Retailers that prioritize ecommerce recognize that the end-to-end user experience is more important than ever. Consumers expect convenient, interactive shopping experiences, from online to in-store and everything in between. This year, 3D and AR adoption is expected to be one of the biggest trends for providing next-gen ecommerce experiences, especially for apparel and footwear brands looking to bring the physical world to digital shopping.
As a result, more brands need to look for ways to incorporate 3D and AR tech into their omnichannel strategy.
Where Does AR/3D Currently Stand?
As with all next-gen tech, there have been some early adopters, especially in the realm of fashion, footwear and accessories, that are already employing 3D and AR to enhance the ecommerce experience. For example, Nike now has Nike Fit, a mobile shopping feature that helps customers find their perfect shoe fit using their smartphone camera. Utilizing 3D scanning tech, the app is then able to create a 3D model of their feet to help them better find the right shoes to fit their desired style and function.
On the B2B side, Merrell is using 3D and AR tech to sell their products via digital showrooms, prior to manufacturing and shipping, to increase speed to market, reduce costs and lower their carbon footprint.
The furniture and home goods space is another sector of the market that’s seeing increased applications of this technology. Brands like Wayfair and Ikea offer their mobile users an AR feature that allows them to use their phone’s camera to virtually preview how an item would look in their home, true to size.
Outside of day-to-day consumer uses, many brands, especially luxury labels like Gucci, Hermès and Balenciaga, are experimenting with 3D and AR tech to engage with consumers in the metaverse. In 2021 Balenciaga dropped a digital collection for Fortnite, an online video game by Epic Games, which featured digital outfits inspired by some of their real-life designs and products. Fans who purchased the physical product could then unlock the digital versions, or choose to purchase the digital versions with virtual currency to use as clothing and skins for their Fortnite avatars. $50 billion was spent on in-game purchases in 2022 and this figure is expected to continue to grow, so every brand should be looking at ways to have a presence in virtual worlds like Fortnite and Roblox that have large user bases.
No matter the use case, these brands are bridging the gap between the digital and physical shopping experience to meet potential customers wherever they may be — at home, on the go or engaged with the metaverse. These early adopters are already reaping the benefits of using 3D and AR tech as part of their omnichannel strategy.
What Are the Benefits to Brands that Implement 3D and AR Tech?
In today’s digital age, customers expect a seamless and engaging experience when shopping online, and brands that fail to deliver risk losing customers to competitors that are delivering more innovative approaches in their ecommerce strategy. Though 3D and AR implementation is still in its earlier stages, it is a great way to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. Additionally, there are other benefits of utilizing 3D and AR tech:
Better customer engagement with the product.
3D and AR assets can provide customers with an up-close experience with the product in a virtual setting. Just as they might interact with a handbag in-store, this can include examining intricate details and textures of a product or zooming in to look at some of the stitching or hardware. By offering customers this level of detail, retailers can increase product engagement, which is proven to lead to increased cart conversions. Customers are more likely to purchase a product, and less likely to later return it, when they feel confident in their understanding of its quality and details, and the use of 3D and AR technology can provide this interaction online.
New digital opportunities.
3D and AR technology also opens new opportunities for brands to enter the world of digital and NFT collections. Digital collections can include a wide range of products, from clothing to accessories, which exist solely in the digital space. These collections are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among younger consumers who are more likely to engage with digital content. NFTs can be used as a new brand loyalty system, encouraging consumers to engage with your brand online for digital and physical rewards.
3D and AR technology can also be integrated with existing metaverse and gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite, providing brands with opportunities to reach new, younger audiences and increase product visibility. Examples include things like clothing for game avatars or digital, limited-edition merchandise for a new movie or digital album. This is also a great way to test designs: Forever21 created a Roblox experience that resulted in a very popular 3D hat, which they then created for physical stores and which sold out immediately.
Creates new avenues for product discovery.
Bringing in new customers is an expensive endeavor, costing anywhere from five times to 25 times the cost of retaining an existing customer. With that in mind, retailers are always looking to get an edge on the competition and stand out in today’s saturated media and ad market. 3D and AR tech help do just that, providing new avenues for product discovery via Google or social media ads. Though many of these integrations are new and in their earlier stages, a 3D ad is really going to stand out in a world where most ad content is still 2D and non-interactive.
The same goes for 3D versus 2D product listings, both on native brand sites as well as across marketplaces like Amazon or Temu. Retailers can use this technology to showcase their products in more engaging and interactive ways, increasing the likelihood of customers discovering and purchasing their products. This can be particularly effective for newer brands, or for products that are more difficult to showcase through traditional product photography.
Though a relatively new addition to retailer’s tech stacks, brands should look for ways to implement 3D and AR tech into their omnichannel strategy and bring the physical experience to the digital one. In addition to improving the customer experience and increasing cart conversions, it opens the door for new integrations, from social media to the web to the metaverse.
Ashley Crowder is the Co-founder and CEO of VNTANA, a SaaS platform that makes it fast and easy to create 3D and AR ecommerce which can double online conversion rate. She has worked in the 3D/AR/VR space for over 10 years helping Fortune 1000 brands including Adidas, Hugo Boss, Deckers Brands and more launch 3D applications to increase sales. She has 14 patents on mixed reality technology and is a part of the Khronos Group to create standards in 3D technology. Crowder was featured as one of USC’s leading engineering CEOs of 2016 and has given talks on the future of mixed reality at prestigious venues including SXSW, Augmented World Expo, TEDx, World Economic Forum and more. Prior to co-founding VNTANA she graduated from USC with a bachelors and masters in engineering and gained valuable engineering experience at BP and Northrop Grumman. She leverages her engineering background to guide VNTANA’s overall direction and technology development to shape the future of ecommerce by making it easy to create a 3D version of every product in the world.