For homeowners, the home improvement decision-making process is very important, especially when floor and wall tiles are important parts of the interior visual presentation. Add to that the high price of choosing tiles and the years of having to live with the wrong decision before moving on to something more appropriate.

Despite the high stakes, most homeowners make their decisions with insufficient information. “When homeowners see the small sample of tiles in catalogs, they can’t see how the tiles will fit into their home spaces,” says Keith Loh, retail manager at Creative Lab Sdn Bhd.

To guide its customers to make better tile choices, Creative Lab, created in 2018, has imagined an immersive experience that includes a 3D interior decoration service. This helps customers better visualize the impact of their design choices.

“Creative Lab presents a disruptive retail concept for the tile industry because the industry is very traditional, with probably little change in decades,” Loh points out.

The potential for the immersive retail experience is certainly promising. Three in five consumers reported a greater likelihood of purchasing tile from retailers willing to provide an immersive experience, according to a survey conducted by consulting firm Accenture.

This is particularly relevant in Malaysia, where the tile market is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 4% from 2020 to 2026, according to a report by market research firm Mordor Intelligence.

Each Creative Lab showroom measures approximately 1,400 square feet. The company plans to have 60 outlets across Peninsular Malaysia by the end of the year. (Photo by Creative Lab)

Creative Lab, the retail arm of global tile conglomerate Niro Ceramic Group, has 41 outlets across Malaysia (as of April). Traditionally, it was Niro Ceramic Group that bid on particularly large projects with developers, Loh says.

Creative Lab was born about 2 and a half years ago, integrating high technology. It has developed a proprietary 3D design software called ViSoft, named after its technology partner, a German publisher of software for the tile and sanitary industry.

With the help of interior designers, clients can interact with the 3D simulation to see if the selected tiles fit the walls or floors of their home. The 3D design service is currently available for free at all Creative Lab outlets, says Loh.

“For the experiential part of Creative Lab, customers can sit down with our designers and use the design software for free while trying out as many tiles as they want. Whereas an interior designer would only give you a limited time to change your mind before charging you more.

Despite the variety of 3D interior design software available in the market, Loh says that Creative Lab’s software stands out for its ability to provide full photorealistic rendering (a type of 3D computer graphics that is virtually indistinguishable from images. real) in minutes.

“In addition, it simulates the real lighting effects on surfaces when different lighting is used indoors such as warm or cold and external lighting – whether day or night – to help customers imagine what the tiles would look like in different lighting, which sets the mood for the space, ”he adds.

These features help facilitate the decision-making process for its customers, explains Loh. “In a competitive market, we want to stand out. Our software enables instant personalization for both our designers and our customers, and we see its effectiveness in enhancing the retail experience for our customers.

Go digital while sustaining physical stores

Loh believes that even traditional retailers should include interactive elements in their offerings and never overlook online interactions with potential and existing customers.

To this end, Creative Lab offers on its website some examples of 360 ° experiences of its 3D interior design. Additionally, its in-house designers have put together their interior design portfolios with different types of pieces so that clients can get a feel for their work and make an appointment with their favorite designers for further consultation.

“If customers can’t make it to the store, they can do an online consultation with one of our interior designers by filling out their contact details online. Our designers will contact them via online conference software and present the 3D layout. From there, customers can make their decisions and pay online as well, ”says Loh.

The company proposed these innovations to increase brand awareness in the industry. “Obviously, it’s a new brand. The concept was disturbing. Not many people who know Niro Ceramic Group knew about Creative Lab, ”he says.

Each physical showroom is similar in size to a regular store, which measures approximately 1,400 square feet. The company plans to increase the number of its outlets across Peninsular Malaysia to 60 by the end of this year. She is also considering franchising her concept and hopes to have 12 franchisees by the end of the year.

Going forward, Creative Lab will work with its technology partner to create an online platform that simulates gaming, where people can mix and match tiles with interior elements. Loh says that hopefully Creative Lab will be able to announce the interactive feature online within one to two years. It even plans to introduce augmented reality (AR) technology with the help of its German technology partner.