How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint by Utilizing 3D Imagery Instead of Photography

A recent trend in commerce has been the move to go green. Whether by tackling physical factors such as packaging, production processes or using renewable energy, environmentally friendly initiatives are on the rise for retailers.

According to SmartestEnergy, 81% of people prefer to buy from sustainable sellers. The greening effort is not purely a reputational strategy, it actually brings positive business results. Companies promoting sustainability in their products see growth and adoption rates around 5.6X higher than those that don’t, according to NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business

Reduce Carbon Emissions Associated with Image Production Logistics

Tackling the issue of the carbon footprint generated from the marketing process, or more specifically the promotional part of that process, is critical. As retailers seek to differentiate themselves and grab consumer attention in a crowded digital space, they need more content, more creativity and different formats for a greater variety of digital and social channels and a greater need for personalization. All this means an increasing need for product visuals.

In the past, production of such product images was achieved through traditional photographing of physical products, which is quite carbon-intensive to begin with:


  • Transportation of goods and décor
  • Transportation, room and board for related personnel
  • Production of physical décor and setting
  • Reshoots for different backgrounds and product variations

It’s time for retailers to bid farewell to traditional photoshoots and enter the digital age. By embracing next-gen technologies like computer-generated imagery (CGI) rendering and 3D visualization, companies can deliver next-level photorealistic product images that are highly immersive and make it easy for shoppers to see products from different angles, and often in a real-life context. Shoppers can look at products in various lifestyle backgrounds and see how they will fit into their lives.

With CGI and 3D visualization, companies can customize and modify product images without having to conduct additional photoshoots. For instance, if a furniture company opts to create a 3D model of a couch, once that couch has been rendered as a 3D asset that product visual can be utilized in any number of ways — from a product close-up to showcase the fabric details to creating a 360° video so the shopper can see the couch from all angles. Armed with unlimited visual possibilities, retailers can easily A/B test which visuals engage customers the best and easily adjust color, style and content to trigger more purchases.

This innovative approach not only removes the carbon footprint from the process, it allows the production team to save time and money and reduce unforeseen logistical risks. With this new solution, retailers can freely promote their environmentally friendly products, and can do so with the confidence that their promotional processes also are taking the environment into consideration.

Reduce Carbon Emissions Associated with Product Returns

The average ecommerce return rate hovers around 20% to 30%. Just think of the transport needed for the products to be delivered to the customers and back. Cutting the number of product returns can greatly reduce the transportation and other steps (repackaging, warehousing, discarded products, etc.) that can increase carbon emissions. According to Optoro, returned items are responsible for massive landfill waste and 27 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually in the US.

According to the 2021 State of the Industry Report: Retail Returns from Incisiv, a survey of over 6,000 consumer transactions found that 73% of returns occurred due to a retailer-controlled action or inaction. The main reason for returning a product is that it did not meet the expectations of the shopper, whether it is the usage, color, size or other factors.

There are several tips for using 3D/CGI technology to provide the best context for shoppers to make the correct choice and not return their purchases :

  • Placing products in contextual or lifestyle scenery can actually boost the aspiration of how the product can be used in real life. Savvy visual content producers should be able to tell shoppers that it is not a single-use product but help imagine more possibilities of how their product can be used in different settings, thus reducing the chances of the product being returned.
  • Close-up photos can help highlight the quality of the material, the craftsmanship applied to the work and even the pattern of the fabric itself, to help shoppers mix and match the cushions that go with the sofa. If your customer can get the right expectations before purchase, this is proven to reduce returns in ecommerce.
  • Visual content producers can boost the customer experience by providing 360-degree images, videos or even GIFs of the products. Shoppers can have a better understanding and expectations of the product from every angle, thus having enough information to either purchase or not. Even if shoppers decide not to purchase, it cuts out the possibility of returning it later.

Retailers need to look at the entire marketing cycle, from design to logistics to the end product, and ensure they are being sustainable every step of the way.

Alexandre de Vigan is Founder and CEO of Nfinite. He started his career as a business lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Then he began his entrepreneurial vocation in 2014 and founded his first startup Matchimmo, an online real estate acquisition platform. In 2016, after facing the difficulty of decorating his first apartment, he created Nfinite (ex hubstairs). He holds a master’s degree in business law and taxation from the University of Assas, then Colombia University (U.S.). He completed his scholarship with a master’s degree in management at HEC (2011).

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