A revolutionary free consumer tool – the @home: Your Space app – is changing the way customers shop to furnish their homes. It is also set to dramatically change the way retailers engage with their customers, in many ways a first in South Africa and globally.
Sea Monster, a digital animation, game, and Augmented Reality development agency based in Cape Town, in partnership with @home, created the free-to-download app, a division of The Foschini Group (TFG).
“In a nutshell, the app allows customers to browse selected items from the @home catalogue on a digital device like a tablet, and then virtually place that item inside their home, using the device’s camera,” says Sea Monster Managing Director Glenn Gillis. “It’s a way to play with your own living space, and virtually ‘try before you buy’ in a realistic, immersive way. In the process of doing that, @home is able to see which catalogue items are popular with users, and learn more about users’ preferences.”
Gillis states that the success of the app is largely in part to @home’s commitment to forge a new path in customer engagement: “@home supported our ideas one hundred percent. It was inspirational for us as specialists to find a major client who encouraged our ambitious concepts, and the results speak for themselves.”
Suren Naidoo, Head of Enterprise Architecture for The Foschini Group (TFG), believes that the app has provided the company with an invaluable tool to help its customers: “We are absolutely thrilled with what Sea Monster has created with @home: Your Space. The app goes way beyond what we were expecting, and is a testament to the value of creative thinking in a business environment.
“This app is aligned to TFG’s strategic objective, which is to enhance the customer journey and experience by providing simple-to-use utilities in the purchasing journey. It is very much part of our digital strategy to continuously enhance the customer experience and decision-making.
“Given rampant consumerisation enabled through mobility, customers have become accustomed to expect highly focused utilities to assist them in ‘getting the job done’ or enabling efficient decision making.
“We have no doubt that this will enhance our customers’ experience positively, and allow us to see exactly where their interests lie in terms of our products.”
The @home: Your Space development team was faced with two challenges, how to help the retailer better understand its customers’ behaviour and solving technical problems related to the accurate rendering of 3D objects on two-dimensional devices.
“The @home: Your Space app incorporates analytics tools that provide useful information about what people are most interested in,” says Gillis, “whether it is the type of product, or which colour or style of the item they engaged with more, for example.
“We can gather information that traditional surveys or in-store observation cannot, because we’re allowing the user to ‘play’ in the environment, with their own rules, to a degree. Another advantage of the app over traditional observation is that you could have the entire catalogue available for perusal via the app, while physical stores are limited in space and stock availability.”
The development of the 3D solution was borne out of the team’s vast experience in animation, gaming, and AR development. Gillis explains: “We solved the problem (of 3D perception) by overlaying a visual grid on the real world when the customer calibrates the app. Then, we kept residuals of the grid on the screen during the shopping process to help to orientate the user to the perspective and avoid visual confusion as to whether a couch is, say, resting against a back wall or floating in the air.”
Gillis sees the app’s capabilities as the first step in a new direction for South African and global retailers. “It’s really about taking the approach of ‘gamifying’ the consumer experience, and allowing the customer to be more in control of his or her world. Apps like this one are going to allow that customer to shape their own experience of your brand. But it’s also going to allow you to see and understand more deeply than ever what that experience is.”
The free app is currently downloadable from the app store and is available for Android and Apple devices.
About Sea Monster
Sea Monster creates engaging, emotive, digital content, and experiences using animation, games, and augmented reality. They do this to create effective change in businesses and society by building brands and by driving learning and communication outcomes.
this article was first published in Fastmoving on the 26th February 2016