As retailers reopen their brick-and-mortar locations, they need to realize the global coronavirus pandemic has permanently changed consumers’ buying habits. Consumers have learned the value of understanding products without being able to touch them, and expect brands to create online and in-store shopping experiences that are informative and entertaining. Providing consumers with detailed 3D product images that they can manipulate on e-commerce portals and interactive in-store displays is proven to significantly increase conversion rates, improve customer satisfaction, and foster more favorable brand identities.
There are five key reasons why creating and building a 3D content library isn't a luxury; it’s become critical to bringing customers back to stores in our new "low-touch economy":
1. A New and Improved Customer Experience
If there's one word that will describe the shopping experience, it's "contactless.” Consumers will be reluctant to touch products on shelves, try on clothes, sit on furniture, or even tap on the checkout payment screens. Their interactions will more closely resemble purchasing a product from a vending machine — staring at the selection and deciding based only on visuals and past experiences with individual brands and products.
Picture this scenario: A consumer shopping for a queen-sized bed visits a showroom to see how it looks with different covers and throw pillows, end tables, rugs, light fixtures, etc. She wants to view all those options, but with a king-sized bed. Of course, that's not feasible. However, if the retailer provides her with a library of incredibly detailed and lifelike 3D images, or a configurator that enables her to toggle through all design options, she can create her new bedroom set by easily swapping new products, wall colors, flooring, etc. Spin, zoom and animation functions enable her to understand the products more thoroughly.
This application of 3D visualization technology isn't limited to the retailer’s e-commerce portal; it can also transform the in-store experience. Consumers can bring their tablets or smartphones to the store, or interact with touch-enabled kiosks that employees can quickly and easily disinfect. While they're standing in the showroom or browsing aisles, they can select the products they want, purchase them, and skip the checkout line altogether.
2. Improve Conversion Rates
It's not only possible for retailers to create these e-commerce and in-store experiences, it has become a necessity. 3D configurator technology is proven to drive at least a 10 percent increase in sales/conversions over traditional methods. Furthermore, 3D technologies have matured to become more accessible and cost effective. Typically, a retailer will recoup the cost of a 3D image configurator system within three months to six months.
3. Less Costly and Time Consuming
The process of creating and using 3D for product visualization is immune to the coronavirus. Many 3D technology and service providers have seen a surge in new business after retailers had to postpone in-person 2D photography sessions. Expect that trend to continue even after the pandemic finally recedes. Building a 3D image library is much faster, easier and less costly than arranging photo shoots, particularly for multiple products or variations of one product.
4. Keep Pace With Competitors and Big Retail
Providing consumers with 3D product images they can manipulate elevates the e-commerce experience and exceeds consumer expectations. That is why every retailer needs a 3D strategy. Without one, they risk falling behind the times and losing customers. Amazon.com, Ikea, Wayfair, and other big-box retailers have already built vast libraries of 3D content. Implemented correctly, 3D-based visualization is indistinguishable from photography, so you may not be aware that your competitors are already seeing these benefits.
5. Modernize Your Product Marketing Strategy
3D visualization technology provides marketing teams and other creative professionals with a medium for building an entire library of images that are not only indistinguishable from traditional 2D pictures, they also deliver a more compelling customer experience. Don't let concerns about a lack of expertise or cost serve as barriers to implementation.
You can begin by outsourcing the entire process to a partner as you build your in-house capabilities. Hire one person or a small team, just as you've likely done in the past to create 2D images, even if you continue to outsource 3D development and solutions. Building an internal team over time can help evolve your entire organization to understand and use 3D more effectively. You'll become adept at managing vendors, assessing technology changes, managing 3D asset libraries, and finding ways to maximize 3D asset value across various departments over time, such as customer support and product development.
Depending on the capabilities of your in-house team, you need to decide whether to partner with vendors that offer a single-point solution for a particular application, or a strategic partner that can address your short- and long-term business objectives. If you’re starting from ground zero, begin by working to replace tired collections of static 2D product pictures with fully manipulative 3D images. Then you'll be able to offer immersive experiences on your e-commerce portal and even in your physical showrooms and store aisles. This will be critical to bringing customers back to your stores in our new low-touch economy.
Tom Connard is co-founder and COO of 3D Source, an on-demand 3D content and solution provider building high-quality 3D products and environments.
Related story: Why 3D Product Image Technology is the Future of E-Commerce