Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
In May, Natuzzi Italia debuted a first for the Italian lifestyle brand, an Augmented Store within its Madison Avenue location in New York. This new customer journey combines virtual and augmented reality with holographic displays and advanced 3-D modeling with the help of Microsoft and Hevolus Innovation.
What does it mean for those on the hunt for the finest in Italian furniture design? Customers are now able to see products from an endless virtual showroom, in various colors, finishes, and settings, by donning a mixed reality headset, the Microsoft HoloLens. Natuzzi Italia can then co-design an interior project via a scaled 3-D model using HoloProject technology, allowing customers to take home 360-degree renderings accessible on their phone.
“The idea of visualizing a room layout before building physical models, that I think is the foundation for a lot of the great work that Natuzzi’s doing with this new platform. And it’s going to create efficiencies—their customers and partners are saving time, they’re saving money, they’re doing something they weren’t able to do before. That’s really what we’re enabling with this kind of technology,” said Terry Farrell, Microsoft’s mixed reality director of marketing.
To learn more about the Augmented Store, Whitewall caught up with Pasquale Junior Natuzzi, creative director at Natuzzi Italia.
WHITEWALL: Can you describe the experience of the mixed reality headsets, the Microsoft HoloLens?
PASQUALE JUNIOR NATUZZI: We’ve introduced the Augmented Store concept into a few of our retail locations, and the reaction from customers has been mind-blowing. The Microsoft HoloLens headset allows us to show such intricate details within the 3-D simulations that clients can experience products in an entirely new way, often falling in love with products they hadn’t even noticed previously. We refer to the combination of all technology that goes into this process as the “Natuzzi New Customer Experience,” and we are proud to offer our customers a shopping experience in a way that was previously unimaginable. How exciting is it to be able to take customers on a journey into a virtual world where there are no boundaries and anything is possible?
WW: How do you anticipate this kind of technology changing the way consumers make choices?
PJN: Consumers are constantly bombarded with brand messaging through a variety of channels—both digital and physical—in our hyperactive world, so it’s important for us that we find innovative ways to share our products and add value for our customers. Using cutting-edge technology, we are able to tell the Natuzzi story, and to create unique one-to-one relationships. This experience of our product in such a creative way will hopefully allow the consumers to fall in love, join the Natuzzi family, and keep coming back. This technology not only provides something experiential and memorable, but is also designed to enhance and facilitate both the browsing and purchasing experience.
WW: Why is this kind of technology especially compatible in the design and interior design worlds?
PJN: With our 3-D interior design configurator application, for example, consumers can mix and match furniture in a mockup floor plan of their space for a realistic visualization of what the room will look like with the chosen products, which makes the process so much simpler. Instant visualization of both the style and scale of a piece within one’s own personal space is a service that was logistically impossible without the technology. I think the potential for this technology is almost limitless. It will not only give customers increased confidence in their decision to purchase, but simultaneously provides them with an experience, giving them an additional reason to visit one of our showrooms.
WW: Outside of the customer, how can this kind of technology benefit a brand like Natuzzi?
PJN: The Augmented Store is clearly a win for Natuzzi in terms of customer relationships and satisfaction. We project that it will shorten the purchasing decision process by one third, as well as increase the conversion rate from browsing to buying. The use of mixed reality also has enormous potential to positively impact our ability to open new stores. We would love to be able to increase
our retail footprint in important and heavily trafficked retail districts, for example, but these in- demand locations typically offer much smaller spaces than other locations. This technology would allow us to open even a tiny boutique store but with unlimited virtual inventory, to spread our brand reach to a much wider audience.