In the world of enterprise sales, storefronts don’t really exist. Instead, a large warehouse is outfitted with beautiful sets and potential clients are flown out to walk through these massive facilities, Often time this is ineffective. A tired executive wondering around a 100,000 sq. ft warehouse for three hours in hopes of finding their next office layout just sounds wrong. And while the visualization aspect works, we knew we could improve this.
Our general product development process at VisionX remains quite consistent for each project. Followed by the identification of a problem, we always begin with researching to understand the market. We then synthesize our results and carve out an action plan. Next, we prototype & design. There are times when everything seems to be clicking right away and we get to the final product quickly but many a time coming up with a solution takes several attempts as we never compromise on the quality and efficiency of our products. Lastly, we evaluate our prototypes with user tests.
Our research was split into three sections:
- Visit the enterprise showrooms and understand why they are set up the way they are
- Speak to enterprise customers about their showroom visits
- How would people react to sales using VR
Having a great relationship with Staples, we begun with visiting their showrooms and spoke with their sales teams. We also visited many other private showrooms as well as public ones such as West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and even Ikea. We spoke to several customers who had visited these showrooms with both in-person and online interviews and surveys. And we ran some tests with people using VR headsets to examine walking around a virtual space filled with furniture.
We quickly learned that enterprise showrooms are set up similarly to Ikea, just with a very narrow focus on offices. We took notes and videos to be able to set up a showroom virtually. One note from our research was that in a VR environment, customers frequently wanted to move the items, so we knew that was imperative to add into the showroom. In addition, we noted that when customers would walk through showrooms, they frequently asked about prices and product specifications, which we could do much more efficiently in a VR environment.
Prototype & Design
For the prototype, we consulted with architects and once again leveraged our experiences in WeWork offices to create a start-up office scene. As always, we used Unreal Engine, which would allow us to port the platform and create a virtual walkthrough in 2D for regular desktop browsing experiences. We considered, as a sales tool, the VR space at some point could be dynamic: a penthouse suite for real estate folks, a board room scene for executives, or a shared office for a startup. Interacting with items in VR was often a challenge for older executives, who would need to learn many new controls for VR technology, so we considered using existing items within the virtual world to navigate. For example, to travel between scenes, the user could pull out a virtual iPad and select a button. While this seems more complicated, in reality the familiarity with a product and understanding how a button on a screen works, was a more palatable experience than selecting a floating button within a rendered scene. While the VR experience would require gear to recreate, you can view the interactive 2D demo below:
Out of all the project we have executed for Staples, the VR Showroom was by far the most exciting project for the executives. We are now looking to merging the VR showroom and Design My Office technologies together to be able to create custom office designs for companies in practically real-time.
We loved working on this project. Virtual Reality when used correctly is just an incredible experience for all involved and we look forward to bringing more projects and technologies into the virtual world.