Businesses Lean on Visual and Virtual Tools During Coronavirus

Manufacturers use e-Commerce, CPQ software, and virtual reality to replace face-to-face selling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus has impacted how businesses sell and consumers shop. Widespread quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures have affected consumer and business spending, and the way goods are purchased.

COVID-19 is affecting people at the most basic level. The ‘normal’ shopping experience is on indefinite hold as governments around the world issue stay at home orders. With nearly all brick and mortar stores in the United States banning people from entering the facility, face-to-face shopping is not a viable option for the foreseeable future.

Nearly all states have enacted policies to close non-essential businesses, but some businesses continue to operate, sans the consumer foot traffic. This has forced sales and marketing leaders to leverage online quoting and ordering platforms and employ virtual reality and augmented reality to replace face-to-face selling.

As we all navigate through this pandemic together, two things are clear. First, as painful as this is, we will get through it. Secondly, consumers must adapt to shopping for non-essential items from their homes using online ordering platforms. And businesses must rely on e-Commerce and other innovative technology to carry them through this crisis.


Manufacturer Improvises Ordering Experience

Axonom customer Belwith Keeler Décor Solutions was set to launch a nationwide configuration kiosk station at a big box retailer in 2020.

When COVID-19 hit the US in March 2020, the Retailer paused the project. That curveball left Belwith Keeler Décor Solutions with a decision to make, find another specialty retailer or table the project.

Design Hickory Hardware with Powertrak 2D CPQ
Configure Cabinet Hardware with Powertrak

The cabinet hardware manufacturer learned that Powertrak 2D Product Configurator is web-based driven, therefore the configuration experience can be extended to the Hickory Hardware website rather seamlessly.

The kiosk was originally designed to help DIY consumers customize doors, drawers, and cabinets with Hickory Hardware's pulls and knobs at the retailer's nationwide stores.

The floor-standing unit uses a mounted tablet to guide prospective buyers through the ordering process without the need for staff assistance or physical displays. It features easy-to-use touch navigation and displays 2D visual product models. This gives users self-service tools to explore the digital catalog, visualize the hardware options, select the appropriate styles and finishes, and then produce a quote or complete the order.

Although the store launch is the preferred choice, Powertrak 2D Product Configurator’s flexibility gives DIY consumers the exact same tools to design and order Hickory Hardware products but now from the comfort of their home.

The Hickory Hardware visual online configurator is now available to the public.

Hickory Hardware Visualizer


Virtual Experiences Replace Peer-to-Peer Interaction

The speed of the Coronavirus crisis has forced businesses to keep employees at home and prohibit all but 'business-critical' travel. Employees are quickly adapting to conferencing platforms like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack to interact and collaborate with colleagues, partners, and customers.

The pandemic has completely altered the trade show experience. The spring season is a popular time for business conferences and trade shows but the stay-at-home orders have shut down all events and large social gatherings for the foreseeable future. Conference organizers are postponing, canceling or shifting to online virtual events. And that is quite unfortunate because 53% of marketers consider in-person events and tradeshows the best way to drive engagements and conversions.

When face-to-face meetings are no longer an option, what are the best tools for sales and marketing teams to inform, educate, demonstrate and sell products? The answer is a visual product configurator that includes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

A visual product configurator enables a salesperson and the customer to work together or independently on customizing a product or designing a space. Visual configurators feature 2D or 3D models with step-by-step guidance that ensures that all add-on items selected are compatible and placed into the appropriate location. The software includes real-time pricing, quoting, ordering, and extensions to AR and VR.

Hammer Strength Rack Configurations in 3D
3D Configuration of Racks and Final Layout

For example, let’s say a university is looking into redesigning its strength and training facility. Life Fitness is equipped to configure equipment, design a space, present a quote, and offer an immersive virtual experience to the customer.

A Life Fitness sales rep arranges an online meeting with the customer to discuss their requirements and budget. After listening to the customer’s wants and needs, the sales rep opens Powertrak 3D Product Configurator to design a unique space filled with various Hammer Strength equipment.

After designing several layout designs, the sales rep presents those options to the customer using screenshots, interactive 360-degree views or virtual reality.

To experience the design in virtual reality, download the Powertrak Virtual Reality app on Google Play or the Apple App Store. Using a smartphone, open the email from the sales rep and click on the design link. Then insert the smartphone into a Google Cardboard to experience the design in VR.

Discover how the Life Fitness sales team applies visual and virtual solutions to deliver a great customer experience. If that wasn’t proof enough, here are six other manufacturers using virtual reality to showcase a product, demonstrate its benefits, and leave a memorable impression with the prospective customer.

For more information on mobile VR experiences, try Powertrak VR Viewer on your mobile device.


Life Fitness Uses Powertrak 3D ConfiguratorLife Fitness Shares Experience Using Powertrak: CPQ analyst Frank Sohn interviews JP Stockton on his weekly podcast about researching, selecting, implementing, and rolling out Powertrak 3D CPQ and VR at Life Fitness.

JP shares his thoughts on selecting a visual configurator over a standard one, the challenges that come with it, tips to be successful, and business benefits received.



Online Ordering Surge During Coronavirus Epidemic

With the government-imposed restrictions on face-to-face interactions and non-essential storefront closures, manufacturers that sell configurable products are scrambling to research and select a CPQ solution. It's no coincidence that we are experiencing an uptick in inquiries about our suite of sales quoting, ordering, and product configuration solutions.

Businesses with a web-based configure, price, quote (CPQ) solution or an e-Commerce platform such as Shopify are in a better position to bring in revenue than those without. In the last two weeks, many Powertrak Visual CPQ customers have seen an increase in online user activity.

Online Ordering and Configuration Spike During COVID-19

In the chart above, the Axonom customer is experiencing consistent spikes above the dotted red line. The red line indicates the number of concurrent licenses purchased. This means that ten unnamed users can use the configurator at one time. When there are more than ten active people on at the same time, no one is kicked out, but it signals that the company will need to add more licenses if the trend continues.

When we look back at the usage chart from the same timeframe in 2018 and 2019, it indicates that the 2020 activity increase is atypical. Could this be related to the impact of Coronavirus? Or will online ordering be the new norm going forward?


Contact Axonom for Online Quoting and Ordering Solutions

Given the restrictions on face-to-face business events right now, this is a good time for companies to invest in virtual platforms with real-time interaction, ordering, and immersive experiences. Contact us on how to apply these types of solutions to your sales and marketing mix.

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