Even catalogs with 70 years of history can’t save a dying industry

Manuals! Catalogs! magazines! All made of paper. What a waste of resources and an endangerment to the environment.

The objects that we use and how we use them are not static concepts. They are ever-changing and technology is challenging and accelerating that change to a new level. One of the inevitable aspects that we long thought to be an integral part of our everyday life and is now being substituted is paper.

In other words, Digitization will replace all forms of papers and everything in between.

Why is the entire industry of paper is dying?

Digitization is taking the world by storm and replacing paper from viewing products to even taking notes in class. Paper-based products in their digital format are more accessible, easy to manage, and don’t require tons of physical space. You can access them on any device and read them whenever you fancy. This ease of access and efficiency is impacting the paper industry on an immense scale.”It is noted that the paper mill industry in the US is expected to decline at the rate of 2.5 percent through 2022

Furthermore, one of the most prominent disadvantages of paper is its destructive impact on the environment. Earth is suffering enough for us to burden it with something that can be substituted easily. According to the World Counts: “Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually” to produce paper. “The life cycle of paper is damaging to the environment from beginning to end. It starts off with a tree being cut down and ends its life by being burned – emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Why is Ikea giving up on paper catalogs?

This shift and change are pushing even big companies to follow the trend and find innovative ways to respond to the new market need. For instance, Ikea announced that it will discontinue its paper catalogs after a successful career. The circulation of the catalogs reached its peak in 2016 with 200 million copies sold in 32 languages. Ikea manager, Konrad Grüss said, “It has been one of our best-known and best-loved products for 70 years, inspiring billions of people around the world.” Even this huge success cannot withstand the thundersome impact of 2020.

As a result, the 2021 edition will be the last catalog that IKEA puts out. They have made this strategic decision following the shock of the 2020 pandemic. They observed that their readership is in decline and is more digital. The covid-19 pandemic made online shopping and social media “the new normal”. Therefore, Ikea has made that rational decision to be able to meet consumers’ needs and compete in a new market full of startups who are the headmen when it comes to online inclusion.

Why should Ikea digitally transform its manuals next?

What is even more iconic than Ikea catalogs are Ikea Manuals. We all grew to recognize and know the memorable character on every instruction manual that we receive. The supposedly helpful figure that assists us in assembly manuals is also made of paper.

So consequently, the next rational decision of Ikea is to get rid of these manuals as well. Although they had a successful career, their time is over. Indeed, Ikea manuals can be very confusing and overwhelming. They suck away the enjoyment of building furniture and transform it into a never-ending nightmare.

Most importantly, imagine the number of printed instructions that most of the buyers don’t use and end up in the trash bin. Image the deadly impact that has on our environment.

All of the above makes us believe that a new way of delivering these manuals should be the way forward with Ikea.

What are the possible alternatives for manuals and catalogs to Ikea?

Technology has allowed us to bring the coolest feature to manuals: Smart 3D. Certainly, Interactive 3D can and will revolutionize the way we assemble our products. It allows inventors to communicate their ideas to the users, the operators, and the customers, or any consumer without ambiguity. The humane way.

We at Onboard, for example, have created a platform in which companies can create manuals for their customers in a safe way while gaining valuable insights.

Another alternative that can digitally transform manuals is augmented reality. This can be an exciting route for Ikea given their newly developed Place App that according to the Articutaral Digest “The IKEA Place App Could Revolutionize Furniture Shopping.”

In conclusion, going paperless will no longer be a choice but rather a movement that we all will have to Onboard. Major brands like Ikea are taking the lead and others will soon follow in their footsteps.

The value of being customer-centric is priceless.

Customer support, FAQs, call centers…these are just a means to an end. How to become customer-centric and how to bring your team Onboard on this journey.

This week I had the pleasure to interview Aurore Lanchart, a customer experience professional here at Station F in Paris. Aurore is working at Clind the app that makes you learn new things every day, remember what matters, and share it with the people you care about 🙂

“We are nothing without our customers”.

Aurore lanchart

Great entrepreneurs provide value for others, that is a simple fact. We cannot exist without our customers. History is full of companies that have tucked their heads down and avoided talking to customers. Yes, history, because these companies did not last long. The services industry is based on the interactions with the customers, the attitude, honesty, the willingness to help…and the 21st-century digital revolution brought that to scale. Consumers now prefer brands that show care for their customers, and rightly so. 70% of millennial business owners will take their business elsewhere after just one bad customer support experience, according to salesforce.

Customer Experience, the beating heart of your company:

This renders Customer Experience to be the beating heart of every company, linking all the departments, from marketing to product, to sales. CX helps us understand the people who are buying into our value propositions. Why they do it? How they experience the product? and how they talk about our product?

1.Who: by investing in a customer-centric culture, we get to connect with the people that love our product. Thus, we understand who they are. The implications here are huge, this helps us sell to them. Knowing who is your customer may sound easy but is truly a trivial process.

2.What: we as entrepreneurs have a vision for the world, we do our best to bring it to fruition. But the market always wins. Only by talking to customers that we understand what the “true” problems are out there. No business model nor product ever survives the first contact with customers, let alone product features. Customer experience management can serve as the starting point for feature ideation.

3.How: Business can be summed up in two islands and a bridge. The two islands are the market and the product, and the bridge between them is the “go-to-market strategy”. Investing in Customer Experience can help us understand where to find our customers, how did they hear about us, and how to market to distribute the product to them, thus fueling our growth.

Bringing your team onboard:

1.Support calls: these calls can be a gold mine. Many experts go to the length to argue that every employee within an organization should spend some time doing support calls, to have empathy for the customer.

2.Shadowing on calls: on the other hand, Aurore came with an interesting concept. Where engineers and staffers can sit on the calls and shadow customer support agents. This both guarantees that they are involved enough in the process without taking away from the craft of the support agents.

Paul English, Kayak CTO once mentioned “The engineers and I handle customer support. When I tell people that, they look at me like I’m smoking crack. They say, “Why would you pay an engineer $150,000 to answer phones when you could pay someone in Arizona $8 an hour?”. If you make the engineers answer emails and phone calls from the customers, the second or third time they get the same question, they’ll actually stop what they’re doing and fix the code. Then we don’t have those questions anymore.

“Treat your customers as you want to be treated”

It boils down to a simple fact, it’s all about the human connection. People can get angry, but you have got not only to be understanding but to provide them with an outlet to dissipate that anger and focus on problem-solving. According to salesforce, users now are more leaning into self-service tools to find answers, and they prefer to let the human call be the last resort, no one wants to be a burden.

Tools and hacks to improve the customer experience

Many companies provide FAQs, Forums, Social media accounts…in the hopes of giving people the answers they need. For scaling software companies, Aurore argues that chat-based products like Intercom can deliver great value for both the support team and the customer, but needs change as the company scales, which brings the need for more sophisticated support and ticketing solutions like Zendesk. Hardware companies find themselves not finding the right tools for the job, or resorting to solutions built for software. We at Onboard have built the right tool for hardware makers. As it is a one-stop-shop, including ticketing, instant chat, and product manuals. Integrating Onboard is very low friction, all you need to do is just design your product manual (which you probably already have in PDF or DOC)on our platform and we will handle everything else for you on the cloud.

Who am I and why you should trust me?

Well Hi! I am the founder of Onboard, and I spent 5 years of my life working on 3D and spatial UX, basically the art of human interactions with 3D digital objects. I joined forces with my friends, and our expertise as technical founders lies in cloud software,3D, and CRMs.And we built Onboard just for you, click here and we will build you the first manual ourselves 😉


Build it or Buy it? The guide to 3D manuals

In a cluttered highly competitive industry, customer experience is the only way to stand out, nothing beats happy customers. Should your team build this experience? Or should you buy a ready solution?

A painful transition of business processes to the cloud, only accelerated.

Covid-19 did nothing but accelerate the transition of business processes from the real world to the digital one. All businesses are trying to figure this out, but hardware businesses are the ones feeling this need even more. When a business’s true expertise is building physical products, it’s hard to pivot in day and night to the cloud age, with the plethora of customer experience management solutions out there, with feature A and feature B, all competing for their money. In this week’s interview, Remi from DessineTonMeuble shared with us their experience as a company on the matter. They listened to their users early on, and they were ready for the pandemic.

The old archaic way reinvented.

For decades, hardware manufacturers used “user manuals” as the first layer of support for their customers, and in an age where any type of communication was hard, that was understandable. Things are different now, but the regulation is still the same, manuals are still required.

DessineTonMeuble had the idea of merging both worlds together, they built their own Customer Experience Management solution, based on step-by-step manuals. Their customers are assembling furniture by themselves, and paper guides weren’t cutting it. There was a need for something more interactive (not a video…), something more immersive (not virtual reality…), all while being accessible.

A web-based simulation, a 3Dmanual!

Build or Buy?

5 years ago, these solutions did not exist on the market, so innovators would be encouraged to take their chances and create software themselves. That is what DessineTonMeuble did, they innovated. This has proven useful for their customers. The team knew what the users needed and built it just for them. It is almost 2021 now and things have changed, solutions are available on the market. And while undoubtedly CTOs will tell you “we can build that”(and they can, and most certainly they will “try”), you’ll need to way in the investment, in terms of time, cost and expertise.

1.Time: expect at least 2 years of development

2.Cost: 2 years times: 2 developers, 1 designer, 1 project manager, looking at 300k EURat least.

3.Expertise: 3D tech expertise, mobile applications expertise, web applications expertise, 3D UX(yup, that exists)

Okay, Buy then, what should I look for?

Many solutions are on the market. However, at the end of the day, we encourage you to take two variables into your consideration. Your customer’s happiness, and your team’s comfort.

1.Customer happiness: In 2020, user experience dictates who wins and who does not. Thus, make sure to provide your customers with the software that provides the best possible.

2.Team Comfort: do not forget that you are buying a customer experience “management” software. In other words, your team will be using the software to communicate with your customers. Happy employees are key to your business’s success. UX matters in the workplace too.

Who am I and why you should trust me?

Well Hi! I am the founder of Onboard, and I spent 5 years of my life working on 3D and spatial UX, basically the art of human interactions with 3D digital objects. I joined forces with my friends, and our expertise as technical founders lies in cloud software,3D, and CRMs. And we built Onboard just for you, click here and we will build you the first manual ourselves.

The joy of assembling furniture

No one can deny that humans take pride in their accomplishments. There is extreme satisfaction in ticking off things from our to-do list. Finishing the last pages of a book you are reading, organizing the never-ending mess in your closet, and of course seeing the furniture that you spent hours trying to assemble, assembled. Starting from just pieces and parts to end up with a completely sturdy and appealing product is a joyful journey that we all take pride in. However, failing short to make it to the finish line because of unclear instructions will stain this unique experience and it usually overwhelms us.  

The good news is that technology is bringing us new solutions, and new alternatives have emerged that will restore the fun of assembling our products. 

“How to assemble an Ikea Ektorp Sofa” 

What is flat-packed furniture 

Assembling furniture is a difficult yet rewarding task. However, with the emergence of flat-packed products, ready-to-assemble furniture, this task is becoming easier and even more pleasant. 

Flat packed furniture is furniture that we receive flat and in a kit. In other words, it is ready to be assembled whenever and wherever we choose. It can be an intimidating box to receive. Nonetheless, the modern and clean feel of the different parts makes it very appealing. 

This type of furniture has multiple competitive advantages an affordable price, efficacy in terms of space, and easiness when it comes to moving it around.  Self-assembly furniture can also be customized according to the need and tastes of the customer. Thus, assembling it is a very joyful task, seeing our own creation come to life. 

How can assembling furniture be a rewarding experience? 

Getting lost in the various pieces and parts included in the box and finishing with a modern-looking yet comfortable Poäng chair will give you an extreme sense of accomplishment and success.  

As pointed out by BBC designed “The ‘joys’ of self-assembly have become familiar to many of us around the world” 

It is in our human nature to value and cherish what we put our blood, sweat, and tears into assembling. We regard it as a prized possession that is a symbol of our handiness, dedication, and commitment. 

Ready-to-assemble products are a nice family project. Therefore, all household members can help whether they are young or older which makes a great bonding exercise.  

According to Price Economics people had a higher valuation of products that they contributed to its assembly. “While the mean valuation in the pre-assembly group was $0.48, the self-assembly group averaged a 60% higher valuation ($0.78). Norton dubs this the “IKEA Effect”  

However, an unpleasant plot twist can occur and transform this incredible experience into a nightmare. Ambiguous instruction manuals that we fail to understand and give little to none explanation can hinder our progress. 

How can manuals impact negatively this experience?  

Paper manuals are an outdated invention. They can be confusing and unclear. How are we supposed to differentiate between the different yet similar-looking screws just by looking at a 2D illustration? Are never-ending parts and screw pieces that look identical driving you mad and burdening you? 

Manuals are very boring and noneducative that the intended solution has turned into a problem. 

2D manuals can cause a major disappointment and push us to quit the task at hand. Not being able to finish something or realize a pre-set goal makes people feel that they have failed which will eventually ruin the task.  

The alternative that will bring back the joy to this act? 

A more humane way of providing instructions is emerging and will ensure the joy of assembling your furniture by yourself. It is 3D manuals! 

More engagement and better user experience are guaranteed since 3D helps match the reality of the consumer. 

Onboard is a web platform that enables users to see the different components and follow the instructions allowing you to carry out your work efficiently. They can even streamline exchanges in real-time via augmented reality. Hence your task will be easier and more enjoyable. 

Other alternatives that provide a customized experience are also to consider. For instance, Dessine ton meuble is a company that allows people to have control of the entire process of furniture acquisition from designing the piece to assembling it.  

In conclusion, seeing the result of our hard work is an incredible feeling that makes a self-assembly an enriching experience. This can be guaranteed and delivered when using the right Onboarding technologies. 

Why is 3D the future of product manuals?

No one can deny the excitement we all feel when we receive at our doorsteps a box containing the product that we bought and we are eagerly waiting for.  We take the box, rush inside, open it, and here comes the disappointment. Parts scattered everywhere like the pieces of a puzzle and a sad-looking paper the so-called “Instruction manuals”.  

We start to assemble but fail miserably. We are stuck with the dilemma of wanting to test the product as soon as possible and the fear of committing errors and ruining it. Now hours have passed, and you are still trying to decipher a piece of paper that has illustrations of parts you can’t even distinguish between one another.  

And here comes your savior, a knight in shining armor, a 3D manual. Your product is in front of you looking as close to its real form as possible with a step-by-step demonstration of how to build it.   

Educating your customers on how to assemble, use, maintain, and repair your product is crucial. However, the traditional way of providing this support is obsolete.  

Everything wrong with instruction manuals:  

The first apparent problem with paper manuals is in its expression “PAPER”. The environment is already suffering from enough problems to burden it with manuals that no one reads or cares about anymore. We all toss them somewhere and start assembling while hoping for the best. It is very boring and noneducative that the intended solution has turned into a problem. 

 frustrating manuals

In a business context, this mean of communication is not profit friendly. From printing hundreds of thousands of documents in multiple languages to hiring someone to answer the never-ending support calls and someone else to train and teach operators on how to get accustomed to a machine, the whole process is overwhelmingly costly and time-consuming.  

Added to that manuals are OLD. How come every step of creating a product has been innovated and technology has been implemented in it but not with customer support? Why do we still need to use an outdated method? Simply the equation of what sellers are offering and the user guide don’t hold anymore. They are not in the same league. It is like selling someone a smartphone and then asking him/her to plug it to a network cable. What is the point?  

All these flaws and more are exactly what 3D solves.  

The added value of 3D manuals:  

Added value for users:

3D is immersive, interactive, and intelligent. It helps you visualize the product, understand, and distinguish each part. It guides you on how to build the device all while saving the planet. The instructions are clear and free of confusion. 

With this technology, you can rotate your object, and zoom in on every detail. Expand the view and get a clear idea of what to use and where to use exactly. Few minutes and voila your product is assembled and ready for you to enjoy it. 

Added values for inventors

Businesses will create 3D manuals that even the marketing team can benefit from them. They can market their product in the most efficient and close to reality way possible. Inventors can communicate their ideas to the users, the operators, and the customers, or any consumer without ambiguity. 

Companies won’t need to answer tedious calls and train employees while assuring that no customers are lost and no machine operators are suffering from fatal injuries. They will gain insights from the data they accumulate about what is a source of confusion for the customers. Thus, they will improve the quality of their products by knowing what to get rid of and what to keep.  

This will save precious time while generating profit since as known-time is money- and companies will be cutting the unnecessary costs generated by creating paper guides. 

We at onboard have created a platform in which companies can create manuals for their customers in a safe way while gaining important information. As a consumer, you use it by searching for what product you are trying to build. After that, we guide you with very engaging step-by-step tutorials to build it.  

In conclusion, a user manual is from the past and has long lost its value.  It is important to acknowledge that interactive 3D manuals are the future of this form of communication since they are efficient, engaging, and cost-effective. Thus, let’s get you Onboard, and let’s make receiving a new product great again.

No, real-time 3D is not a video. They are very different

We all stumbled upon that animated 3D model on a website and though well that is some interesting video. However, the truth is far from that. Real-time 3D is not a video. These models are what we call real-time 3D, an example of what a digital transformation represents which is strikingly different from the digitization of reality through text, images, and even videos. (check out our article “An image on a tablet is not Digital Transformation, nor innovation.” to know more about this subject)  

Have you ever tried to decipher a 2D illustration of a 3D product and failed miserably at it? That’s understandable since it is challenging to try and understand representations of what reality is in a two-dimensional format that strips the product from the details that matter.  

Real-time 3D solves that problem. It allows the viewer not only to visualize but to also interact with the product that is moving in real-time. 

What is real-time 3D? And How does it work? 

3D is captured and reconstructed from the real world in real-time by a process in which animations and images are rendered as quickly as possible that they appear in the exact time you are interacting with them. 

If you are used to playing or watching video games then you have experienced real-time rendering before. According to Unity, 3D images are calculated at a very high speed which is usually 24 frames/sec which is the minimum to trick the human eye and create the illusion of movement appearing as close to reality as possible 

Real-time 3D is dynamically updated in every frame which finishes processing before the next frame arrives and then expires. 

How is it different from normal videos?  

Real-time rendering and videos can be similar since they both use light to create images. However, when it comes to how they are created and the experience they offer, they are widely different. That is real-time 3D is not a video

Videos are an example of digitization which is the process of converting information from a physical format to a digital one. Videos are obtained by converting reality into a digital representation to be used by computer systems.  

They are created using compression technologies. From converting images into digital data and compressing it to its smallest file size to then decompressing it to get a presentation of that data in the form of a video. 

What is the value-added of Real-time 3D? 

Real-time 3D is very interactive and immersive. It embodies the human communication that we at Onboard aim to empower. Aside from viewing the scene in every angle possible it also allows you to dive deeper into it by zooming in on every detail.  

As a matter of fact, if you are an investor or a designer this allows you to know whether you’ve made a mistake in your design or not, what is needed to fix it, and where exactly. It facilitates the decision of a consumer to buy a product or not since you can view it from multiple angles which helps discover and understand if it is the right choice for you. 

Here an example of a real-time 3D. You can go ahead and discover it. 

Videos on the other hand offer a limited experience.  The only use you have of a video is to watch it at the static angle that the person recording chose and the best you can do to interact with it is press the play button 

Here is a short video of the same example shown above  

As you can remark with this format you cannot change the view either zoom in or out. You are able to only experience what the person who created the video wanted you to see

What industries can benefit from it? 

Aside from the video gaming industry that heavily uses real-time 3D, this technique is gaining popularity and is being implemented in other areas.  

Interactive 3D is a form of digital transformation that can revolutionize businesses on an immense scale.  

We at onboard for example are utilizing it to create intelligent 3D manuals. Our goal is to ensure that the inventors of a product are able to communicate their ideas to their users in the most humane way possible. 

The automotive industry can gain a lot using real-time 3D. Who wouldn’t want to peek inside their dream car and observe how they can handle it? 

This technique can make buying a new car at a next-level experience. Not just car purchasing, a house can also be immersive and as human as possible. Thus, the real estate industry is an ultimate beneficiary as well.  

Interior design and design, in general, will also be transformed using real-time 3D. The designer can view his work, move furniture around, and anticipate how the room will look like without the burden of lifting heavy products. 

To sum up, real-time 3D and videos cannot be put under the same umbrella. One is a digital transformation and the other is a form of digitization. Real-time 3D provides an exciting user experience. It is immersive, interactive, intelligent, and most importantly humanly   

Two colleagues at a factory