February 19, 2013, 1:51 PM

A virtual tool for online furniture sellers

E-retailer Steelcase boosts sales with a 3D room designer from LoveMyHome.

Lead Photo

A screenshot of Steelcase's LoveMyHome 3D room designer in action.

Steelcase Inc., which sells metal office furniture on three of its own web sites and through resellers online and in stores, is implementing a new online 3D room designer tool to help shoppers better visualize how furniture will look in a room. The tool allows shoppers to place Steelcase products in a virtual room, configure them to the colors and styles they like, then save the designs, share them or buy the products they’ve selected—including the entire design at once—the retailer says. Since going live in August, both conversions and average order values appear to be up, though Steelcase can’t yet say by how much, says director of digital marketing Sara Onken.

Danish software company LoveMyHome provides the 3D room designer for a monthly fee based on the size of the retailer or, for a manufacturer sharing the tool with resellers, the number of products the tool exposes, says Janus Jagd, CEO of LoveMyHome, declining to share specific prices. The company takes all the details and dimension information from a retailer’s product catalog and creates a digital 3D visualization for each item, he says. Setting up the tool for a customer’s entire catalog usually takes a few months. Then LoveMyHome uploads those images into the 3D room designer, an application that retailers can embed into their e-commerce sites as easily as they would a YouTube video, Jagd says.

Shoppers using the application start by choosing a room template or drawing custom room dimensions on a grid in the room designer. Then they configure interior details like flooring, walls, doors and windows. They add products by dragging and dropping them into the room. The products selected appear in a column to the right of the design. Users can also change the colors and other customizations on products where those options are available, such as leather versus fabric couch upholstery, Jagd says.

Customers may place individual items from a personalized design into their shopping carts and purchase them, or buy the entire design at once, all within the LoveMyHome application, he says. They can also save designs and share them on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or directly on the e-commerce site through the design tool. Other shoppers can click Facebook’s Like or Pinterest’s Love buttons, comment on designs, buy from pre-configured designs they see or redesign their own room based on an existing design, Jagd says.

So far, one in five LoveMyHome users publish their designs to share with others online, he says. “You basically build a base of visitors who will do some of the marketing for you and offer consumers another way to shop for furniture—crowd-sourced designs,” he says.

Steelcase customers spend an average of four minutes per visit using the 3D room designer, Onken says.  The retailer’s customer service team also uses the tool while on the phone with customers, making a configuration to fit their needs and sharing it with them online during a call, she says. And Steelcase’s interior decorators also use it to design office layouts to feature on the site.

Two of Steelcase’s e-commerce sites, Store.Steelcase.com and MyTurnstone.com, feature the tool today; the retailer’s third site, Store.Coalesse.com. is implementing it now, Onken says. Steelcase may offer the design tool to resellers for their e-commerce sites or in-stores later, but has not announced plans to do so yet. More than 650 resellers offer Steelcase products worldwide and the company says it had annual revenue in 2012 of about $2.75 billion.

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