XR in Retail Case Study in Focus: Microsoft and Würth

The retail and e-commerce sectors are quickly discovering the benefits of new, disruptive ways to improve the shopping experience of today’s savvy consumers.

Since the pandemic, the average customer’s shopping experience has changed dramatically. Customers and consumers are beginning to engage more in digital interactions designed to make researching, testing, and researching products more efficient. The XR environment offers business leaders a phenomenal opportunity to solve consumer problems, reduce returns, and build brand loyalty.

Würth Italia, one of the leading distributors of fastener products in the Italian market, found itself looking for new ways to optimize CX and innovate using the “Mixed Reality” space. Here is what happened when Würth began crafting its new strategy with the help of the Microsoft HoloLens headset and the Microsoft Partner Network.

Preparing for a new era of digital disruption

Würth Italia, which is part of the global Würth group, has a strong presence in the construction, crafts and automotive sectors. Drawing on more than 60 years of expertise, the company has more than 2,500 sales advisors and 200 stores located in the regions of Italy. Over the years, Würth has worked hard to maintain an innovative approach to operations.

According to CEO Nicola Piazza, Würth’s vision for the future is to grow from a mere supplier of products to a generator of profits for its customers. At the same time, the company wishes to strategically position itself as an essential partner for its customers.

In order to keep moving in the right direction, Würth is constantly looking for ways to improve its processes and services, responding to changing market needs. A transformational opportunity presented itself as the company sought a way to differentiate itself from its competitors, while strengthening its presence in the market.

According to Piazza, the team wanted to do something that would streamline and strengthen sales processes, while improving showroom capability, reducing setup time and improving maintenance. During this time, the company wanted to implement a strategy that would optimize the customer experience and generate greater brand loyalty.

Würth’s team found the answer to their problems in the mixed reality landscape, after discovering the Microsoft HoloLens headset. Together with Microsoft, Würth launched a new MR plan to reduce CO2 emissions, boost sales and open up new sales opportunities.

Create a new mixed reality opportunity

Würth chose to develop its Mixed Reality and Metaverse ready retail solution in collaboration with a Microsoft Gold Partner named “Hevolus Innovation”. At the start of the project, the objectives of the Würth company were simple. They wanted to improve sales and drive business on the e-commerce front, without neglecting the importance of customer experience.

At the heart of the MR initiative was the desire to promote and sell a range of different products within the Würth portfolio, including PPE vending machines, shelving and modular systems. These products are often too bulky to be transported to different locations for traditional demonstrations. However, the mixed reality landscape allows for an alternative solution.

According to Würth, the MR HoloLens 2 project allows the company to place the digital twin of one of the company’s products directly into the space where it would be located in a customer’s environment. This allows for a clearer overview of how the product would fit into the space. Würth has also decided to extend its customer service strategy with its MR innovation.

The brand has created a solution dedicated to after-sales maintenance and remote assistance for buyers. The “Holo Maintenance” project, compatible with Microsoft HoloLens 2, provides the company with a way to provide holographic support to consumers as part of the customer success journey.

The second part of the MR project was dubbed “Wverse” and focused on the online store owned by Würth, which is responsible for around 20% of the products sold by the brand. To improve sales in this channel and provide more immersive customer experiences, Würth created a metaverse website using mixed reality to show products in an interactive format.

Metaverse Space is an immersive 3D environment consisting of a conference room, a lobby, a handful of private meeting rooms, and exhibit pavilions, which users can visit with their own personalized avatar. The goal was to create something similar to an actual store in the digital world. Customers in the metaverse environment can visit the company, review available products, and interact with sales assistants whenever they want.

Notably, the metaverse environment was designed to be accessible from any device, so users without headsets and MR solutions can still experience the immersive space.

Success for Würth and its customers

The Würth MR initiative is already enjoying significant success. According to the team, the number of new customers has increased by more than 50% in one year and the sales time has been cut in half. Additionally, implementing the new e-commerce metaverse has helped Würth increase website visits by 20% and online revenue by 60%. The number of active customers of the brand has also increased considerably since the launch.

According to Piazza, the WVerse allowed Würth to reach multiple customers across a wide landscape at the same time. In the past, whenever the team needed to show a client the business and the showroom, they had to schedule an in-person meeting and arrange to bring the client to the location. Now Würth can save time and money by simply taking the customer to the website.

Not only does the MR Experience allow for a more convenient shopping experience, it also reduces carbon emissions, supporting the safety of the planet. At the same time, using Holo Maintenance also helps the business achieve a range of goals, from better just-in-time problem solving to increased customer satisfaction.

Since the launch of the new mixed reality innovations, Würth has caught the attention of customers who have started asking them to create similar technologies for their needs. For this reason, the company recently launched an in-house technology and RM accelerator, named “Phygital Hub”.

According to Würth, the Mixed Reality innovation with Microsoft and its partners has been an important part of a broader cultural shift the company is undertaking internally and externally – aimed at reshaping Würth’s position as a retailer and an employer.

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