Vizstore aims to become a one-stop retailing software for the furniture and furnishing industry
If you’ve read about thestory, you know all about the passion they have for their tech stack, and how they’re leveraging it efficiently to chase the dream of cracking the $1 trillion plus interior designing and furniture and furnishing market worldwide. Reimagining interior design with technology, – the first SaaS product from their tech stack for third-party furniture and furnishing brands – is a step forward in that direction.
Vizstore is a virtual store which allows furniture and furnishing product owners to digitise the product display, visualisation, and selection experience using virtual reality technology. The idea, which struck the Flipspaces team way back in 2016, has been focused towards solving the retailers’ and manufacturers’ limitation of not being able to showcase their products effectively in their limited physical showroom space.
Vizstore, India’s First Virtual Store Technology
The germ of the SaaS idea
Flipspaces’ VR-enabled visualisation stack was already developed in 2016, which gave the team an idea to use the same stack for furniture and furnishing retailers. The brand had already done a pilot on the idea and called it ‘Flip Couch’, and approached sofa retailers across the segment to implement it.
They conducted a successful pilot with sofa retailers, selling paid licenses to them, whereby these retailers could showcase an endless number of changeable sofa designs in real-life environments within their tabs or laptops. While the pilot was successful, Flipspaces’ Design & Build business took off at the same time, as a result of which the team decided to circle back to the idea at a later point in time.
“Once the pandemic struck, we were forced to go back to the drawing board because the entire commercial design and build industry had come to a standstill. This gave us time to relook at the SaaS product and we realised that the SaaS idea had more relevance to furniture and furnishing retailers in the post-pandemic era because government mandates had reduced the chances of consumers flocking to showrooms to choose their products,” remarks Kunal Sharma, Founder and CEO, Flipspaces.
This unprecedented technology had the potential to give customers a virtual experience of a furniture and furnishing store, and the Flipspaces team decided to leverage it to make the experience relevant for consumers as well as store owners. That’s where the redevelopment phase started, and more features were added to the tech before its formal launch in FY 2021-22.
Market validation phase
“We decided to keep the first phase of market validation for Vizstore very focused. After its market research and product development phase, Flipspaces decided to focus only on one city, Mumbai, and one category, Flooring,” says Ritesh Ranjan, Partner and CPO, Flipspaces.
Flipspaces targeted selling this out as a paid software initially thus building a core SaaS model because they knew that this software could be developed further with different layers and features and upselling could be possible over the core SaaS offering.
“Paid SaaS models are not fashionable, especially within the Indian diaspora of MSMEs. But we decided to take the road less travelled because we truly believe that we have an unprecedented value proposition for the retailer. Our market validation phase was to get past 100 paying retailers which we were able to do within four months of formal sales launch,” smiles Kunal as he ponders on the journey so far.
According to the Flipspaces team, the fundamental reason for the first level success of the software is that in a showcase heavy category, Vizstore promises to help retailers showcase their entire range of products easily and with infinite possibilities of real-life environments for visual merchandising. This makes sales easier. Additionally, Vizstore also has the ability to provide analytics to store owners about the products that have been chosen by consumers and helped retailers understand the kind of consumers they were catering to along with their behaviour.
A Platinum Client elaborates on the VIZSTORE experience
Key learnings and growth plan
With the vision to become the Integrated Operating System for the furniture and furnishing industry, Flipspaces did a price benchmarking in the market, which made them realise that most retailers were willing to pay on a subscription-based model. Today, the core monetisation of Vizstore is a subscription-based model, and the Flipspaces team is looking to add more layers of monetisation by adding other business toolkit features along with a fintech layer on it in the future.
But the process hasn’t always been a cakewalk for the Flipspaces team, as they have gone through several learning curves to get where they are today. For example, getting into the Indian mindset and understanding them was a new experience for Flipspaces because Indian consumers are always pennywise about their spends.
“The way we look at it is that we are operating in one of the most difficult markets in the world for SaaS. However, what makes us confident is that if we are able to find initial monetisable success in this market, then the world is our oyster. The Indian market also allows us to better our product-market fit before we hit international markets which will be more monetisable but costlier to service,” reasons Gaurav Bansal, Vertical Head - Vizstore, Flipspaces.
Working tirelessly to upgrade the software, multiple features have been added to the SaaS offering in the last few months – catalog distribution feature, quotation and invoice management feature, and store analytics, to name a few. This is in line with their vision of becoming the de facto FnF retailing software.
The catalog distribution feature allows retailers to find a digital alternative to physical distribution of catalogs. It allows them to share the experience of a walkthrough of their store for any remote customer by generating a customer specific shortlink. This distribution can be further granularised into per catalogue per day.
“Brands and retailers today spend a bomb in physical printing and distribution of catalogs to enterprise customers i.e. builders, architects, and interior designers. The lite license feature allows them to share an visualisable catalog which is at 5 percent of the cost of physical distribution,” remarks Ritesh.
Another model named Easy Quotes allows retailers to create a default quotation and invoice management system. This allows store owners to do better financial analytics, because Vizstore allows them to pick an SKU, and the quantity and prices are already entered into the backend system, along with the customer data. This makes it easier for retailers to generate an invoice and send it via email to customers, all of which happens at the click of a button.
In the validation and scaling up stage, the Flipspaces team is following the philosophy of Develop fast - Fail first. They truly believe that as first movers in this market they should be the first ones to fail and learn from it in order to develop an unassailable moat in their category.
"We truly believe that we have a product which can transform omnichannel commerce in the FnF category. With our presence in India and US, and the marriage of two critical skill sets which is deep domain expertise and understanding of technology, we are uniquely positioned to crack this complex problem and create a highly valuable SaaS business from Vizstore. We have an aim of reaching 3,000 paid counters by the end of FY 2022-23, and 30,000 counters within the next three years,” signs off Kunal.