Shaping eCommerce with Marc Uible, VP of Marketing at Threekit

Introduction to Marc Uible, VP of Marketing at Threekit

Tim Bucciarelli: 
Welcome back to Shaping eCommerce. I’m Tim Bucciarelli, Director of Engagement with IronPlane, and today I’m very happy to have Marc Uible from Threekit with us to talk about the Threekit technology and how it’s helping merchants merchandise their products online.

It’s a very interesting and very timely topic, so I look forward to diving in with Marc Uible – Marc, welcome – glad to have you on the show. If you could give everyone a quick intro of your role at Threekit and how you came to be there.

Marc Uible:
Wonderful. Tim, thanks for having me. Hi everyone. Like Tim said, my name is Marc Uible. I am the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Threekit.

We’re a visual commerce platform. What that means is, essentially, if you sell a product that’s customizable or configurable that you need to show in order to sell, you’ve got a challenging problem and Threekit can help. We’re a visualization software that shows every variation of your product in 2-D, 3-D, or in augmented reality.

Tim Bucciarelli: 
And what do you do for Threekit?

Marc Uible: 
I run our Marketing and Business Development teams. I’ve been doing that for about three and a half years. And before Threekit, I spent the last decade mostly at PayPal running their go-to-market, and then as well, before that, in management consulting.

 

Interview with Marc Uible

Tim Bucciarelli:
Okay, great. And I know from our own experience working with Threekit with our existing clients, it’s – I won’t say it’s a game changer; that might be a little bit too much – but it’s really a nice innovation and it’s almost becoming expected of the higher quality websites that are showing you these, as you mentioned, configurable or more complex products.

For example, we did it with our client Gat Creek, which is a furniture manufacturer, recently and it allows the customer to have a much more complete experience where they can choose the wood type and the image changes and they can rotate it in 3-D and view it from all different angles. They can choose the finish color and they can manipulate that, as well. They can view it within their space.

These are the innovations that people seem to almost come to expect today. Are there other aspects that I haven’t touched on about what the Threekit technology can do? Or, maybe just dive into a little bit more about this use case of complex products and why Threekit works particularly well there.

Marc Uible: 
Thanks for that mention. I think Gat Creek is a good jump-off point, right? They sell absolutely wonderful bed frames, dressers – if you think about these things, they’re the manufacturer of these things and they’re extremely custom – they come in dozens of different wood species, 64 different finishes, a ton of different hardware options – and so if you do the math, anyone listening in here, if you have 10 different cabinets, let’s call it, and 64 different finishes, and 10 different hardware options, it’s something like a thousand potential variants.

The fact of the matter is if Gat Creek sells a high consideration product that’s super high quality, you might pay $500 or $1,000 for this really incredible dresser. But the problem is, if you’re buying that online, you want to see what those actual customizations look like, and that is a huge barrier. If I can’t see it, I’m not going to buy the $1,500 dresser with my customizations. I just don’t know if it’s going to look good, if it’s going to be the right thing.

But with the technology, now you can get a super high quality visual from a solution like Threekit. You can get it in 2-D; you can interact with it in 3-D, so that means zoom in, spin it, change the materials in real time. And then you can also show it in augmented reality, which allows you to put that actual dresser in your space.

So, I guess there’s two fronts here. The huge thing that we see is companies out there, they’re able to manufacture a custom product or a personalized product, and that’s really hard work. But oddly enough, they’re not able to do the last bit of the marathon – they’ve run 25 miles and they’re at the final mile, and they’re building their website, their eCommerce experience, and they’re saying “Ah – I have no easy way to show that customization of my product, that configuration of my product, or to show it in a really interactive way.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Right – what are you going to do? Are you going to take a thousand photographs of this finish with this stain with this hardware? Nobody can do that. And a thousand might be the reality, some companies might even have more, and even if you have fewer – like let’s say you’ve got 200 total varieties – that’s still complicated to get all of those assets photographed and loaded up onto your website.

So, I guess one question I have is, how is that achieved? You don’t have photographs of every single stain and color – is it basically like an overlay on top of one photo that’s kind of neutralized and you can put the color and the stain and the hardware . . . ? I don’t want to get into the “secret sauce,” but I’m just curious – how, technically, does that happen?

Marc Uible: 
Great question. Most companies that manufacture products, which is primarily who we work with, they either have 3-D files or they have CAD files. And so what we are essentially doing is we are creating sort of a 3-D file of the base layer of that product – let’s say it’s a dresser – and on top of that are various meshes that our software is able to put on that are able to reflect all of the different options. So, that’s kind of the very most basic way to think about it, is a base model that we create with all of the different meshes.

But, you also have to think that a lot of businesses might have rules, so that Threekit is then essentially on top of that a configuration and rules engine. So, perhaps maybe the cherry oak goes with your Mid-Century Modern dresser line, but it doesn’t go with the Antique line, or something like that. So then, we also help manage all of those rules, and also our clients can manage those rules.

So, for example too, you might say “Well, cherry oak is actually out of stock.” You then can hit a button and remove all products that have cherry oak on it so people can’t see that. But say you now have, oh I don’t know, pine is in stock and it’s a new option for 20 percent of your dressers. You can now push a button and automatically have visualization for pine on all of the products where that’s possible to be rendered.

Tim Bucciarelli:

Admins listening to this are probably like, “Ah, I want that.” Because time-to-market matters. You get a new variety of a product in there, you want that launched as quickly as possible with as attractive as possible image and experience. So it sounds like this really can help merchants get their products out there.

Marc Uible: 

And, that’s more like the sales argument, which is a great argument. But also, as we look at, I don’t know, potential uncertainties in the future – recession, just uncertainty – companies are going to be thinking, “Well, how do I reduce costs?” Well, one way to do that is you don’t have to hold it in the inventory if you can visualize your entire portfolio, right?

So, if someone only produced what’s actually ordered online, that means cutting down on samples, that means cutting down on holding inventory just because you feel like you need to have it. Let your eCommerce engine or your sales engine drive, and then you can manufacture on the back end. That’s a huge use case there, as well, for cutting costs.

Tim Bucciarelli:

Yeah, and are there other use cases that should be mentioned in the Threekit world that merchants might be interested in?

Marc Uible: 
I think the big one that’s really occurring in my mind right now is . . . and I think what we’re seeing is a lot of D2C brands right now are kind of having this “oh crap” moment, where they’re like, “Oh, I probably need to sell in channels outside of my own eCommerce website.” And so they’re checking out retailers, distributors, in-store, sales teams, B2B, and the powerful thing about that is Threekit allows you to syndicate these 3-D, augmented reality, and 2-D experiences to these other channels.

We’ve got a great customer right now who sells their own website B2C and they also sell via Home Depot. So they’re able to syndicate the experience they have – this amazing 3-D customization experience – and syndicate it to sell through Home Depot.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Now, does Home Depot then need to have some relationship with Threekit, or is it literally like a link on the product page that says “Experience this product in 3-D?”

Marc Uible: 
It’s simply a player from Threekit, so it’s pretty easy to load in on Home Depot’s site – that’s how it works. So I think that’s really powerful thing for teams to think about as not just “Hey, how does my website look?” but “How do I really create demand and an incredible experience in other channels?” That can be a super powerful tool.

Tim Bucciarelli:
So, I wonder – that could be an asset, or that embed code probably varies by product, I’m guessing? When you talk about syndication, I immediately think of PIMs.

Marc Uible: 
Exactly. Yep.

Tim Bucciarelli:

The content that they house in a PIM for all the product information in one component coud certainly be that embed code that gets sent out automatically through the PIM out to all of their channels. Okay, good – cool use, again.

When we think about people that are using Threekit’s technology today, we’ve talked about Gat Creek – one of our clients, Home Depot is using this embed code for other D2C companies. Are there other clients that you currently work with that you want to mention that you think are particularly innovative?

Marc Uible: 

Yeah. One of my favorites is LoveSac – great customer. I’m not going to say all, because I’m not 100 percent confident it’s all, but almost every product you’ll see on their website is Threekit-visualized. They have this incredible amount of configuration, these incredible sectionals and love sacs, and the ability to in real-time experience that is super special and we’ve been a huge part of their growth churning as revenue for them has more than doubled.

They’re a great company – I’m not going to say, “Hey, this is all Threekit.” They have a fantastic CEO and great management team. But it’s been amazing to be part of their growth story and visuals are certainly a core component of their growth.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Okay, good. And when we think about this, it seems like it’s not super new – it’s been on the market for what, maybe five years, maybe even more. I’m not sure. Are you even approaching market penetration where you feel like it’s kind of mature, or are we still at the tip of the iceberg here?

Marc Uible:

We’re at the tip of the iceberg. Right now, what we’re seeing is the leading global brands in categories are working with Threekit. We’ve really started to see that these companies – what they sense – these bigger, more enterprise companies – they have a strong balance sheet, they see that maybe we’re heading towards the time of maybe some uncertainty, and they’re seeing that this is a great time to invest in this sort of transformation and to go capture market share with a better customer experience that’s more interactive and more engaging, but it’s also just great for their business because, with 3-D it’s not only, like I said, you can syndicate that experience, you can sell more, it’s a better eCommerce experience.

But you can also do things like cut down on inventory, cut down on photography costs. It makes you, as a business, run more smoothly. I didn’t even talk about how you can – like a lot of these companies are going from order and they can spit out something like a bill of material or a CAD file, which makes their manufacturing easier.

So, what we’re seeing is the big brands that are real leaders in the category are choosing Threekit because they see this as a way to grow their top line in terms of higher conversion, higher lifetime value of customers, higher loyalty, but also getting more efficient and transformed on their cost saving side and business transformation side. Frankly, I think what they’re seeing is, “Hey, this is my chance to go gobble up market share while everyone else is kind of battening down the hatches and not innovating. So that’s what we’re seeing right now.

Tim Bucciarelli:
So, in terms of the market that you have been working with, it sounds like it’s maybe primarily D2C, it’s at least until now what I’ll call industry leaders where they’re really innovators in their marketplace. Beyond that, is it accurate to say that you’re looking to expand beyond D2C for this type of product, and also is it likely that you’re going to see this being embraced by small to mid-sized enterprises – not the industry leaders anymore – as a means of really, still today, differentiating themselves from the competition?

Marc Uible: 
Yes. We work with a lot of different types of companies, not just D2C. Actually, in fact, 50 percent of our customers are B2B. Just as big in B2C as we are in B2B; we work with D2C companies, as well as companies like TaylorMade, which obviously is not strictly D2C.

Tim Bucciarelli:

They’re everything [laughing].

Marc Uible: 

They’re everything! We also work with big B2B companies like Sloan and Hyster-Yale because those companies – you know, when you’re selling a complex forklift, or a bathroom to O’Hare Airport here in Chicago, that’s a complex product – highly configurable – and it still pays to visualize. Even in the B2B buying process, we’re still humans – we like to see things. “What am I buying?”

And I would say certainly a large swath of our customers are these enterprise leading global brands, but actually just yesterday we won an account with a smaller company that makes glasses and I think the thing that ties all these companies together is they see where the future’s going and they want to get ahead of it.

I honestly see a world ten years from now – I know that ten years sounds really far out until it’s not – where you will see a product on your phone and your natural inclination will be to rotate that phone to rotate that product to zoom in, and that’ll be your natural inclination. And when you don’t have that, it’s going to be a tremendous problem. It’s like, “Why am I shopping on this website? This product – it doesn’t work, it’s not right.” It’s like five years ago, or even today, when you go on a website on your phone and it’s not mobile optimized, and it’s like, “What am I doing on this crusty government website from 1997?”

That will be what is happening in the somewhat near future, is people will be looking to engage with your product and it’s not that engaging, it’s not interactive. If I can’t customize or personalize it, it’s going to be like operating on a 1997 unoptimized website on your mobile phone – it’ll be really rough.

And so, look – ten years is a long way out and a lot of brands are saying, “I’ll sit and wait.” But the leaders, the TaylorMades of the world, Crate&Barrel, LoveSac, Sloan – I can’t name a number of the others, but top tier names in the fashion and luxury world – these brands are choosing Threekit because they see like, “If I’m a consumer on my phone, would I rather just have a few images of a product? No, I’d rather be able to see it in super high-quality 3-D that I can zoom in and rotate and customize and personalize in real-time.”

And oh, by the way, if I’m the brand, I can charge margin on that personalization, that customization. I’m actually making more money for something that’s always been one of my manufacturing capabilities. And then, of course, all these other tremendous externalities later in the post-order workflow, not carrying inventory, cutting target costs, etc.

That’s I think what we’re seeing and yeah, ten years is a far way away, but I think what we’re seeing is the leaders are already recognizing it and moving towards it.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Yep. It seems to me that this space – because it is an attractive space – is already getting pretty busy with competitors, which is always good for merchants because it gives them a variety to choose from, each of those platforms will likely have some value and distinction in what they’re offering.

So, when you think about your competitive space, do you see Threekit as having any real challengers in your particular use cases, or are you kind of “top of the heap” – I mean, it’s a little bit of a leading question, but what is the marketplace like and are there any competitors that you think are worth mentioning here?

Marc Uible: 

Yeah, I think it’s a nuanced question. Threekit created the category. We’re by far and away the largest operator in the visual commerce category and the one who created it.

There are two camps that we’re seeing forming in that merchants have their choice of. The first camp is where 99 percent of the market sits, which I think the first thing that merchants think of is, “I want to get into 3-D. I want to see my product in 3-D and I want to get a bunch of renders.” This is what we call the “pretty picture problem,” and that is, “Hey, I want to get a bunch of renders, or a bunch of 3-D, or a bunch of AR for my products.” There are agencies and some smaller competitors out there that do that, that will say, “Hey, I’ll give you 5,000 or 500,000 renders of your products,” and it will be expensive, but it will be less expensive probably than Threekit.

What Threekit offers is the ability to maintain and manage all of your products, add new materials, new finishes, new add-ons, new personalization, create new renders from new angles to sell in every channel – when you have a new product, to easily add that to the platform to create millions or billions or trillions and more engaging visuals, to show it not only in 2-D or 3-D, but also in augmented reality.

And to be able to manage these things, and to sell through a lot of different – not just on eCommerce website, through a sales channel, through distributors, through retailers – to connect into all of your systems – that’s what we’re really talking about. Yes, and of course, we do the pretty pictures, as well. But that’s where the bifurcation in the market is happening right now.

What we’ve seen before is, we’ll be talking to a company and they fall into that “pretty picture” camp, and then about a year later, they say, “Ah, I want to come to Threekit because I have a new add-on, or a new feature, or a new color, or a new material, a new product, and it’s taken me two, three, four, five months to get that thing launched – to get quality visuals, to distribute those visuals – and at Threekit, you can do those things in a matter of days.

If you’re a small company that only has one product and that product never ever changes, then I guess you fall into that “pretty picture” camp. But if you ever want to change your product, if you ever want to distribute it in new ways, if you ever want to test new ideas, if you ever want to go into 2-D, 3-D, and augmented reality, now you’ve got a huge problem if you’ve chosen that pretty picture agency, or a “niche solution” as I’d call it.

Tim Bucciarelli:

And the complexity of the product also probably matters. If you’ve got a widget of a product that’s relatively simple, that maybe comes in three colors and that’s it.

Marc Uible: 

Correct. Not Threekit. Go find yourself a good 3-D designer, honestly – you’re exactly right, Tim. “Hey, I have ten total configurations or 50 total configurations” – go find yourself an amazing 3-D artist and they can go do that for you – create some amazing 2-D, 3-D, and AR things. It’s still not easy; it’s still not cheap.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Right.

Marc Uible: 
But, that’s what I would suggest. But you were totally right earlier – when you start talking “Hey, I have a thousand configurations, 10,000 configurations, 100,000 configurations, a million, a billion, a trillion, that’s when you really will have to start thinking about a platform like Threekit.

Tim Bucciarelli:
And, in terms of the services, if we can dig into a little bit of maybe – pricing might be a little bit too variable to be able to talk about, but in terms of the services, would I as a merchant say, “Okay, Threekit, I really like your company, I like what you do, I’m not quite ready for the variation – maybe I don’t have all the data ready to give you all the configurables – but I really need this “my product in your space” functionality.” Is that the type of thing that you’re able to separate out as a service offering, and say “Okay, we can offer AR in your space option right now, but maybe not the full-on configuration mesh variation for your products,” or is it kind of like an all-in-one package?

Marc Uible: 
We can do that – yes. We have an offering called Basic that allows for that “Hey, I just want to see my product in 3-D, I just want to see it in augmented reality” – we can do that. We tend to work with, like I said, the more complex use cases. That’s where our platform really shines. But we can certainly do “Hey, I just want to see my product in 3-D or AR.”

Tim Bucciarelli:
Okay. Alright. When you think about the good first steps for a company that’s looking to consider Threekit and really trying to assess whether it’s a good platform for them, what would you recommend their first few steps be to start that project?

Marc Uible: 
First off, we run an extremely consultative sales cycle. It’s not a hard sell – we literally look at ourselves as partners in the transformation of these companies and how they operate. So, I really suggest reaching out to our team and having a chat about how does your business run and how should you think about setting up this type of project. Like I said, this is a transformation to drive sales and cut costs at companies and it really is a transformation.

I think we’ve seen a lot of companies go about it in different ways. You can go about it all-in – you get all of your products in and do that. That’s certainly one route. Another route is the tailor-made one, which is start out with one product that’s configurable, that’s probably a best seller or a top seller, and see how that goes – see if you get the ROI from that project and if you want to do more with Threekit.

Tim Bucciarelli:
So, do you do that? Do you do proof of concepts for potential clients so that you can demonstrate that ROI?

Marc Uible: 
Yeah, I’m not sure if I would necessarily call it a proof of concept because it’s not free.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Okay.

Marc Uible: 
But, that is certainly a good way to get started with Threekit – to take a top product that is configurable and – yeah, let’s do that together – let’s do that project, get it live in three months, have something that’s an incredible experience and is going to drive sales and we guarantee you it will be a good thing for your business and we’ll go from there.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Okay, that sounds good. And we’ll include some information in the show notes to let folks know how they can reach out to the folks at Threekit to get that conversation started.

One of my areas of interest is in integrations and, as you know, IronPlane builds websites on the Magento and Adobe Commerce and BigCommerce platforms. So, eCommerce is one area of integration I’m curious to hear more about from your side of things, but also we already talked briefly about PIMs. Are there other areas of integration that you think are particularly important where Threekit demonstrates a kind of maturity of your platform with pretty substantial integrations?

Marc Uible: 
Yeah, I think the integration with your eCommerce platform is huge – if you can leverage a product catalog and Threekit can either be the holder of rules or there’s another platform that holds the rules so we can integrate there as well. We also integrate with CPQ systems like Oracle CPQ or Salesforce Revenue Cloud.

You mentioned PIMs – PIMs, CPQ systems, eCommerce systems, ERPs – especially in this new world of supply chain shocks, you want to be able to list and show the products that are in stock and available – we can hook into to show that. I think some of those are the main ones.

We also can leverage 3-D files from 3ds Max or Maya or even a Photoshop. So there are a lot of different ways that we integrate into to leverage existing rules and data and assets that companies already have.

Tim Bucciarelli:
And some companies may or may not be fully prepared with the CAD files, with the rules, with the variable data. Does Threekit also offer a degree of professional services to kind of help those companies really get started on the right foot?

Marc Uible: 
Yep. Both in-house and verified third parties that we’ve worked extremely closely with over the years. There’s essentially three parts of our project, which is – there’s the 3-D asset readiness, which is let’s create core 3-D files for, and all the variance for your business. Then, there’s the UI/UX, which is – how is it going to look and how are we going to make it so it’s high-converting in your various channels. And then, there’s the integrations into your eCommerce, PIM, CPQ, ERP, whatever it may be.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Yes. We worked together with Threekit when we were implementing it for the Magento platform, so that’s something that we have experience with. And it seems like it’s not, at least as far as that integration goes, it did not seem an enormously heavy lift – it seemed like those systems play well together, they both have enough tolerance of complexity that they can communicate very well together. That was my impression, anyway.

Marc Uible: 
Agreed. You have native integrations with Magento, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, BigCommerce, Shopify, SAP Hybris – you kind of name it – that’s a powerful differentiator for us.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Great. And what do you think is next for Threekit? Where is the company going? Where is the technology going? I know you can’t expose anything, but I’m just curious – what do you think is up and coming for you guys?

Marc Uible: 
There’s so many cool innovations, I think. Some of those innovations are virtual try-on – a future where someone can try on a shirt, or a suit, or shoes, or sunglasses, or watches – you can customize it online, hit a button, all of a sudden you can see it on your person. That’s really powerful for retail and apparel industry.

I’m also really excited for a world where 3-D could kind of be a way for people – future dropshipping, if you will. There could be a company that never ever holds any inventory, that simply is able to connect into manufacturers who can do customization and configuration, and you’re then able from the order to spit out everything that you need to produce that product.

Those are kind of two far out ideas.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Kind of a drop manufacturer.

Marc Uible: 
Exactly. I see a future where you have a physical – today, we have a physical idea of a product that’s sitting on a shelf or in a warehouse somewhere, and in the future, you will have a 3-D version of your product that’s sitting on a shelf, except that 3-D version is infinitely composable and personalizable and customizable. And that thing is, for your eCommerce and your market – it’s a product that you can use for your eCommerce, your marketing, your manufacturing, your clienteling, your – you know, after you sell a product to someone you then can add on to the product and say, “Hey, would this look good with that shirt you bought? What about this tie?” And now you’re showing a custom tie based on the shirt that they bought in the email to someone.

So, I think there’s just a future that 3-D is the core operating asset for how you think about your digital business.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Yeah, engaging with interaction, not limited to a product detail page, is pretty compelling to me. If you can experience that in a whole variety of spaces online, whether it’s a blog post, whether it’s a tweet, whether it’s Instagram, whatever – you can still engage with that 3-D element. That seems to me to be pretty cool.

Marc Uible: 
Yes.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Well, that’s an exciting future. I know a lot of merchants are keen to learn more about this topic and I appreciate you giving us a snapshot of what Threekit offers. And, as I mentioned, I’ll include in the show notes how people can get in touch with you.

Is there anything else that you feel like we missed or that you wanted to mention about Threekit, or the marketplace, or concerns that merchants may have about this technology?

Marc Uible: 
No, I think I’ve gone through enough “missionary zeal” for one day. But Tim, I do appreciate IronPlane’s partnership, and I love that experience that we built for Gat Creek – that is such a wonderful experience – I know they’re getting amazing results – and I love what you all are building. Thank you for the partnership.

Tim Bucciarelli:
We’ve got other folks queued up that we’re talking to about this, so hopefully, we can do another project like that. We’re looking forward to it.

So, Marc, thank you again for joining us today on Shaping eCommerce with IronPlane. I appreciate your time and look forward to working together on our next project.

Marc Uible: 
Awesome. Thank you, Tim – I appreciate it.

Tim Bucciarelli:
Alright, take care.

Marc Uible: 
Take care.

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