Remember when there was a Blockbuster store in what seemed like every town? Now, they're nothing but a memory, as they have been replaced by a deluge of online content providers.
Virtually every sector is experiencing a rapid shift toward e-commerce. Every product company needs to rethink how it interacts with the consumer. Distribution channels are changing, and with it, customers' pre-purchase expectations are changing, as well. An article in Forbes details how retailers fear becoming Amazon's showroom.
It's clear that companies need new ways to show their products, and to engage with users in this new world of "mass customization." I believe that we can get the same efficiency increases by integrating the marketing and sales departments into the development process, by taking the CAD data all the way to the consumer-facing side of our businesses. Currently, desktop applications can't fill this role. Only cloud-based applications, running natively in the web, can truly take advantage of the rich media experience offered by this medium. Anything less is duct tape on the Titanic -- you can patch it all you want, but you'll never fix the problem at its core.
The link between design and marketing is broken. It's too hard for the latter to deal with the 3D models created by the former. There are no integrated solutions for moving from CAD to product shots to interactive web content. The cloud can fix this by removing complexity and streamlining workflows. Things like format transfers and versioning are a requirement of a cloud-based software's design. Marketing departments today must usually hire out or keep someone on staff, just so they can remake a model of the product for rendering, or they have to take pictures of the product after it's made, or utilize some other time-intensive task like 3D scanning.
With cloud-based software, anyone can access CAD data from low-powered hardware. Even with all these benefits, you needn't spend a boatload outfitting your marketing department with expensive desktop computers to utilize this new workflow. It's a process that promises seamless integration into existing IT infrastructure.
We've all seen product configurators. But to truly break down the division between the storefront and the web, we need something a bit more than still images or text outputs. The experience should be as realistic as possible, which means that photorealistic renderings are the best way to go. Barriers to entry like plugins or installation must be removed, and users should be able to view their products from every angle. Only cloud solutions can offer this.
This wheel configurator helps users visualize their customized purchases from a browser.
Here's a video demonstration
of a configurator using Lagoa
The cloud is more than a big computer in the sky. True cloud solutions will change the product development and consumer engagement workflows we know today.
Jordan Pelovitz works as a technical consultant and community manager for the startup firm Lagoa. He previously worked as an industrial designer, graphic designer, and game designer, and has been involved with 3D modeling from an early age. He holds a BFA in industrial design from Rochester Institute of Technology.