Imagine peering through a computer screen into a living room with wood floors, white walls, and a pink sofa. Then see how the room would look with a gray sofa, or a blue one. With just a click of a mouse, replace the circular glass coffee table with a rectangular one, or two round wooden ones.
“I can very easily change the look and feel,” says Noam Levavi, CEO and co-founder of Israeli startup ByondXR. “Working on the fly, in real time, I can change any product I want, and from here I can add it to the cart.”
From the living room, a couple of mouse sweeps take users along, as if they were walking, into the kitchen, where Levavi switches effortlessly between different marble countertops.
The augmented reality and 3D technology developed by ByondXR is being enthusiastically embraced by Coca-Cola, Target, Lancôme and other major brands and retailers eager to re-create a full-scale simulation of the physical shopping experience online for customers stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Customers can experience a feeling close to the one they feel in the real flagship store,” Levavi says. “Retailers can bring their stores to life, virtually.”
Lancôme has used ByondXR to launch a new range of global ecommerce stores featuring its luxury perfumes and cosmetics. Online shoppers can interact with goods and customer service representatives, instead of just scrolling through an online catalogue.
“We have been using ByondXR’s platform to create true-to-life immersive pop-up experiences for Lancôme consumers around the world,” Malik Abu-Ghazaleh, global head of digital marketing, ecommerce and CRM at Lancôme tells Global Cosmetic Industry Magazine.
Lancôme’s stores on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and in Germany can be experienced online in 3D. In addition to seeing the products on the shelves, shoppers can also look out the windows and watch the ads playing on in-store screens. The ByondXR versions are not based on 360-degree cameras capturing actual images, but on 3D models of images.
“These virtual pop-ups have shown great value in terms of audience engagement and sales,” Abu-Ghazaleh says. “Having seen the potential, I’m positive we will do many more of these with the ByondXR platform for years to come.”
Online shopping was growing before the pandemic, but it has mushroomed over the past year, with global sales topping $4.2 billion in 2020, and expected to reach more than $6.5 billion by 2024, Statista reports. The pandemic has accelerated the shift from physical to online shopping by about five years, according to the IBM U.S. Retail Index, leading retailers to search for ways to make online buying more engaging.
”The pandemic made it almost impossible for retailers to rely on physical buying interactions, and they are looking for new types of digital ways to engage customers and sell their products online,” says Levavi, who previously co-founded and led YCD Multimedia, a digital media provider helping some of the world’s biggest brands deliver personalized content to their customers.
Clothing retailers have tried selling directly from their Instagram feeds, or sending out daily emails with personalized outfit ideas. The need to upgrade digital shopping has triggered a boom in business for Levavi’s company as customers and companies adapt.
Many retailers have followed Amazon and focused on efficiency and ease of use, but nearly two-thirds of people shop at least partly for the tactile and experiential nature of buying new things, or as a distraction, according to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.
“The emotional part of the good shopping experience, the part that good brick and mortar retailers specialized in, is still missing,” Levavi says. Seeing rows of flat, two-dimensional products does not come close to the feeling of walking through an actual store, he says.
ByondXR seeks to recreate those feelings. In clothing and luxury goods, the platform creates 3D versions of stores, where shoppers feel like they are strolling through aisles and viewing products on shelves. Clicking on at item allows shoppers to zoom in, get more of a feel for a product and more information about it.
“ByondXR’s powerful visual toolset is a cost savings platform and a revenue generator all in one,” says Michael Reidboard, president of Fashion Tech Consortium, a global forum of retailers, designers and tech companies. “(It’s) a winning combination of technology and creativity.”
Online stores based on images from cameras “are nice and can give very realistic views, but you can’t interact and change products,” Levavi says. “If I want to change something, I just take it out and put in a new 3D model. If I click on a product, it goes to their catalog and I can buy it.”
In home decor, objects are displayed in realistic 3D environments. Shoppers can mix and match different products in different spaces, seeing how furniture, lamps and other decor items will look together.
Users can use their phone camera to place a 3D object in their home environment and see how it looks.
Levavi says the system takes just a few weeks to set up for retailers. Shoppers can use it on any device, ranging from phones to laptops, with no special equipment needed. Images load in just a few seconds, thanks to the company’s special cloud-based rendering and streaming technology, which automates and speeds up much of the process.
“We basically do our magic on the cloud,” Levavi says, declining to elaborate on how the technology works. “Complex environments with hundreds of products can be rendered and streamed in a couple of seconds into any browser.”
In addition, the system also tracks which products users look at, and how they interact with the platform, creating data that retailers can use to improve sales and experiences.
For more information about ByondXR, click HERE.