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One click retail: How Marxent uses Google Cloud to power self-service 3D shopping apps

As ecommerce for home goods exploded in popularity during COVID, furniture and DIY retailers looked to find new ways to grow online transaction sizes to in-store levels. Shopping for furniture and home improvement projects has always been challenging online. Furniture, kitchen cabinets, fixtures, and appliances become a part of daily life, are challenging to return, and have a low purchase frequency. Once a shopper makes a decision, they tend to live with it for many years. These are visual, tactile, decisions that require measurements, style choices, budgeting, an understanding of available products, and an involved consideration processes. During the pandemic, retailers turned to 3D to enhance these virtual shopping experiences. 

Inspiration and visualization cultivate confidence

Our 3D Room Commerce company, Marxentoffers 3D visualization and configuration solutions that help retailers sell complex, configurable products online through consumer-facing 3D design and visualization apps. The Marxent 3D Room Planner with HD Renders helps shoppers to visualize how furniture or kitchen cabinet configurations will look in the specific floorplan of their home. Founded in 2011, Marxent envisions a world where buying a dining table or remodeling an entire kitchen is as easy as buying a car from Carvana or ordering dinner through  Bite Squad. Our 3D apps create a streamlined inspiration to transaction to advocacy model that cultivates shopper confidence and allows retailers to sell the whole room, not just individual items. 

Using Google Cloud as a foundation, we help some of the largest retail and home goods companies in the world provide exceptional customer journeys. We trust Google Cloud because our clients trust us to make it faster and easier for shoppers to buy semi-custom, configurable projects.

Embracing the power of 3D to super-charge ecommerce 

It’s inarguable: e-commerce is on the rise. More people than ever before are shopping online for furniture, kitchen cabinets, decking, and other large-scale configurable products. 

Customers who design with a retailer, usually buy from them. When shoppers visit stores and showrooms, they find inspiration in merchandised scenes that illustrate how products like sofas, chairs, rugs and lamps work together to accomplish a look. Skilled sales people make suggestions and offer advice on how to put pieces together. They may even work up a quick floor plan to show how multiple items work together in a room. In store, the inspiration phase is intimately tied to consideration and, ultimately, to driving transactions.

By contrast, online shoppers typically start home projects by seeking inspiration and ideas from Pinterest, Instagram and unbranded online image searches. Once they have formed their style preferences, shoppers keep searching to compare products across multiple retailers, plan their project, and put together a final budget. 

To own the whole project sale, retailers need to own the entire inspiration to transaction to advocacy journey. With both online and in-store applications, Retailers leverage Marxent’s 3D Room Planner app to build shopper confidence, capture the whole room sale and win the customer over.

PRE-RENDERED MID-POLY 3D SCENE

PRE-RENDERED.jpg
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POST-RENDERED MID-POLY 3D SCENE - This is a slightly different angle of the same room that has been rendered into a “Raw Render” (rendered in under 2 minutes).

POST-RENDERED.jpg
Click to enlarge

Through Marxent’s 3D Room Commerce solution, users experience a cyclical inspiration to transaction to advocacy journey. It starts with shoppers viewing inspirational images and media online. Using Marxent’s applications, they can design directly from inspirational images to create a custom, configured space without any product catalog knowledge. Shoppers can visualize the products they love together and in the context of their own floor plan instead of navigating product pages and wondering if items will work together. 

Then, they can add the whole room to a shopping cart with a single click. While this virtual experience does lead to a transaction, it also allows users to save, collaborate on, and share the spaces they’ve created. They become advocates by sharing their projects on social media, starting the inspirational content cycle again. 

Putting an end to manual operations

To deliver renders at scale, Marxent needed to update their cloud render solution. Initially, our 3D Art team operated a manual on-premise render fleet. However, this required many hours of manual setup, configuration, and operation. We also had to manage expensive graphics servers—bare metal, CPUs, GPUs, RAM, HDD, and more. The only solution was to automate the 3D rendering process and empower end-users to rapidly create their own 3D room renders. 

When we were evaluating new solutions, we saw distinct advantages in the Google Cloud Platform that would help them safely and securely scale their business, while strengthening their partnerships with end customers. For example, in moving to Google Cloud, we could automate and scale our rendering process without having to manage fleets of physical servers. We also viewed the platform as an asset due to Google’s secure-by-design infrastructure, agility, data analytics capabilities, and potential for joining the Marketplace.

Creating magical customer experiences that inspire purchase

To provide our customers and shoppers with contextual experiences, Marxent’s applications use mid-poly 3D models that balance speed and realism. These models provide a latency-free, real-time design experience that can be rendered into scenes that are realistic enough to be perceived as photos on social media. 

The complex process of rendering these images requires a combination of efficiency, speed, analytics, and consistent performance that Google Cloud provides. When configured with powerful and speedy gaming GPUs, Marxent can provide fast rendering that meets customers and shopper demands. Here’s a look at our HD Renders application.

HD Renders application.jpg
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Before a user can request an HD Render, they must create a room in the Marxent 3D Room Planner. Once requested, Marxent pulls the saved project from the database and kicks off the process with Cloud Pub/Sub. The project loads into a gaming GPU, using the same platform code running when the user first creates the room in the application. It boots up the app in the cloud to load the room.

The code then scours the space and prepares it for rendering, adjusting texture formats, and adding in lighting. After going through the render engine, the project automatically uploads to Cloud Storage. Finally, the user receives a link to the final product. Throughout, Cloud Pub/Sub handles messages ensuring the right event processes are happening, such as rendering success or failure.

Using this process, it’s possible to create dozens of images out of a single scene, trading products in and out of a floor plan by leveraging a complete catalog of content geometries and covers, textures, and finishes.

Utilizing Google Cloud throughout the buying journey 

Today, Marxent’s applications power world-class retailers with AR, VR, and 3D commerce experiences. Wee use cutting-edge graphics hardware to create renderings in less than 2 minutes per screenshot, often much faster. We’re also saving money as we no longer have to manage expensive servers or purchase expensive hardware upfront. Our clients are happier because we have passed on the cost savings to them while now having limitless scaling capabilities to meet demand.

By partnering with Google Cloud, Marxent can confidently offer our customers secure applications built on infrastructure with advanced security tools that support compliance and data confidentiality. Backed by a globally consistent platform, we can also help brands build reliable purchasing experiences across customer touchpoints—without fear of downtime during peak sales periods. This strategic partnership has allowed us to provide a best-in-breed, customer-first experience that our customers demand while providing the reliability that our partners expect.

With customers demanding seamless shopping experiences, Marxent’s 3D technologies open doors to new, easier, more convenient, and more satisfying shopping experiences that empower consumers to buy the right products the first time. 

If you want to learn more about how Google Cloud can help your startup, visit our Startup Program application page here and sign up for our monthly startup newsletter to get a peek at our community activities, digital events, special offers, and more.

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source https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/retail/how-google-cloud-helps-marxant-build-self-service-3d-shopping-apps/

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