Just before I opened the door of espacemax’s headquarters, a tall baseball-capped teen ran by me, about turned, and then scooted in behind me as I (now urban smart after living in Paris over a decade) nervously entered the door.
To my relief, it was just a male model fresh from New York City, one hour late to a casting. A few seconds later the stylist greeted the sweaty pinup, flipped through his book, asked if he knew another model named Angle or Jewel, I forget, then asked for his composite card, spun around and went back to the photo shoot.
The world of fashion whether online or at headquarters is like that. Fast, efficient, busy.
Then there are the boxes. Boxes glorious boxes. All that merchandise purchased and ready to be shipped to anticipating arms. The white gold of online shopping, boxes.
Given Dassault Systèmes’ recently announced partnership with espacemax, French luxury goods and fashion e-shopping business, I wanted to find out what the head honcho thinks about 3D and see what’s in store for the next quarters.
But before I share that interview, here’s a little (tout petit) video I whipped up to get you in the mood. You may know espacemax for the sleeky, glossy fashionista e-commerce site that it is, but this is espacemax in the physical world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE8GIjZqZaYBefore I get into my interview with espacemax’s general director, here’s a brief look at the company’s three business activities:
- Catherine Max: physical world showrooms hosting weekly private sales of high-end luxury goods and fashion. Think LVMH, etc. Last year’s collections are sold at steep discounts, 60-90%. First in France to launch this activity in . . . 1993.
- espacemax: an online twin to Catherine Max and more. You can also buy in-season items at espacemax (not on sale), just as you would buy Kenzo at a department store.
- Selectiveweb: a new business line for Groupe Catherine Max. They create and operate e-shopping sites for high-end brand names within their mother brand URLs.
It’s getting late so I won’t provide the entire transcribed interview (please forgive me Pierre-Etienne), but here’s a recap of my exchanges with espacemax Directeur Général Adjoint Pierre-Etienne Boilard:
Q1: Why interactive 3D, and why now?
PEB: I’ll start with two figures. In the mortar business, conversion rate is 55 %, meaning that 55 % of people who leave a shop leave with a product. In e-commerce it’s 1.46 %. This shows that Internet-based businesses aren’t as developed as mortar businesses. During the last 10 years the battle was traffic. And I can tell you that the next 10 will be the battle of the conversion rate.
Conversion rate is our main focus, especially since we are working in the luxury and fashion industries, in which the products you buy are not commodities like a TV. If you buy a TV you just need to know the features and prices and then decide and purchase. Buying a fashion product is a commitment because it reflects who you are. We call it inspirational purchase.
Given our business we decided we wanted to improve the quality of the product presentation to help people buy the product. We have a barometer study conducted by Opinion Way that examines what consumers need to have online in order to feel more confident buying luxury and fashion goods via Internet. Around 80 % of them said they wanted 3D product visualization.
So we started the partnership with Dassault Systèmes and its innovative and creative Interactive Strategy team at a time when we started to look into how to provide this to our users, and a time when you were looking to push the limits of what you can do in the luxury and fashion goods industries.
Q2: The 3D campaign is young, but have you noticed any first signs of how it will impact sales and customer engagement?
PEB: Yes we’ve noticed two good signs so far. The first, our products displayed in 3D sold out very fast! We’ve had to order another stock for the campaign. The second, we’ve had lots of calls to our aftersales services asking for us to put more products into 3D.
Q3: You’re activity is based in France and in French, but in particular with the French brands you represent, there’s international appeal. Do you have any customers living outside of France? What countries are represented?
PEB: Today our site is in French and people pay in Euros. While most of our customers are French, members can friend people to the club from Western Europe. And these people represent 5-10 % of our sales. This is a good indicator, so we have plans to expand espacemax to different languages and currencies, starting with Europe. And once that’s complete we’ll add the Americas and Asia-Pacific, including China. When we go international we’ll for sure include 3DVIA interactive 3D applications.
Q4: What’s next with interactive 3D?
PEB: Many things! First we’d like to industrialize the process already started with Dassault Systèmes. With the launch application, we created three 3D models. We’d like to expand that to our entire in-season products line.
The second thing is technical. We’d like to offer people a complete avatar, not just with the person’s face, but with their full morphology so they can ‘try on’ different clothes and brands to see which are the most flattering for their body types. This is intended as a customer service of course, but it’s also to decrease our return rate!
The third thing to come is working with Dassault Systèmes to distribute the 3DVIA technology directly to luxury brands as part of our selectiveweb work.
Merci beaucoup Pierre-Etienne! I know my mother in America will be particularly thrilled to be able to shop for French brands online at espacemax. We’ve got to find a way to add smell to the immersive 3D experience though; she’s a diptyque fan.
Seriously, your 3D program is great and I was particularly pleased to learn about the Opinion Way study. I’ll look forward to checking back in later and see if that conversion rate has increased!
And you readers, do you think you’d buy more if you could 3D-try-and-buy first? Here’s a video about the espacemax 3D application. Check it out and let me know . . .