanitary ware manufacturer Geberit’s head office in Warwick on May 8-9, and is followed by a series of events to mark Clerkenwell Design Week next week. A visit to Dansani, Brighton takes place in July with Roman Showers, County Durham, scheduled for September, and more locations and dates to be announced later next month.
The first roadshow at Geberit was well attended with visitors able to try out our 4D Theatre system, receive training on their existing Virtual Worlds system and to experience our virtual reality (VR) plans for the future.
CAD design has come on leaps and bounds in the 20 years during which Virtual Worlds has been working in the space, most recently with the development of VR technology. Over the last few years VR has really begun to make its mark as a serious option for designers and retailers as they seek a more interactive, immersive way of sharing their plans with customers.
For KBB retailers it can be a highly effective sales tool, making it easier for customers to experience, and fall in love with, their dream kitchen, bedroom or bathroom.
Virtual Worlds’ 4D Showroom software, for example, allows users to enter and walk around the proposed room from a first person perspective. It features an up-to-date catalogue of more than 100 popular manufacturers.
Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds, said: “CAD design has come a long way in such a short space of time, and for KBB retailers, virtual reality is the next step along in that journey.
“It’s something that you really do have to experience, which is why we’re inviting retailers along to celebrate our 20th birthday with us by trying the very latest technology on the market for themselves.”
For more information please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk or contact 01908 663848
Ten years ago the virtual reality (VR) concept would render images of cheesy 80’s Sci-Fi’s and nascent gaming technology, appearing more like a fantasy for technologists with little bearing in the real world.
That is, of course, until now. Today, VR is not so much creeping but rather leaping into the mainstream.
Only last year we saw Oculus, Samsung and Sony get seriously big on VR, keenly competing to achieve media share for their latest headsets and this trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon.
But, you may ask, can VR really have a tangible business impact in the KBB world? The answer is irrevocably yes, and for those retailers who aren’t already using it the (not so virtual) reality is that it really is no longer a case of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’…..
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For the large part, VR allows KBB retainers to create that all-important USP in what, with the dominance of e-commerce, has become a keenly competitive market.
Today’s abundance of online KBB retailers, many of which offer a fast delivery and cheap prices, mean it can be all too tempting for consumers to buy their kitchen or bathroom on the Internet from the comfort of their home.
This, in turn, has put increased pressure on traditional retailers to create a tangible differentiation to win business. This is clearly reflected in the latest Mintel report on the bathroom sector which concurs ‘Retailers need to build a wide suite of skills to service the complex requirements of a bathroom make-over – services will become increasingly sophisticated, with branded elements to add reassurance for shoppers.’1
Here, the remit then is about thinking outside the box and applying the use of the technology to a retail advantage: cue the VR revolution.
The integration of VR with design consultancy quite simply takes the customer experience to another level. Virtual Worlds’ 4D CAD technology, for example, delivers high quality, virtual reality and an interactive buying experience via a futuristic headset whereby users can realise a 4D simulation of physically being in their dream kitchen or bathroom design.
Sitting comfortably in their chair complete with an avatar (which is even matched with appearance) they can experience every socket, every stitch, each and every fine detail of their concept and how it may look and feel in real-time. Want to check how much space is between the island unit and the oven? Check. Extend drawers to ensure sufficient storage? Check. Operate functional fittings such as magic corner units? Check.
This digital transformation of blended reality experience with product design takes the ‘try before you buy’ concept to whole new level and it is a very powerful business tool.
From our experience, most consumers will struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render, however realistic it looks, yet our 4D experience negates this problem entirely by allowing designers to express their ideas in a precise way that their clients physically experience. It also enables installers to plan work with confidence, knowing the design will work as ‘real’ products have been tried out in the design.
The result is the end of ‘buyer remorse’. Given that a new bathroom or kitchen is a huge investment for the average consumer, it is, of course, extremely important that they get it right. In this way, it effectively alleviates the fear factor associated to buying these big ticket items – and given the fact that two thirds2 (63%) of shoppers admit they don’t get the best experience online this makes for a very appealing proposition.
Testament to this, here at Virtual Worlds, our customers have reported an average 50 per cent increase in sales conversions since using our CAD technology – with some reporting a conversion rate of 80%.
While VR has certainly come a long way in recent years, it really is just beginning.
Having already launched the industry’s first 4D CAD software in 2016, here at Virtual Worlds we are all geared up for the launch of the next generation of product which will truly blur the lines between virtual and reality like never before. And we have lots more in the pipeline.
Indeed, while good customer service and expert design consultancy will always be the pinnacles of success in the KBB world, the blending lines of VR for consumer and enterprise use cannot be ignored. It is the future and what all retailers should be aspiring to in this age of digital transformation.
The winner of the inaugural ‘Sottini Showroom Designer of the Year’ competition has been announced – with the design by Emma Knight of Elliotts Lymington Living Spaces Showroom scooping the £2000 prize after being selected by a judging panel made up of leading industry names. The winning entry was commended for combining style and innovation with excellence and simplistic functionality in its design.
Luxury bathroom brand Sottini ran the competition to find the nation’s pride of showroom design, in partnership with Virtual Worlds, the UK’s leader in CAD technology for the KBB sector. Entrants had to submit their design proposals in a 3D CAD format, using a software package such as Virtual Worlds, to include all key elements of the bathroom and with an ethos on creating a showroom that was inspiring and innovative, but also realistic.
It received a great response from the Designer community across the UK, with a final shortlist of 20 entries considered by judges. The judging panel was made up of industry experts from Barratt Homes, Potton Homes, Millwood Designer Homes, Colemore Tang and Conran Design, as well as Virtual Worlds, Ideal Standard and EKBB magazine. The judging took place at The Bathroom Showroom in London with the judges initially looking at the designs on paper before getting to experience the rooms in Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre software. The unique design presentation from Virtual Worlds allowed the judges to explore the rooms in virtual reality to fully appreciate the design, before finally choosing their winner.
Such was the quality of entries in fact, a further two entries received a highly commended accolade: Ben Mellor of Oakland’s (Leicester) and Dean Saoud-Easton of Just Add Water (Kings Cross, London).
Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, comments: “The aim of this competition was to reward and acknowledge the talents of the UK’s finest KBB designers who continue to go the extra mile when it comes to creating truly stunning showrooms which excite, entice and inspire customers.
“We received a fantastic response and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who entered and congratulate the winner, but also add that the standard of designs submitted was testament to the talent and hard work of the designers who dedicate thousands of hours to creating truly stunning showrooms destined to ‘wow’ customers – and in doing so demonstrated the multitude of combinations that our Sottini collection offers.”
Nathan Maclean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, adds: “We really do have some of the most hardworking, talented KBB designers here in the UK, so it is great to have an opportunity to give them the credit they deserve.”
Winning bathroom designer, Emma Knight, said: “I love doing what I do, so I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award and really enjoyed creating the design for the competition.
“The split levels allow the stylish products to stand out against a stunning back drop, as well as increasing the sense of space – I can imagine relaxing for hours in this bathroom!
“My manager, Andrew, gives me great support and I’ve learnt so much from him. Winning this award has given me inspiration and increased confidence to do more fabulous designs for our customers at Elliotts Living Spaces.”
Virtual Worlds is strengthening its presence in the market place yet again by adding a new regional sales executive to its busy team.
Matthew Froggatt has joined the firm, which develops market-leading 3D & 4D Design software for the KBB industry, to raise awareness of the product and drive sales in the business across the north of England.
Matthew has six years’ experience working in the home improvement industry. He joins the team from Homebase in Bolton where he has been project managing, remodelling and helping with the designs and layouts for his customers’ homes.
Nathan MacLean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Matthew to the team. His work within the retail and KBB sector has given him a wealth of knowledge in the industry and he has an innate understanding about Virtual World’s and what we are about.
Matthew’s knowledge around technology and design will allow us to continue to grow and develop our business, and ensure many more customers are able to take advantage of Virtual Worlds’ design packages when they visit retailers, thereby allowing them to create their dream kitchen or bathroom.”
Innovation-led CAD technology company, Virtual Worlds is continuing to grow with the addition of a new regional sales representative to its busy team.
Leigh Townley has joined the firm to help drive sales of its market-leading 3D & 4D design software and raise awareness of the product in the KBB businesses across Scotland.
Leigh has over 10 years’ experience working in the design and interior architecture business in sales and design roles. For the past three years he has been working at Luxury Home Design in Glasgow where he has been project managing, remodelling and helping with the designs and layouts for his customers’ homes.
Now active in his new role, Leigh will be responsible for driving Virtual Worlds’ brand into the, until now, untapped Scotland region.
Nathan MacLean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Leigh to the team, his work with architects and designers has given him a wealth of knowledge in the design industry and has an innate understanding about what Virtual Worlds is all about. With a solid sales background stretching over seven years this role is perfectly suited to Leigh, and we can’t wait for him to get started expanding our customers within Scotland.”
Virtual Worlds and Sottini are teaming up to break new ground by installing the latest 4D Theatre CAD technology system in a Potton show home on site at its St Neots development in Cambridgeshire.
As part of this industry first, Virtual Worlds will provide access to a wide range of bathroom layouts from Sottini, the timeless bathroom brand built on a heritage of quality and innovation in design, which customers can then tailor for the home they are interested in designing while visiting the Potton show home. This innovative technology allows the homeowner to virtually walk around and sample their bathroom before they order.
In what is akin to a show home of the future, Virtual Worlds’ market-leading software uses a 4D headset to enable customers to enter the designed space, experiencing it in full virtual reality and having the opportunity to walk around the space, just as they would in the real world.
The software replicates the dimensions and layout of the room exactly, with customers even able to interact with objects around the room just as they would in real life, such as by opening and closing drawers, cupboards and doors.
The exceptional Sottini collection will be displayed in exquisite detail through the Virtual Worlds software, with customers able to experience the beautiful design possibilities of the range to its fullest. The result will be a stand out showroom which will help Potton’s partner Cambridge Kitchen & Bathrooms to drive sales and improve customer experience.
The scheme will see the system installed at the Potton Self Build Show Centre for a period of six months. It will be the first time 4D CAD technology has ever been used in a show home environment.
Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds, commented: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Potton and Sottini to deliver a unique experience for self-builders.
“Designing and building a bespoke home is the biggest transaction most people will make in their lifetime. Our software will help to enhance the buying experience as well as provide the peace of mind that comes from virtually sampling the room and their chosen products before investing, ultimately resulting in a product they are happy with. It’s the ultimate try before you buy experience.”
Fae Perkins at Potton, said: “We’re always looking for new ways of improving the experience for individuals designing their dream home with us. We’re sure Virtual Worlds will prove to be a popular addition to our show centre and will help to ensure that customers are 100 per cent happy with their completed property.”
Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, added: “This is a unique opportunity for buyers to experience their dream bathroom before even a single tile has been laid and bathroom suite has been installed. A bathroom is a huge investment but this show home gives individuals purchasing through Potton the perfect chance to ensure their room will be money well spent.”
For further information please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk
In a true meeting of industry minds Sottini, the timeless bathroom brand, and Virtual Worlds, the UK’s leader in CAD technology for the KBB sector, have joined forces to reveal a brand new competition to find the nation’s pride of showroom design. The winner of the competition will scoop a £2000.00 prize, in John Lewis gift vouchers.
The inaugural ‘Sottini Showroom Designer of the Year’ in partnership with Virtual Worlds competition aims to reward and acknowledge the talents of the UK’s finest KBB designers who continue to go the extra mile when it comes to creating truly stunning showrooms which excite, entice and inspire customers.
Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, comments: “The showroom design world has shifted dramatically in recent years; today’s discerning customer increasingly seeks a bold approach, infinite inspiration and more creative design freedom.”
Nathan Maclean, Managing Director at Virtual Worlds adds: “We really do have some of the most hardworking, talented KBB designers here in the UK. Plus now, with 4D CAD systems, such as Virtual Worlds, they are able to really push the boundaries in terms of creating truly outstanding designs which show the remarkable design detailing of collections such as Sottini in all their glory. It is therefore great to have an opportunity to give them the credit they deserve.”
The competition is open to all Sottini retailers – and to be in with a chance of taking the crowning title, retailers must submit their design proposals by 13th March 2017 to email@example.com, in a 3D CAD format, using a software package such as Virtual Worlds, to include all key elements of the bathroom using products solely from the iconic Sottini bathroom collection. The ethos is on creating a showroom which is inspiring, innovative but also realistic.
From those entries, a judging panel made up of industry experts from Barratt Homes, Potton Homes, Millwood Designer Homes, Colemore Tang and Conran Design, as well as Virtual Worlds, Ideal Standard and EKBB magazine, will decide upon the overall winner. Winners will be announced late March 2017.
Full details and terms and conditions of the completion can be found here
With a new report highlighting the millennial generation as the UK’s most active renovators and decorators, Virtual Worlds is reminding retailers of the importance of selling on the benefits of CAD technology to this captive audience.
According to a new report by Houzz, over half (57%) of millennial homeowners (aged 25 to 34) renovated their home in 2015, which was in line other age categories. However, millennials far outpaced other generations when it’s comes to delving into decorating – with 79% having recently redecorated compared with 71% of those aged 35 to 54 and 68% of those 55 and over.
Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds comments: “It is interesting to see this distinctive market shift as the younger catchment group begin to enter the housing market and invest in customising their new home. More so, with the report showing that the kitchen is the second most prevalent home improvement focus, shortly followed by the bathroom, it certainly reflects a buoyant opportunity for the KBB retailer.”
To help retailers take stock of this opportunity, Virtual Worlds’ innovative 4D CAD technology, the first of its kind in the UK, enables would-be buyers an incredibly realistic 4D simulation of physically being in their dream design. Users are able to immerse themselves in the room as an avatar; allowing them to get a feel for the space, how the designs works and even try out functions such as opening drawers.
Nathan adds: “As a generation already well accustomed to the marvels of modern day technology, millennials are a natural audience for 4D simulations; and in fact, from our experience, many actively seek it as part of their buying process.
“For the retailer looking to tap into this opportunity then, we’d recommend it as a way to attract business, create standout and driving sales – after all, once a customer has had the experience of walking around their dream kitchen or bathroom design it is very likely that they will be sold.”
Virtual Worlds is continuing to grow with the addition of two new regional sales representatives to its busy team.
Miles Maunganidze and Brandon Kwesiga have joined the firm to help drive sales of its market-leading 3D & 4D Design software and raise awareness of the product in businesses across the south of England, the Midlands and Wales.
Brandon will be covering London and the South East of England and has 10 years’ experience in the bathroom industry since first joining the Bathstore as a sales consultant in 2006. He most recently worked at bathroom supplier Farmiloe where he was the company’s brand manager, having been promoted from the position of business development manager earlier in 2016.
With an equally impressive retail background, Miles will be bringing a fresh perspective to Virtual Worlds, following a successful career in retail store management including spells at House of Fraser and Superdry.
With a business management degree from Brunel University, he will be able to use his customer experience skills to get retailers on board whilst managing sales across the Midlands, South West and Wales.
Nathan MacLean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, said: “We’re delighted to welcome both Miles and Brandon to the team. We’re sure they will both prove to be a real asset to the business in the months and years ahead.
“Having two additional experienced sales representatives in our team will allow us to continue to grow and develop our business, and ensure many more customers are able to take advantage of Virtual Worlds’ design package when they visit retailers and create their dream kitchen or bathroom.”
The KBB retail dynamic has changed dramatically in recent years driven, in the large part, by the advent of e-commerce.
Last year alone, UK online spending rose by 11% to £114 billion and it is expected to grow by a further 11% this year, equating to an overall £126 billion. In fact, it is now estimated that some 27% of all retail sales now take place online.
More so, this age of constant connectivity and contextual relevance has irrevocably changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions; they’re able to instantly compare prices and product reviews in store, consult family and friends instantly via social media and, when they’re ready to buy, there is an ever-growing list of online retailers who will deliver products directly to them and, all too often, at a cheaper price.
Naturally, this hasn’t escaped the KBB industry with an increasing number of consumers choosing to buy their new kitchen or bathroom online. Cue an increased need for KBB retailers to be forward thinking and adapt their services to this new way of interacting with and engaging with customers.
This is clearly reflected in the latest Mintel report on the bathroom sector which concurs ‘Retailers need to build a wide suite of skills to service the complex requirements of a bathroom make-over – services will become increasingly sophisticated, with branded elements to add reassurance for shoppers.’
Here, the remit is about thinking outside the box and applying the use of the technology to a retail advantage. One clever way, for example, of getting consumers through the door with very minimal effort is through the use of an online planner; in short, a CAD planning tool which enables consumers to set out the room plan configuration for say, their bathroom of kitchen, and plot in their choice of furniture and accessories – all from the comfort of their own home.
Obviously, as would-be customers need to input their details beforehand, this not only provides data capture but a captivated potential customer who is actively looking at purchasing a KBB product. As soon as the design is done, it is simply sent on to the retailer to follow up in a timely manner.
From our experience, retailers can receive up 25 designs in a month through an online planner and some manufacturers receive over 200 designs. Assuming they manage to get those enquiries in to the showroom, the result is the ultimate lead generator.
Then, when it comes to in-store, it’s about making the experience as engaging and interactive as possible. Of course, the heart of this lies in the showroom which must be as aspirational and current as possible in order to showcase the full design possibilities available – also in having a strong design consultancy to help inspire customers.
Again though, the latest technology can take the customer experience to the next level.
The industry’s first generation of 4D CAD technology, for example, delivers high quality, virtual reality and an interactive buying experience via a futuristic headset. In this way, users are able to experience a realistic 4D simulation of physically being in their dream kitchen or bathroom design via an avatar set to their appearance; allowing them to see exactly how much space there is between the island units and the oven and to ensure there is sufficient storage for their requirements by extending drawers fully and operating functional fittings such as magic corner units.
The use of 4D virtual reality can become an invaluable business tool. Given that most consumers can struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render, however realistic it looks, the 4D experience negates this problem entirely by allowing designers to express their ideas in a precise way that their clients physically experience. It also enables installers to plan work with confidence, knowing the design will work as ‘real’ products have been tried out in the design.
The result, in effect, is negation of the typical ‘buyer remorse’. Given that a new bathroom or kitchen is a huge investment for the average consumer, it is, of course, extremely important that they get it right. In this way, it effectively alleviates the fear factor associated to buying these big ticket items.
Testament to this, at Virtual Worlds, our customers, for instance, have reported an average 50 per cent increase in sales conversions since using our CAD technology – with some reporting a conversion rate of 80%.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that, unlike the FMCG sector, buying a new kitchen or bathroom is a rare and extremely costly experience. Therefore, amid constant tales of buyers being duped with online purchase which fail to live up to expectations and with two thirds (63%) of shoppers admitting they don’t get the best service and overall experience online3, the business case for the KBB retail experience is a strong one.
However, times are changing and the reality is that the age-old formula of great customer service and an experienced design team won’t always cut it and it’s more important than ever to create stand out. By investing in the latest technological innovations, retailers can look to drastically enhance the buyer experience; creating a tangible ‘wow’ factor which will not only get customers in the door but help close the deal. For more information on Virtual Worlds, please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk
*Taken from September’s issue of KBB Review – page 20*