Alexandre de Vigan of Nfinite Revolutionises Visual Merchandising
Nifnite plans to disrupt the eCommerce sector with a brand-new category called “eMerchandizing”.
Why did you start Nfinite?
I started Nfinite from a clear intuition that as eCommerce growth gains speed, merchants need to ditch their old ways of doing things and switch to a completely new and revolutionary method. What I mean by this is the creation of product visuals for eCommerce and other digital platforms.
Every day, we see more product images being uploaded onto digital platforms, yet this is where the bottleneck occurs. Product-based photo production is wildly inefficient… and it gets worse as you scale. Traditional photoshoots are very expensive and cumbersome. You have to pay for a set-up, for a photographer, for logistics, and so on. Moreover, you are limited by the light, the location, and many other factors. For marketing teams, it is also a complex and time-intensive task; because they have to plan their shoots months in advance and cannot really adapt or change the visuals afterwards. After all that hassle, you only get a limited number of product images with limited use.
As the market appetite grows for the hyper-personalisation of marketing, brands and retailers need a greater variety of product visuals to cater to the different demographics, tastes, locations and even moods of their target clientele. That means for marketers, the new task is to create, not five more photos, but 50 or 500 more! Linear scaling of operations will not get them there.
At Nfinite, we are creating a brand-new category called “eMerchandizing”, which is revolutionising the entire concept of visual merchandising. Nfinite is about producing an infinite amount of imagery, in infinite iterations… without ever having to start that crazy production machine in the first place.
How do you actually achieve this?
A revolutionary idea does not change the world incrementally but does so at an exponential level. We are the “automobile” that Henry Ford introduced to the public, not the “faster horse” people wanted.
At Nfinite, we offer a turnkey solution that leverages CGI technology to create, display, and manage unlimited product visuals, resolving the scaling issue faced by modern marketers. We achieve this by creating a digital model (CGI/ 3D) of a product, where content producers can easily insert and imbed seamlessly into lifestyle backgrounds that can be tailored for different audiences, seasonal campaigns and different digital formats, thus creating an infinite number of options to engage consumers and convert sales.
Why are you entering into the Asian Market and what are your objectives here?
We are setting up our Asia operations because I think that the region is much more mature in terms of digitalisation, and purchasing online is even more common than the rest of the world. According to a report by eMarketer, the region is by far the largest market for retail eCommerce and recorded digital sales of nearly US$3 trillion in 2021, with a growth three times greater than in North America and nearly five times greater than in Western Europe. So, I believe that it is a natural market for us.
Beyond the size and potential growth, the market maturity also means that merchants may be more willing to try disruptive solutions to further differentiate and distance themselves from the competition. Our solutions can be tailored to fit customer needs. And I am sure there are new digital trends that are emerging in this region that we are just starting to notice. For example, we know that influencer marketing is very crucial in Asia. Brands can deepen the symbiotic relationship with those influencers by creating visuals that cater to their styles. We look forward to exploring new opportunities in this region.
For a startup, entering the different Asian markets is full of major challenges. How are you planning to deal with them?
We are fully aware of the extreme complexities of each market in Asia. In the retail space, the level of eCommerce penetration is different and shopping habits have a broad spectrum. We have thus decided to rely on local talents to answer in the best way possible the very specific demands of each company: culture matters tremendously, and each customer should be treated the way he or she wants to be treated.
We are sure that competition is fierce and retail companies are looking for opportunities to improve their competitive advantage. We also know that Asian companies are more willing to leverage technology to enhance the customer experience. That’s why we think we have great potential for growth there.
We are moving ahead rapidly by setting up offices in the Greater China Region, Japan, Australia, and Singapore, which will also serve as our regional hub.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
Firstly, Nfinite is perfectly adapted to Covid-19. Traditional photoshoots require meeting people and moving objects. With so many travel restrictions and limited physical contact, many merchants have turned to our service. All we needed to serve our clients were our powerful software and our community of CGI artists. I could say we are a Covid-proof company in a sense.
Secondly, Covid-19 is nothing but a huge accelerator of pre-existing trends. Regarding eCommerce, we were projected several years forward in terms of adoption. And as you know, eCommerce merchandising is a high consumer of visual content. Marketing studies have shown that 93 per cent of consumers consider visuals to be a significant determining factor when purchasing a product or a service. As humans, we are hardwired to love images. Look, for instance, how children get captivated by images and movies. Images trigger emotions that are essential for our brain to make a decision: they are the backbone of our purchasing decisions.
Unfortunately, many brands were unprepared for this shift and could not scale their online business because of visual production. It is very challenging to produce a lot of visuals at a low cost without sacrificing quality. Nfinite is one of the only companies that is able to scale visual production for highly content intensive merchandising purposes.
What are your most critical challenges?
Firstly, brands and retailers are just beginning to be aware of the rapid evolution of eCommerce and digital merchandising. But they may not even know that a solution exists in the marketplace. So we need to spend extra effort on highlighting their current and future pain points through education and clear messaging. We need to instil a sense of urgency, much like when companies were still on the fence about whether to build a brand website or to create a social media account.
Secondly, like any disruptive solutions, we are competing with outdated systems and old behaviours. Brands have existing teams, processes, vendors, and budget allocations. It would be arrogant to go in and ask our prospects to throw away their existing practices completely. We are committed to helping early adopters make the transition to this new eMerchandising era.
Thirdly, mass consumers are not the only ones influenced by attractive imagery. We know that Asia has a rich pool of ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) players who are looking to promote their finely crafted products to international brands. It is crucial to educate these ODMs that enticing product images can help them stand out from their competitors beyond just cost and specs.
What is your vision for the future of Nfinite?
We know that we are entering a world of hyper-personalisation of content. Thanks to CGI, brands will soon be able to go even further into adapting their content to more precise targets. Once your product is captured as a 3D model, you create an infinite amount of images precisely adapted to each of your customer types. I believe that thanks to CGI, brands will gain access to a whole new dimension of customer intimacy. The need for quality visuals for merchandising is exponential.
Beyond hyper-personalisation is the Metaverse. It is becoming a prerequisite for marketing teams to ensure their visual assets are fully compatible with the intense 3D requirements of the Metaverse and the new 3D-focused search engine from Google. Leveraging its robust 3D rendering technology, Nfinite can now provide visuals compatible with Web2 and Web3 applications and enable a smoother transition for brands. With a native 3D catalogue, they will create as much content as they need for their product pages, websites, social networks, and metaverse experiences.
Tell us your most important lesson as a successful CEO of a digital start-up company.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned during my Nfinite journey is the importance of focus. At the beginning we were exploring too many opportunities; today I have refocused the company on what’s really important: building the greatest and most customer-centric visual production tool for merchandising.
At the same time, as in this case, we are creating a brand new market category. There are no existing best practices to follow. We must not rush into the hard pitch of our solution, but instead spend more time creating a smooth process to help our clients transition to this new reality.
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