The retail and e-commerce sectors are rapidly discovering the benefits of new and disruptive ways to enhance the shopping experience for today’s digitally-savvy consumers.
Since the pandemic, the purchasing experience for the average customer has changed on a massive scale. Clients and consumers are beginning to engage more heavily in digital interactions designed to make finding, testing, and researching products more efficient. The XR environment offers a phenomenal opportunity for business leaders to solve consumer pain points, reduce returns, and strengthen brand loyalty.
Würth Italia, a leading distributor of fastening products within the Italian market, found itself searching for new ways to optimize CX and innovate with the help of the “Mixed Reality” space. Here’s what happened when Würth began building its new strategy with the assistance of the Microsoft HoloLens headset, and the Microsoft partner network.
Preparing for a New Age of Digital Disruption
Würth Italia, part of the larger global Würth group, has a significant presence across the construction, craft, and automotive sectors. Building on more than 60 years of expertise, the company has over 2,500 sales consultants and 200 stores located in regions across Italy. Over the years, Würth has worked hard to maintain an innovative approach to operations.
According to the CEO, Nicola Piazza, the vision Würth has for the future is to transition from being a simple supplier of products, to a profit generator for its customers. At the same time, the business wants to strategically place itself as a crucial partner for its clients.
In order to continue evolving in the right direction, Würth consistently looks for ways to improve its processes and services, responding to the changing needs of the market. An opportunity to transform presented itself when the company was searching for a way to differentiate itself from its competitors, while simultaneously enhancing its market presence.
According to Piazza, the team wanted to do something that would both streamline and strengthen the sales processes, while improving exhibition capacity, reducing time needed for configuration, and enhancing maintenance. All the while, the business was eager to implement a strategy which would optimize the customer experience and generate greater brand loyalty.
Würth’s team found the answer to its problems in the Mixed Reality landscape, after discovering the Microsoft HoloLens headset. With Microsoft, Würth initiated a new MR plan to cut down CO2 emissions, boost sales, and unlock new sales opportunities.
Creating a New Mixed Reality Opportunity
Würth chose to develop its mixed reality and metaverse-ready retail solution in collaboration with a Microsoft gold partner named “Hevolus Innovation”. In the early stages of the project, the goals of the Würth company were simple. They wanted to improve sales and boost activity on the e-commerce front, without overlooking the importance of customer experience.
At the heart of the MR initiative was the desire to promote and sell a range of different products within the Würth portfolio, including PPE vending machines, shelves, and modular systems. These products are often too large to be transported to different locations for traditional demonstrations. However, the mixed reality landscape allows for an alternative solution.
According to Würth, the MR HoloLens 2 project allows the company to place the digital twin of one of the company’s products right in the space where it would be located in a client’s environment. This allows for a clearer insight into how the product would fit in the space. Würth also decided to expand their customer service strategy with their MR innovation.
The brand created a solution dedicated to post-sales maintenance and remote support for buyers. The “Holo Maintenance” project, compatible with Microsoft HoloLens 2 provides the company with a way to deliver holographic assistance to consumers as part of the customer success journey.
The second part of the MR project was named “Wverse”, and focused on the online store owned by Würth, which is responsible for about 20% of the goods sold by the brand. To enhance sales on this channel, and deliver more immersive customer experiences, Würth created a metaverse website using mixed reality to show products in an interactive format.
The metaverse space is a 3D, immersive environment consisting of a conference room, lobby, a handful of private meeting rooms and expo pavilions, which users can visit with their own personalized avatar. The aim was to create something similar to a real-life store in the digital world. Customers in the metaverse environment can take a tour of the company, assess the available products, and interact with sales assistants whenever they choose.
Notably, the metaverse environment was designed to be accessible from any device, so users without MR headsets and solutions could still experience the immersive space.
Success for Würth and Its Clients
The Würth MR initiative is already enjoying significant levels of success. According to the team, the number of new customers increased by more than 50% within a year, and the sales lead time was halved. Additionally, implementing the new ecommerce metaverse has allowed Würth to increase its website visits by 20%, and its online revenues by 60%. The number of active customers for the brand has also grown massively since the launch.
According to Piazza, the WVerse has allowed Würth to reach multiple customers across a huge landscape at the same time. In the past, whenever the team needed to show a customer the company and showroom, they would need to arrange an in-person meeting, and arrange to bring the customer to the location. Now, Würth can save both time and money by simply taking the client to the website.
Not only does the MR experience allow for a more convenient shopping experience, but it also reduces carbon emissions, supporting the safety of the planet. At the same time, using Holo Maintenance also helps the business to achieve a range of goals, from better just-in-time problem solving, to increasing customer satisfaction.
Since launching the new Mixed Reality innovations, Würth has caught the attention of customers who have started asking them to create similar technologies for their needs. For this reason, the company recently launched an in-house MR and technology accelerator, named “Phygital Hub”.
According to Würth, the Mixed Reality innovation with Microsoft and its partners has been a significant part of a wider cultural shift the company is undertaking internally and externally – aimed at reshaping Würth’s position as a retailer and an employer.