Retailers must make bold moves to navigate continuous industry disruption whilst also meeting sky-high customer expectations. This week, Matter Of Form sits down with a company who is doing just that. And more.
A company spearheading a new generation of immersive and experiential commerce, poised to fundamentally change the way retailers and brands create and manage visual content.
A customer experience solution that enables brands to create beautiful visuals at scale. In other words, the 3D rendering of eCommerce product-dreams, all from a single design file. Replacing the touch and feel of a pick-and-choose product with hyper-realistic visuals using augmented reality – helping to bridge the gap from an in-store experience to tangible and personal online experience.
Retail’s collision with personalisation and customisation only affirms the need for solutions offered by Threekit. The startup’s software can quickly render configurable products online, across any industry – from furniture, jewellery, shoes, handbags, all the way through to automobiles and manufactured items, giving shoppers a clear picture of what they’re ordering before adding it to their carts. Not only allowing for a personalised approach for shoppers, it also helps to reduce returns and increase conversations for retailers.
Revolutionary visual design runs throughout the very DNA of ThreeKit. Founder & CTO, Ben Houston (Hollywood special effects veteran) left behind the glamour of film – having worked on blockbusters such as Avatar, Avengers and Harry Potter – to enter a world of eCommerce. A world in evident demand of incredible virtual product experiences.
After an injection of $10million in January from a first round of funding, Threekit launched its flagship product, Virtual Photographer™, a program that creates product images for eCommerce that look real but are completely computer-rendered. Only a matter of weeks ago a further $20million of venture capital was raised with Salesforce Ventures and Shasta Ventures.
We were delighted to have sat down with Threekit’s President, Joachim Klein, to chart his own journey as well as Threekit’s success. Klein was born in Germany and trained as a mechanical engineer in Berlin. During the buzz of the dot.com bubble in the early 2000s, he gained first-hand experience in the groundbreaking merger of industrial manufacturing and software.
But in December 2018, Klein left a Vice-President position with Salesforce to enter the fold of a start-up. Despite a potentially turbulent future as seen so often with digital start-ups, Klein joined forces with a team he both knew and trusted, and relished the prospect of working with truly cutting edge technology. The decision seemed obvious.
Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind Threekit.
Our founder and CTO Ben Houston originally worked in Hollywood creating CGI software that was used in films like Avatar and Game of Thrones. Eventually, brands started reaching out to him asking, “can we use your technology to show our products online in a more immersive way?”
He was growing the business when in 2019 we decided to invest and create Threekit, with the idea of making a single platform for creating hyper-realistic images, interactive 3D, and augmented reality on a massive scale.
How is Threekit redefining the landscape of the visual economy and eCommerce?
It’s not so much that we’re redefining the eCommerce landscape. Consumers are the ones shaping this massive shift.
In an always-online world, where we scroll and scroll (and then scroll some more) — we’re surrounded by visuals from Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, etc. And somewhere along the way, we all have come to expect a rich, dynamic visual environment.
The massive shift is that consumer visual expectations are sky-high and most retailers are missing the mark.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for the retail sector?
Today, almost everyone wants the ease and convenience of online shopping but eCommerce is only 17% of all retail sales. One of the main reasons why is that people aren’t getting good enough visuals.
Questions like: “What would that couch look like in blue and how will it fit in my living room?” or “What would that purse look like with my initials engraved on it?” are not usually answered and that means that shoppers are being asked to find their way to a store or to not buy at all.
How can retailers stand out and win back market share from players like Amazon?
Today, consumers expect upwards of eight images per product. This doesn’t sound too astounding until you consider that back in 2016, they expected only three. So the massive market shift is accelerating.
An incredibly important point of differentiation compared to Amazon is that Amazon only displays a maximum of seven images per product, which is less than most shoppers expect and an area where eCommerce challengers can win.
Retailers offering a visually immersive experience will be able to give shoppers a more immersive and higher confidence buying experience than Amazon.
“Retailers offering a visually immersive experience will be able to give shoppers a more immersive and higher confidence buying experience than Amazon.”
Visual technology and augmented reality can often seem very advanced and challenging to adopt. How affordable and manageable is a solution like Threekit for eCommerce retailers?
One of our customers, Crate & Barrel, is a large US furniture retailer that wanted to offer their customers a better online shopping experience.
The only issue: that they have hundreds of sofas, each with more than five fabrics, more than 10 colours for each fabric, and even options for legs.
Taking a picture of every potential combination would cost tens of millions of pounds.
Threekit was able to render more than three million hyper-realistic photos for Crate & Barrel at a fraction of what studio photography would have cost. Additionally, they can now simply implement augmented reality because we have their models on the Threekit platform.
Much research suggests that shoppers turn to eCommerce to make their purchases, but many of them also like to touch and feel their products before making a purchase. How does Threekit help on this front?
Five years ago, not many people were buying quality furniture online because they wanted to be able to touch and feel it. But things have changed and will continue to change. With better visuals people will be open to buying a lot more products online. We have the ability now to create much more dynamic visuals that build trust in shoppers.
“We have the ability now to create much more dynamic visuals that build trust in shoppers.”
How does Threekit stay ahead of the game? How do you research and develop to cater to your client’s ever-growing needs and expertise?
The first and most important way we stay ahead of the game is by listening religiously to our customers, partners, and prospects. We work across furniture, luxury, apparel, manufacturing and more and these conversations help define our roadmap and help us build the future of the visual economy.
We are also part of the Khronos Group, together with a lot of other companies (IKEA, Samsung, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Target). The group discuss where the 3D market is going and how we can shape the technology for it.
What makes Threekit unique to its competitors?
Most eCommerce companies are still using product photography or one-off 3D-designers. This makes sense if you only have very few product combinations.
Once you start talking about many more product combinations or customisation, it starts becoming really difficult to manage with photographers or designers alone. Threekit enables brands to visualise and maintain their products themselves — they have full control to simply update and make changes on the fly.
What does the future hold in store for Threekit?
We just raised $20M in Series A funding. This will allow us to continue improving our platform as well as undertaking more sales and marketing to get the word out!
Anything else our readers should know?
For anyone interested in a small sample of what we do, we currently have an offer where companies can submit links to product images and we will render it in 3D or in a hyper-realistic image. Check it out here.
We are very excited to be hosting an exclusive roundtable breakfast in partnership with Threekit as part of our Retail Therapy Series. During the breakfast, we will be exploring the explosive growth of visual technology and how businesses can exceed customers’ visual expectations through augmented reality/3D technology online.
The breakfast will be held at The Ivy Victoria on Tuesday 4th February. Register your interest in attending via email to [email protected] – places are limited.
If you wish to discuss the content or hear our thoughts on how to put some of our insights into action, please get in touch via [email protected] and we would be delighted to have a chat.
About Matter Of Form Group
Established in 2018, the Matter Of Form Group is a collection of four award-winning agencies united and bound together by a common set of ideas and values centred around the mantra ‘Make Change Effective’.
The group consists of Matter Of Form, FORM Commerce, Diffusion Digital and Experience Haus with clients spanning the travel and hospitality, retail, property and real estate, wellness, lifestyle, third sector, B2B sectors and beyond.
For Press and Media enquiries, please contact Emma Blackmore, Group Marketing Director: [email protected].