A Grand Tour: How Virtual Showrooms Can Connect Companies with Their Customers

More people have turned to the internet to communicate and shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before, and it’s no different for glass industry professionals. Many glass retailers are responding to the decrease in foot traffic at their facilities by implementing virtual showrooms. These showrooms allow potential customers and clients to tour a company’s space and learn about its products and services, all without leaving their home or office.

In Practice

Minneapolis-based GlassArt Design’s virtual showroom went live in June 2020. Sales manager Kristen Radtke says in-person showroom traffic decreased dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic. She learned about Matterport, a 3-D data platform provider based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and set up an appointment to have her company’s showroom captured using 3-D cameras.

“It was a pretty simple process. They came in one evening and scanned the whole showroom,” she says, adding that she was then trained on how to use the program.

Matterport allows companies to create a 3-D, virtual tour of any space. For example, this could be used to replace facility tours, a trip to an in-person showroom or even progress visits on a jobsite. Companies such as GlassArt Design can then go into the virtual space and add “Mattertags” which are points within the showroom that, when engaged with, show information, videos, photos or relevant links.

“The response has been very favorable. I recently used it as a tool when I was speaking with a designer who had stopped into the showroom while I wasn’t there. He asked for two samples from our back wall. The showroom was a great tool for me. I could look at it from home and see what he was talking about,” says Radtke.

Interaction Matters

Radtke explains that the showroom also gives potential customers or clients an opportunity to peruse GlassArt Design’s showroom outside of business hours. Radtke expects her company to use the virtual showroom long term.

Some companies have had a virtual showroom for some time. Atlantic Shower Door, based in Weymouth, Mass., has had one for five years.

“We have customers all over, so it was a convenient way for them to see the showroom to decide if they needed to come in or not,” says Liz Menear, office manager for Atlantic Shower Door. “Also, we can direct them to the virtual showroom if they’re looking for something specific.”

After a potential customer has viewed the showroom and reached out to the company, Menear says they can either come in or set up an appointment for an estimator to do a jobsite visit and create a quote. The latter could be the preferred method by many during the pandemic.

Dan Fellars, enterprise sales director for Matterport, says his company has seen an increase in demand and interest in companies creating virtual spaces amid the pandemic. Companies can either work directly with Matterport or a photographer to scan and capture their location. That 3-D, interactive model is then uploaded online and set up for customers to use virtually.

If a company changes its space or has a large inventory turnover, the location can be rescanned and refreshed. Fellars says some companies opt to do regular updates, such as a partial scan after six months and a full rescan after a year, depending on how much turnover it experiences and how that impacts the showroom’s appearance.

Matterport also allows companies to track how many people arrived at the page, how many people clicked into the 3-D tour and how many of those visitors are unique. The company offers several different plans ranging from no monthly subscription needed to $9.99, $69 or $309 a month depending on the number of active spaces and users required.

Fellers explains that one of the key benefits of creating a 3-D virtual space is safety.

“How do you maintain a personal connection with the customer and keep them safe at the same time? Companies used to do factory tours. We can replicate their factory to create the same experience without people flying in. That’s the biggest benefit,” says Fellars. “The other factor is simply time. Maybe they’re planning to also go in person but now they know where to go and what everything looks like … This cuts down on time spent and creates a better customer experience overall.”

Jordan Scott is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. She can be reached at jscott@glass.com.

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