3-D a bright idea for lighting firm

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Display Supply & Lighting, an Itasca, Ill.-based supplier of interior lighting, spent the latter part of 2005 retooling its marketing approach and updating its brand image. At the time it decided to revamp, DS&L had print catalogs and a static, two-dimensional Web site, as well as a small number of direct salespeople and customer service telephone representatives.

Part of the challenge was the fluidity of DS&L's product mix; the frequent addition and updating of products made marketing through catalog mass mailings less than optimally efficient.

"Historically, as soon as we printed a catalog, it was out of date," said Rob Cohen, VP and a principal at DS&L. "We had to sticker catalogs and put `slip sheets' into the catalog, and it didn't look professional."

DS&L last year was introduced to Kaon Interactive, a Maynard, Mass.-based marketing solutions provider. It was so impressed with Kaon's 3-D technology that it decided to build its marketing strategy around it, making its Web site the focal point.

"As we learned more about the 3-D capability and looked at the cost, we decided to make the 3-D [online] catalog the centerpiece," Cohen said.

showcase for top products

DS&L felt the technology best showcased the breadth of its product offerings. It also gave the company's customers-designers, manufacturers and producers of trade shows-the flexibility to learn more about its products at their convenience.

"What this 3-D catalog did was present a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year tool for designers to educate themselves about the products," Cohen said. "For a light fixture, for example, you can click on that and you can demo that to see how that swivels."

The site's enhanced level of interactivity and its ability to help customers experience the products more realistically enable DS&L's direct salespeople and telemarketing staff to present a show-and-tell to prospective customers. "We found that very helpful for the customer service people," Cohen said. "When they are on the phone with a customer, they can now take a customer to a live product demo over the Web. It enriches the experience the customer is getting." The same goes for salespeople who call on customers in person.

"The [online] catalog is intended to give people an experience with the product that is as close as possible to the experience they would get from a live demo," said Gavin Finn, president-CEO of Kaon Interactive.

Three-dimensional technology is not new to the e-catalog arena. Lands' End added 3-D virtual model technology to its site back in 2000, enabling customers to see and "try on" clothing from all angles.

Finn said the difference with Kaon's technology is the cost.

"This is within the grasp of almost any size organization," he said. "In the past, [3-D tools] were eye candy, and only a few organizations could afford them. We've been able to transcend those barriers and make it affordable and scalable."

Companies pay for access to the Web-based technology on a monthly, per-product basis. The average monthly cost is $20 to $35 per product.

DS&L officially launched the 3-D enhanced e-commerce site ( in November, with more than 275 products represented. The original site accommodated about 80 to 90 products.

Another new feature on the site is the ability to create PDFs on the spot. Customers can manipulate the product image so that a particular angle is shown and then create a PDF so they can show their own clients various lighting options.

$10,000 cost savings

Since adding the 3-D feature, DS&L has been sending out print catalogs in smaller numbers to targeted segments of customers and prospects. "We don't do a mass mailing of catalogs anymore," Cohen said, adding DS&L expects to save at least $10,000 this year in print media costs.

The 3-D technology has significantly boosted the amount of time visitors spend on the site, Cohen said. An analysis of February log data showed the length of stay averaged three to five minutes, compared with 30 seconds on the old, static site.

More important, sales have also increased markedly. "We've seen a 17% increase in sales [since implementation], and all I needed was about a 1% increase in sales to pay for this technology," Cohen said.

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