How Godrej and Boyce uses AI to future-proof its furniture business

Mehernosh Pithawalla, senior vice president- Brand and Strategic Insights, Godrej and Boyce, shares how the company is using AR/VR tech to boost Godrej Interio's digital business.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital tools and made way for a plethora of new brands to find a place in the market. These digital-first brands, many of which take a direct-to-consumer approach, have reinvented multiple traditional business models. One such is the home furniture market, where companies like Pepperfry, HomeLane, Urban Ladder, have taken the entire furniture purchasing journey online.

Taking cognisance of the evolving trend of digital browsing and shopping, Godrej and Boyce, one of the oldest companies in India in the furniture business, has doubled down on adopting digital solutions.

In an exclusive conversation Mehernosh Pithawalla, senior vice president- Brand and Strategic Insights, Godrej and Boyce, shares that the company started emphasising on digital about six months back when they began to observe a key change in the way people shop for furniture.

Introduction of AR/VR

"We observed that a lot of our consumers do their research online before actually stepping into stores and choosing a particular product," he says. "The growth of the furniture market is expected to be fuelled by the growing adoption of machine learning, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). Godrej Interio is harnessing digital tools and technologies to create more captivating experiences for newer generation customers," he says.

With consumers today preferring to browse online before making a purchase, Godrej Interio initiated virtual and hybrid selling, contactless payments, 360-degree virtual walkthroughs, room planner and 3D product configurators to cater to the newfound trend. This is basically a mobile/tablet platform that in store consumers can use to identify the product based on its aesthetic in a visualiser.

"We plan to give the consumer an immersive experience with respect to their house. They can now go on the internet and be able to configure their room with respect to the products we have and identify what suits them best. AI helps in visualising how the furniture will fit in their house and get a better sense of the whole aesthetic of the product before they actually make the purchase," Pithawalla informs.

The company introduced an AI-led visualiser about six months back. Pithawalla informs that the entire conceptualisation of the AI shift was done in-house with some help from external agencies that have expertise in AI and 3D technologies. To give the consumer the digital immersive experience, teams have developed a 3-D Room Planner, a dual-purpose software application based on an IoT-driven CGI platform that empowers them to ‘Design and Create’ high fidelity visualisations of the products in the live, virtualised settings of the customer’s rooms/spaces. “We employed AR/VR across various businesses to attract customers with 3D product previews for our appliances and security solutions offerings that enabled more informed purchases,” he further explained.

The company has also deployed AI chatbots, which Pithawalla informs, has helped in accelerating the decision-making process for customers, increases average cart orders, improves conversions, and drives repeat purchases. “We launched the Smart Care WhatsApp chatbot for our B2C and service-oriented

B2B business to close on customer queries quicker,” he also shared. Without revealing exact figures, Pithawalla informs that the number of visits at the store and Godrej Interio's digital businesses has significantly increased in the past six months.

To market this new concept, the company has taken a digital heavy approach. Godrej's been utilising social media and SEO-based marketing for this particular facility. "A lot of programmatic marketing was done to promote this initiative. We had databases for consumers who frequented our various stores, and we also reached out to them directly. We are also doing a lot of programmatic marketing, where we essentially target the consumer on the basis of their needs and interest levels. We have also been using programmatic advertising to effectively target consumers and businesses like Godrej Interio and Godrej Appliances have been experiencing great results," he said.

Innovations in inventory

While the company has been making changes in its approach towards tech on the basis of consumer interest, they have also introduced changes some changes in their inventory. Considering consumer trends and the longer period of people being at home, Godrej Interio launched “Essentials”, an affordable range of products. "The entry level prices of furniture under the new “Essential” range would be at least 10-15 per cent lower and will have four-to-five models under each category including living room, dining and bedroom," Pithawalla said.

He observes that with rapid urbanisation, homes are getting smaller while the cost of owning homes has surged. Due to this, the requirement was to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products that are affordable as well as aesthetically pleasing. "Godrej Interio also plans to launch more products across bedroom, living room and dining room category to expand its range of affordable offerings," Pithawalla shares.

Further, Pithawalla shares that the company is trying to make Godrej almirah and cupboards more relevant for the newer generation. “We introduced, the ‘SLIMLINE’ range of cupboards a few years ago. They were sleeker looking, came in a Knock-down format making it easy to transport; was available in popular colours like fuscia pink, deep blue, purple, magenta, maroon, all this with the strength of steel and the promise of quality and durability from Godrej.

"Its contemporary styling, sleek lines, duo-toned colours and sturdy design is a marriage of style and utility. From different designs, shelf arrangements, finishes and even safety features, the Godrej Almirah just like any other product within the company has constantly evolved in accordance with the changes in consumer demands and expectations.”

Source: afaqs