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How 3D visualization helps grow small businesses’ sales

By Robyn A. Friedman  

As technology changes, so does the way businesses operate. Can you remember how you worked with customers before computers, the Internet, or e-mail? Smartphones and iPads have more recently revolutionized theLaptop and blueprint of housing project 3d way to keep in touch with clients. And some small businesses owners are incorporating technological innovations—specifically 3D visualization— into their presentations as a way to close deals.

Visual house tours

Like many other homeowners, Clair Funk toured her new coach home at Laterra Links in St. Augustine before she purchased it. But Funk never left the comfort of own home to do so. Instead, she took a virtual tour of the unit, viewing its floorplan and individual rooms on her computer. That virtual tour piqued her interest enough for Funk to visit the community and ultimately make a purchase there.

“I’m a very visual person, and the more pictures I can see, the better I feel in making a decision even before going out to view a property,” said Funk, a real estate agent. “Laterra Links is a nice area, and the homes can speak for themselves. But you’ve got to get people there—and if you don’t have a virtual tour on the website, which is where everybody goes, you’re not going to get the market share.”

Virtual tours are a type of 3D imaging technology that lets potential buyers view a home or other product before they buy. For a prospect who has trouble visualizing what a finished product may look like—whether it’s a house, new pool or finished garage, for example—3D imaging technology can be a godsend. It can also help clinch a sale. 

“This is your first impression on the customer,” said Dave Hall, vice president of marketing for St. Augustine-based Listing Solutions, an online marketing firm. “Virtual tour technology allows [a business] to create some ownership before customers ever step foot on your property.”

Pamela Anastasia, vice president of Homes by Deltona at Laterra Links, said that virtual tours have helped the developer increase sales. Not only do the online tours attract prospects to the development to see the units in person, but Anastasia also hands them a CD of the virtual tour when they depart. “Then they can go home, come up with design ideas or decide on upgrades,” she said. “It’s probably one of the most essential tools I use today.”

While the real estate industry has been using virtual tours for years—and some may argue they are a necessity for any agent who markets online—3D technology is now being utilized in an increasing number of other industries as well.

Virtual reality pool design

Kevin Carroll, owner of Swimcraft Pools in Orange Park, has been using Pool Studio, a type of 3D swimming pool design software, for the past few years and said it has made an impact on his sales. “It makes us look like we are a custom builder,” he said. “It takes all the guessing out of a client’s mind and shows them that we’re putting money back into our company and are at a higher level than our competitors who aren’t using this technology.”

Here’s how it works: Carroll meets with a potential client at his or her home and familiarizes himself with their family, lifestyle, backyard and how they plan to use the pool. Then he returns to his office, where he has an in-house designer. About a week later, the client is invited back to Swimcraft’s offices to see a presentation of their pool on Carroll’s large-screen monitors.

“Based on the measurements we take in the field, we can draw the house, the pool, the outdoor kitchen and the screen enclosure,” he said. “We can even draw the neighbors’ homes or put blue tile around the pool.”

Inevitably, the client is wowed. “Most of my clients are visual people,” Carroll said. “Unless you’re working with an engineer, they can’t see a 2D rendering on paper and imagine it. So this gives them as close to a realistic point of view as they can have.”

Carroll pays a license fee of $6,000 to $8,000 per year to use the software—and he’s about to kick it up a notch by upgrading to a program that incorporates actual photographs of a client’s house and yard. “The rendering looks so true that it really gives them a final impression of what the pool’s going to look like,” he said.

Instant garage organization

Tim Blin uses another type of 3D technology to help clients of his Jacksonville garage organization company, PremierGarage [CQ] of Northeast Florida. When he and his designer, Katie Lakey, meet with a new client, they take measurements of the garage, including all the windows and doors. Lakey feeds that information into 3D imaging software provided by the firm’s franchisor, incorporating cabinets, shelves, any special storage needs, flooring and colors into the mix. “She makes sure the garage is designed to fit the needs of the homeowner,” Blin said. That means including a workbench for a woodworker or special cabinets to hold golf bags, for example.

About an hour later, Lakey hands her iPad to the clients and shows them the finished product—a 3D rendering of the fully decked-out garage. “The detail is just unbelievable,” Blin said. “It helps a lot of people to make a decision while we are at the home, as opposed to having to make follow-up calls.”

That’s why Blin would recommend that other small businesses incorporate 3D technology into their own sales efforts. “When clients see this technology, they’re like, ‘Wow, that is impressive,’” he said. “It really helps establish that confidence and professionalism that we’re going for.”

Robyn A. Friedman is a contributing editor to Advantage: The Resource for Small Business. She can be contacted at RAFWriter@att.net.

 WEB: More on technology trends. Go to http://advantagebizmag.com/archives/4364


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