We are now living in a time when customer expectations are changing particularly fast, and retailers that can't keep up get left behind. A consumer who enjoys the online shopping experience at an e-store automatically begins to expect the same level of service from every virtual point of sale.
Thus, the expectation loop is born, and the only thing for retailers to do to get ahead of the curve is to innovate, innovate and innovate.
Emerging 3D technologies are a force poised to drive the revolution in the online shopping experience.
3D Product Imaging
Despite delivering a convenient browsing experience, and a wider assortment than usually found in brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce has had limitations. It could not satisfy consumers' desire to physically examine a product prior to purchase. Nor could it mirror the in-store experience. At least it could not until now.
Thanks to 3D product imaging, a retailer can provide customers with a graphical 3D product representation that is also interactive. With a 3D View, customers can choose which part of an object they'd like to see. Zoom in or out? Rotate the object? View it in motion? All of these features are easily accessible, thanks to 3D imaging.
Some merchants see demo videos that show products in action as a way to enhance the online shopping experience. However, 95 percent of respondents to a recent survey preferred an interactive 3D representation to video playback.
Engagement levels and interactivity are not the only metrics to be affected positively by 3D product imaging, as it also boosts metrics that directly influence sales, with conversion rate being a prime example.
TSUM, one of the largest luxury goods department stores in Eastern Europe, has digitized more than 40,000 products in 3D, proving that it is possible to visualize large numbers of stock keeping units (SKUs) in a reasonable timeframe.
Having the right tools is key, as most solutions for 3D imaging face major weaknesses: They require a lot of costly equipment; and they take too much time, which makes them poorly suited for large catalogs.
It's thanks to recent advancements that creating a 3D view of any piece is now a simple three-step process: Shoot the chosen object with a digital camera; upload the result into the processing platform to get a 3D View; and once it's ready, embed it into anything you wish -- be it website, mobile or 3D/AR/VR application.
Besides being simple to use, the new SaaS technologies for 3D imaging are also very fast. In fact, they are 10 times faster than previous 3D technology, and they don't require any specific equipment.
3D Product Imaging Use Cases
Another set of difficulties that retailers often face when digitizing products has to do with the inability of 3D modeling and 3D scanning to process some specific objects. Yet, thanks to 3D imaging, product features that not so long ago were considered out of reach -- black, shiny and glossy objects, such as silks, leathers and jewelry items, as well as anything transparent, unusually shaped or textured -- now pose no obstacle.
Online retailers of larger, tactile items have been turning to 3D visualization tools to help shoppers get a better sense of the product's physical dimensions, shape and materials. For instance, vertical luggage retailer Samsonite has made its online product displays as realistic as possible with 3D product imaging.
"It is important for our customers to have the opportunity to examine the goods in detail, and 3D visualization allows us to bridge the gap between online shopping and brick-and-mortar stores," said Jay Nigrelli, vice president of e-commerce at Samsonite.
Smaller, more delicate products also can be digitized in 3D successfully. A great example is American Greetings, a creator and manufacturer of social expression products and the leader in e-greetings. In addition to high-quality photos, it now also presents site visitors with 3D images.
Considering that reenacting the in-store experience for greeting cards online is almost impossible with the current visualization tools available, 3D product imaging has solved a major problem for American Greetings. Glitter, foil, embossing, and other attachments are quite common with greeting cards, and it can be difficult to appreciate these features with traditional 2D photography.
Lingerie also can be 3D-digitized as proven by F3 Studio, the European fashion brand that offers apparel ranging from practical to provocative. Neither delicate trims nor chantilly lace pose a challenge to 3D imaging technology.
Some jewelry brands have made sure not to be left behind tech-wise, too. Guérin Joaillerie, a premium jewelry brand in Europe, turned to 3D visualization to capture features that make jewelry difficult for other solutions to portray, including the sparkle of gems and glitter of metal, transparency, reflections of light, and unusual design.
Jewelry shopping is a very particular process, and many customers cannot overcome their hesitation to make the purchase online. In the end, it's up to interactive visualization to tip the scales in the click-and-brick standoff.
AI Analytics Tools for 3D Product Imaging
As business decision making steadily becomes more data-driven, demand for measurable metrics is higher than ever. Conversion rate, website traffic and customer engagement levels are important guides for marketers in all industries, yet some don't even realize they need previously nonexistent data that is now available.
AI analytics tools of 2019 will be able to track the way potential customers interact with product imagery embedded into retailers' websites, whether 2D or 3D images, and present the most telling metrics on a heat map.
Apart from dwell time, the tool will highlight points of customer interest and the best angles for thumbnail product positioning, as well as predict the probability of the purchase based on the patterns in customer behavior.