Disruptive times require innovative solutions and 2020 was, without a doubt, the most disruptive year which most of the global community as a whole has ever felt. The pandemic affected every single business in one way or another but, amidst this hardship, opportunities arose for those who were able to look at things differently and innovate. One such company did exactly that and has just produced one of the world’s largest virtual retail showrooms.
The path leading up to the creation of the virtual showroom was the realisation that it would be some time before exhibitions would be allowed to be hosted as physical events in the manner in which they had previously been done. Dave Nemeth, founder and managing director of Trend Forward, created a platform which was suited to virtual events, including custom expo stands, interactivity and all the necessary content available, at the push of a button.
The entire experience was a visual feast and, although it resembled a real exhibition, it was all created in 2D. During the process it became evident that more and more people were becoming comfortable with doing business on the internet as well as actually purchasing items and, of course, even attending events and conferences.
Through the process of research, creating and learning, the company realised that, although brick and mortar retail will never die, the dynamics are changing. Retail stores are getting smaller and online retail is generally boring. With this in mind, Trend Forward started creating realistic 3D environments which could be viewed on any device and even by using VR goggles. These environments are fully interactive as you journey your way through a world that can take on any look and feel, enabling clients to have no design restrictions such as those which you would potentially experience with the creation of a physical store or showroom.
The viewer is greeted with different music in specific areas as well as video content, PDF’s and whatever else is required to make the journey memorable, and resulting in the user returning, time and time again, as the content is updated and changed.
The demo platform struck a lot of interest. However, as is the case with most things, especially in the retail game, people tend to wait until someone else applies innovation before they themselves follow suit. It takes a very special way of thinking and form of leadership style for a business to embrace forward thinking innovation and to be prepared to be the first to explore and implement this. Cobra, an iconic brand who are well known for their taps and sanitaryware, jumped at the opportunity and decided to go as big as they possibly could and to align the new technology with their re-brand. The result is one of the biggest virtual showrooms you will find – in fact, it is a series of showrooms.
These showrooms include one which has been designed primarily for consumers with the aim of not only highlighting products, but being an inspiration for homeowners by having the latest bathroom trends on show. There is a shower experience which combines beautiful environments with leading edge designer shower heads and mixers.
There is also a technical showroom designed for the trade, packed with information and training videos, and highlighting installation techniques as well as technical data in the form of downloadable PDF’s. The professional showroom is aimed at architects and interior designers and shows Cobra products in environments which include public bathrooms, a hospital, a school, hotel room and even a jail. All 3D models are available as downloads in a variety of formats, making specification a breeze.
This is a real game changer for the retail industry, and another level of immersive digital experience. Since the development of the virtual showrooms, Trend Forward has added 360° photography, as well as interactive videos, to their expertise list.
The future is here.