Real-Time Concept Testing: The Case for Better Product Visuals

 

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You don’t have to dig deep online to uncover dissatisfaction with the state of pockets in women’s clothing. An informal study published last year confirmed what wearers of women’s clothes have known for a long time: pockets in women’s clothing, when they exist at all, are much smaller – and therefore less functional – than those in men’s clothing.

 

Then there’s the search behavior: thousands of people search Google every month for variations on the phrase “dresses with pockets;” thousands more search for leggings with pockets.

 

Clearly, there’s a need. But women’s attire with functional pockets is still frustratingly hard to find.

 

Why? One possible explanation is that, despite the clear demand, offering something new is risky. Because pockets in women’s clothing are a relatively untested concept (somehow), retailers don’t yet know which styles and configurations will most appeal to shoppers. And without investing in a line of actual pocketed clothes, they don’t really have a way to find out.

 

Or rather, they didn’t have a way to find out in the era before virtual photography and product customization software made it possible to test customer demand without actually producing any products.

How Virtual Photography Lets Retailers Run Real-Time Product Validation

With virtual photography software, retailers can test user demand for products before actually manufacturing them – aka perform concept testing – then only manufacture those products with demonstrated demand.

 

This is possible because virtual photography generates photorealistic images from a 3D model and software-generated effects – no actual products are required.

 

Here’s how it might look in practice:

 

  • A clothing brand designs five variations of a dress with pockets.
  • The brand generates 3D models of these garments and uses a virtual photographer to generate dozens (or even hundreds) of photorealistic images of these dresses.
  • The brand uses these images in online ads and tracks clicks and orders.
  • The brand manufactures only those versions of the dress that generate significant consumer demand.

 

But virtual photography isn’t the only way to handle product validation. Product customization software like interactive 3D also presents compelling opportunities.

How Interactive 3D Lets Retailers Gauge Consumer Demand

Interactive 3D is a highly effective way to sell configurable products to customers because it lets them see their customized products in three dimensions, in real time.

 

Retailers interested in concept testing pocket designs could, for example, design five pocket shapes and sizes, then let shoppers configure clothing with these options. With a product customizer that has interactive 3D capabilities, shoppers would be able to zoom in on their configured creations and rotate them as they would real clothes in a store.

 

This would give shoppers the opportunity to have a vote in what kinds of pockets get included in their clothing.

 

By establishing the right relationships with suppliers and manufacturers, retailers could even order pocketed clothing only on an on-demand basis, ensuring that they never waste money stocking a “dud,” even in new categories.

Tapping into the Power of Customer-Directed Retail

Of course, bringing pockets to women’s fashion is not the only way to leverage the power of virtual photography and product customization software. The fashion industry in particular stands to gain from software that closes the gap between product design and customer desire.

 

Consider, for example, two recent instances where fashion brands couldn’t keep up with user demand after certain clothing items unexpectedly “went viral:” first, when the second season of UK streaming series Fleabag hit American viewers this spring, the titular character’s most iconic outfit (a black jumpsuit) sold out at various retailers almost instantly (the same thing had happened when the show was released in the UK).

 

Then, later this summer, a Zara dress went viral, becoming popular enough to inspire its own Instagram account.

 

These trends illustrate two important points about fashion retail:

 

  1. It’s almost impossible to predict which trends will strike a chord and which will fall flat.
  2. When retailers guess wrong, they can both miss out on potential revenue (from orders they’re not able to fulfill) and lose money in the form of merchandise they can’t move.

 

With computer-generated visuals, though, retailers don’t have to invest in actual merchandise in order to sell it on their website. Because virtual photography and interactive 3D make it possible to generate high-quality visuals before merchandise is actually manufactured, retailers can let customer demand drive what they order from manufacturers – they can carry out real-time product validation.

 

Admittedly, letting customers order things that haven’t yet been produced could slow product delivery. But there are ways to solve this challenge: “beta” testing new lines to gauge interest could come offer customers a sneak peek in exchange for longer wait times, for example. The results could inform larger production plans.

3 Benefits of Using Visuals as a Product Validation Tool

Whether you’re testing dresses with pockets, a brand-new sofa design, or something entirely different, concept testing with visuals created via virtual photography can offer three key benefits, relative to concept testing alternatives:

 

  1. Cost savings: Virtual photography lets you create images of products before they’re manufactured, which means you don’t have to produce anything until you know it will sell. This saves money by preventing investments in products that don’t perform well in the market.
  2. Innovator status in the marketplace: By proactively seeking customer input and responding to that input by delivering what customers want, your brand can establish itself as a market leader in customer experience. Thanks to the savings you’ll enjoy from improved concept testing, you can earn this status while remaining affordable to the mass market, if that’s important to your brand.
  3. Increased innovation agility: Because you aren’t beholden to manufacturing schedules and traditional concept testing budgets, you can test and iterate innovative projects more quickly and go to market faster when there’s demand.

 

Curious about how computer-generated visual content could help your brand? Set up a demo.

Article Categories: concept testing, testing customer demand, product customizer, product validation

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