A visualization tool is a form of software that’s designed to help consumers view data in a more interactive way. Each tool’s capabilities vary but, at their most basic, they allow you to input a dataset and visually manipulate it.
For building materials manufacturers, this often translates into things like 3D product viewers or virtual rooms showcasing products. As more builders, architects and homeowners turn to the internet for research and shopping, manufacturers that add visualization tools to their websites can quickly gain an advantage over the competition.
Find out why investing in visualization tools is worth it and how to get started at your company. You’ll also see some of our favorite building materials manufacturers who have built incredible online tools.
Benefits of Having a Visualization Tool On Your Website
A visualization tool isn’t something that’s just nice to have — it can actually fill an information gap that your potential customers are looking for while also speeding up the customer journey. Here are three key reasons why building manufacturers need visualization tools, regardless of their target audience.
Give Customers the Product Information They’re Looking For
Both professionals and homeowners are spending more time performing online research, even if they also head into the store to view products in person. In Venveo’s 2022 Building Products Customer Guide, our research revealed that more online visits occur than in-store visits, regardless of product category. And the higher the product price point, the more online research is conducted.
The top three drivers for online research include:
And the number one driver for in-store research? Being able to see, feel and touch the product. Consequently, adding more information and more visualization tools on your website fulfills the needs of your potential customers because you’re giving them exactly what they’re looking for — a way to figure out how the product looks and functions in real life.
Provide Leads with Custom Project Solutions
In addition to broadening the available research on your website, visualization tools also engage your leads by creating a personalized experience. They can use your tools to see exactly how your product works for their specific project, not someone else’s.
Your leads become engaged in the process and gain more control over their next steps, whether it’s by building a kitchen mock-up or comparing color and finish combinations. When you provide easy solutions, you’ll build a strong customer base that’s also more likely to come back to you for repeat business.
Shorten the Decision-Making Process
Visualization tools can also help shorten the decision-making process for your customers. Armed with more knowledge, they can make a purchasing decision with greater speed and confidence.
Research indicates that the brain is more receptive to visuals compared to text — it’s why social media posts with pictures and videos are viewed more frequently than those without. The more visually stimulating you can make your product information, the more quickly your customers can process that data and make a decision.
Improve Post-Purchase Customer Satisfaction
The better-informed your customers are in advance of a purchase, the more satisfied they’ll be after a purchase. Their expectations are more aligned with reality, whether it’s an e-commerce purchase or an in-store purchase.
What to Know Before Starting a Visualization Tool
Before you execute a visualization tool, make sure you’re putting your efforts into the right ideas. Here are a few things to consider as your company starts the process.
Include the Right People On Your Team
The right mix of team members ensures that your visualization functions well and meets the needs of your audience. That means you’ll likely need both marketing staff to help develop the ideas behind your tools, plus technical staff to actually execute the vision. You can also utilize a third-party agency to fill in any missing skill gaps, especially if you’re a small company or only need temporary help in building out these tools.
Determine Your Primary Target Audience
Once you know who’s working on the visualization project, it’s time to identify your target audience. Some manufacturers work solely with builders and architects while others work with DIYing homeowners. Or maybe your company sells to a combination of both audiences.
Clearly define each audience so you can then understand their needs and the information they’re looking for. When you’re ready to actually create the visualization tool, you’ll have the right people in mind as you work your way through decisions.
Create a Tool with Relevant Functions and Message
As you’re creating a visualization tool for your building materials brand, ensure the functionality and message align with the needs of your target audience. A great way to get real-time data is to involve your sales team. They can tell you what leads are asking about and what concerns they have about your product. Include the answers or solutions to those concerns in the visualization tool.
Additionally, check your web analytics. What search terms are coming up on your website? What questions do people ask your chatbot? All of this information gives you an accurate reflection of your customers’ decision-making process and makes a better online experience with your tool.
The Process of Creating a Product Visualization Tool
One of the most popular types of visualization tools is a 3D product viewer. Users can swipe to get a full 360-degree view of your product, zoom in to see more details and get pop-up text explaining different features. Other tools include visualizers that allow users to build their own custom project. Whatever type you choose to create for your brand, here are the basic steps you’ll need to take.
Define Required Product Information
Using the information you distilled from the sales team and your website data, it’s time to flesh out the idea behind your visualization tool. Create a design that communicates the information you want your customers to find, whether it’s a rotating view of a power tool or a range of flooring color options.
Provide Design Team with Photos
Any product-focused visualization tool requires photography for the design team. Err on the side of more photos than less so the designers can create a seamless visualizer. Also, make sure you take high-resolution photographs. Your design team can then translate that into a visualization tool. There are also software programs that can fulfill these basic needs as well.
Add Expandable Text
Next, provide your design team with product features to accompany the photos. Color, speed and durability — these are all features that should be addressed. A customer could click on different parts of the photo or you could include spec files for pros to download. The idea is to create an easy customer journey that removes as many obstacles as possible. And remember, people crave information, so don’t worry about including too much detail.
Examples of Successful Visualization Tools
Here are some of our favorite building materials manufacturers who have incorporated valuable visualization tools on their websites.
ZAR sells wood finishing and stains for decks and siding. Their visualization tool lets customers try different color combinations for both decking and siding in order to find the best fit.
Notice how you can toggle between both materials and customize the colors. Users love that personalization service because it gives them the confidence to purchase. Maybe someone wants to try a new deck stain color but is unsure of how it would look with gray siding. ZAR makes it easy for them to feel good about their decision.
Similarly, Allura lets you interact with both the color and the finish of its fiber cement lap siding.
There are 25 color options to explore, as well as three product variations: traditional lap, smooth lap, and 7” perfection shingles. A customer may still opt to go in-store to check out this type of product in person, but they will have a list that is very narrowed down when they do.
CaesarStone’s virtual kitchen visualizer helps customers pick the right countertop to go with either an existing kitchen or a new one. Start by choosing your style and configuration:
From there, you can select a color for each area, including the countertops, walls, cabinets, backsplash and flooring.
The entire process allows the customer to visualize the entire project, not just CaeserStone’s specific product.
Basco Shower Doors
Basco provides a more guided experience to help potential customers find the right product for their bathroom. The visualizer starts by asking if the shower is a walk-in or part of a bathtub; then it allows you to select a shape for the opening:
Based on your response, you’ll have the chance to select how you want your shower door to open and what kind of framing style you prefer — but you can’t choose a format that isn’t compatible with your previous answers. Once you’re done, you get to review product results that work for your specific project.
Ready to Launch a New Product Visualization Tool?
Manufacturers without the experience or in-house skillset to create a product visualization tool may feel overwhelmed at the idea of creating one. Venveo can help build a tool with your exact needs so you can create an impactful journey for your customers.