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Perfect Shelf to Design Real Shopping Experience

Can you create a good shopping experience using virtual mockups of store interiors, shelves, and products on display? Dassault Systemes' Perfect Shelf is a product that's hedging on the belief that you can.

Drag and drop shelf design interface in Perfect Shelf.

With 3D digital content that represents real products, you can design and try out various display options in virtual shelves in Perfect Shelf.

To be frank, this is a tough one for me to comprehend. When I go shopping, I like to experience the product with all five senses (or as many of the senses as permissible). When I go to American Eagle Outfitters for a new pair of jeans or a summer shirt, I like to feel the fabric. When I’m browsing a bookstore, I like to pick up the book and flip through the pages. When I’m restocking ground coffee, I tend to buy or reject brands based on how it smells. Would someone — say, a clothing retailer — be able to design a good shopping experience for me by constructing virtual store shelves inside a computer in pixels that cannot be felt, smelled, or touched?

Dassault Systemes seems to believe it’s possible.  This week, the company launched Perfect Shelf, an addition to its consumer packaged goods (CPG) solutions. Perfect Shelf, according to Dassault, “[provides] realistic views of retail aisles including shelves, fixtures, products, lighting and promotional materials — allowing the shopping experience design process to take place significantly faster, with greater extent and flexibility and at lower cost.”

Rosemary Grabowski, Dassault’s global marketing director, CPG-Retail, explained that Perfect Shelf is “a new solution for CPG and retail companies … It is not targeted at any specific skill level, but is created with ease-of-use for non-experts in mind.” This is a departure from the markets served by Dassault’s high-end modeler CATIA and its mainstream mechanical modeler SolidWorks. It’s much closer to the consumer-friendly territories served by Dassault’s 3DVIA product line.

Perfect Shelf can be an economically viable method to test out space planning in retail venues. I can see how a mall designer might use the product to try out various strategic merchandise placements, examine visibility of promotional signs, and understand (to an extend) consumers’ eye levels and reaches. In doing so, the designer can avoid the prohibitive cost of deploying actual shelves and sample products to create a mockup of the store. To take advantage of Perfect Shelf, the user will need to invest in creating 3D digital content that accurately reflects the real products that must go on the shelves.

In the announcement, Dassault stated, “Product shelving quality is a critical factor tied to every consumer’s shopping experience. Both CPG Brand Manufacturers and Retailers want to ensure that every consumer, in every store can find what they want, when they want it – and do so quickly and easily. Delightful consumer experiences keep them coming back again and again to their favorite stores.”

In its product page, Dassault highlights the following features in Perfect Shelf:

  • Cost effective 3D content creation to manage any product category and point of sale materials.
  • Accelerated consumer decision tree implementation by linking products to the category structure and segments.
  • Intuitive and efficient design through drag & drop capabilities, smart positioning, and advanced product assortment filtering and searching.
  • Compliance with merchandising rules to ensure shelf quality.

But a real shopping experience is so much more than navigating the aisles, as any mall-savvy teenagers would testify. A digital simulation can deliver the visual experience, but not the sounds, smells, and touches that influence people’s (certainly my) purchasing decision.

For more, visit Dassault’s CPG product page here.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. Before I came to DS/SolidWorks, I worked for the late, great Circuit City. As with every retailer, Circuit City had a team of people dedicated to nothing but developing planograms, which was a difficult task since there were literally dozens of different store layouts. It was common for the planogram team to get a lot of negative feedback from store employees because their carefully-configured planograms didn’t work in execution, often because the plaogram team was trying to use 2D planning tools to figure out how something would work in the real world. It can be really hard to figure out how many blister packs will fit on a peg hook, for example, if you don’t know the exact physical dimensions of the package, or you don’t know exactly where the peghook hole goes. Similarly, it’s easy to forget that even though the dimensions for something like a DVD player indicate a 13″ depth, you still have to take into account the amount that the electrical cord sticks out (if the vendor isn’t using a removable cord).

    Having to do a reset of a bad planogram is costly. The corporate team has to do additional work, and the stores are left with merchandise that can’t be displayed properly. That’s where I see software like Perfect Shelf being most useful. If the sales guys can get this in front of the POG teams at big box retailers, I think it could be hugely popular.

  2. I can also see this is a real boon from a space planning perspective. It makes it easy for POG teams to get the highest number of SKUs into any available space, or figure out how to work around SKUs that vendors have paid to have placed at eye level.

  3. Matthew: Thanks for the feedback! You’re probably right that something like Perfect Shelf is a more sensible way to develop planograms. The one hurdle I foresee is the amount of work and effort that a user must first invest to create dimensionally accurate 3D digital content for the products that need to go onto the shelf. On the other hand, if the purpose is primarily to explore space issues, perhaps a simple box-shape geometry that represents the general mass of the product would do. Dassault provided a link (at http://www.3dvia.com/products/3dvia-store/demo/) where people can check out a sample 3D store created in Perfect Shelf, but I can’t seem to get it to work. It keeps crashing my browser. 🙁

  4. Retailers could require that vendors supply that content, or have it outsourced and make the vendors pay for the work through a chargeback or other balance sheet debit. Circuit City used to require vendors do all kinds of stuff like that.

  5. I suppose it would be relatively easy to find and download items like standard shampoo bottles, pasta sauce bottles, and cereal boxes as 3D asset in user-contributed sites. It might just take a few more efforts to insert 2D JPEG labels and logos as decals on these objects.

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