With the most arduous restrictions of COVID-19 behind us (for now), New Zealanders are starting to spend money again – most notably on domestic travel and home improvements1.

But while we are able to resume local travel and trade freely in the community, it’s inevitable that showrooms and previously packed-out home show events will see a decline in traffic.

So what to do, when demonstration is a key part of your sales process? This is where the online virtual showroom, or visualiser, comes into its own. Once a clunky concept of first-generation “virtual reality” technology, today’s photographic and digital advances make it possible to create a much more realistic online showroom experience for your potential customers – in some cases, with an edge over the original.

Seeing is believing

An obvious hurdle of the online environment is that people can’t touch what they’re buying. While this has not proven to be a barrier in retailing smaller items like clothing and books online, the burden is greater for bigger purchases like flooring or custom cabinetry.

The upside, however, is the power to create an experience that brings your customer’s vision to life. High definition photos of carpet or timber may only give a close approximation of colour and texture – but seeing it run down a hallway (their own hallway, depending on the technology) or built to their own specifications can be a powerful way to turn a budding idea into an action plan. The Tile Warehouse’s Visualiser tool offers the option for users to upload a photo of their own bathroom or kitchen, as well as preset room layouts.

The comforts of home

For all the benefits of a showroom to the vendor – the hands-on experience, the home turf advantage – the reality is that you still have to get the customer in there. This is harder now than it has ever been, and smart businesses are seeing the opportunity to meet the customer where they are.

While you may lose that immediate ability to drive a decision on the spot, a customer who can take the time to weigh their options may be much more receptive to a more collaborative, soft-sell approach. You can still communicate, whether that’s by email, phone or another preferred medium, and once they have indicated an intention to make a purchase, that communication can likely be a lot more direct. Kiwi company Kowhai Roofs lets customers upload a photo of their own home to check out colour options with their Kowhai Colour Visualiser tool.

Seamless integration with digital marketing

Consumers of all goods, now more than ever before, are online. Whereas before COVID-19, having a high-performing website was a competitive advantage, it is now becoming all but essential to staying in business.

Fortunately, your advertising and the native content you publish can now provide a single-step journey into your showroom environment. Although we take it for granted, the difference is stark;  magazine ads and billboards rely on a lot of other factors falling into place before they get a customer to your door. Flooring company HARO is featured by construction clients in regular Instagram posts, linking a wider audience who can then visit their site and try the HARO Room Visualiser.

If you invest in advertising, then invest in your site – the relationship is hand-in-glove and will ensure that the customers you want will be most likely to come to you.

1  Tony Alexander NZ Spending Survey