Jan 04 2021

Seeing Is Believing: Why 3D Imaging Matters to Retailers

While augmented reality continues to push business boundaries, 3D imaging can offer a streamlined sales alternative.

The effects of the pandemic have caused online retail to grow significantly. While social distancing restrictions continue to complicate the in-store experience, 76 percent of retailers said that their online sales were up from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to Digital Commerce 360.

Despite the convenience and safety of e-commerce, many shoppers are still drawn to getting an in-person experience with a product before purchase. 2D pictures attached to inventory listings can be enticing, but shoppers still crave a better understanding of what the product will be like once it arrives at their doors. To bridge the gap, companies can leverage 3D solutions capable of creating accurate, interactive models on demand.

Here’s what retailers need to know about leveraging 3D to enhance the customer experience — and ultimately drive increased sales. 

3D Imaging Helps Bridge the Gap to AR and VR

For many retailers, the rise of augmented and virtual reality offers potential for online engagement. As noted by Forbes, however, delivering on the promise of these technologies depends on both the physical devices used by consumers and the upgrading of mobile networks at scale. For industrial or educational applications, AR adoption offers significant value when paired with dedicated infrastructure deployment — for retailers, the variability of customer connections and last-mile metrics can frustrate AR efforts.

While AR and VR solutions may be the cream of the crop when it comes to interactive technology, retailers can still build an enhanced customer experience by leveraging their processing precursor: 3D imaging. In fact, VentureBeat notes that 82 percent of visitors will activate 3D product views when available, and 95 percent of survey respondents prefer 3D to video playback options.

Put simply? Reality isn’t the mark for generating revenue; potential customers want virtual solutions that let them interact with inventory on demand.

Successful Use of 3D Imaging Requires Standardization

One key growth area for 3D modeling is in furniture sales. Prospective buyers want to visualize the scale of new pieces compared to existing decor. Online furniture supplier Wayfair has deployed a massive 3D model library for shoppers, while always-efficient Swedish supplier IKEA has created a 3D room design tool that lets users build their Brogrund bathroom sets and Billy bookcases from the ground up. Brick-and-mortar businesses are also getting in on the action with 3D mapping to create interactive store models, help analyze foot traffic trends and improve customer satisfaction.

As noted by Furniture Today, however, this comes with a growing need for image and software standardization to ensure 3D assets can be consistently realized and rendered across multiple devices. And while this is a work in progress, large tech companies are taking notice of the 3D trend: Search giant Google is adding 3D models to search results, while Microsoft has developed an AI algorithm capable of turning 2D data into 3D graphics quickly and accurately.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Find out the four tech trends to watch for in retail in 2021.

How to Deploy 3D Imaging

Robust 3D imaging can capture consumer interest, improve the customer experience and drive increased sales. However, effectively deploying the third dimension demands two complementary components: solutions and strategy.

Solutions include feature-rich modeling tools like Autodesk Constructware to design and deploy 3D images on devices at scale, along with best-of-breed DLP projectors capable of producing clear, crisp 3D visualizations of in-store layouts or product lineups.

Strategy speaks to the need for purpose-driven 3D deployments. Consider the development of a fully 3D online product catalog. Without metrics to match this mandate — such as total time spent per visitor and per page and conversion numbers both pre- and post-implementation — 3D tools can easily become technology time-sinks. By combining purpose with process, retailers can ensure 3D imaging efforts boost both visual appeal and sales volume.

Seeing is believing, and 3D modeling makes it possible for consumers to visualize potential purchases, stores to improve satisfaction and retailers to enhance their overall inventory impact.

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