Partner Voices: Product Photos Are Dead, Long Live 3D
The writing has been on the wall for a long time. Product photos are eating up an inordinate amount of marketing budget, and that’s when the shoot goes right. When a shoot goes wrong, the costs go up. A change? Up. Variations? Up. Prototypes? Up. Factor in shipping costs for big-ticket items like motorcycles and furniture, and you start looking at $10,000 a shoot. This is only sustainable for the biggest of brands, and it rarely comes with a smile.
Smart firms are moving on.
Unlike a brick-and-mortar experience, which often benefits from a bit of physicality, the digital world is unbound by limitations. Firms like Ikea clued into this as far back as 2014, turning 25,000 SKUs into a library of 3D replicas, which it used to produce catalogs, websites and the augmented reality-driven Ikea Place app — at a rate unthinkable with modern photography.
When you can design everything photorealistically in a 3D program, who needs a photoshoot? With 3D, you don’t have to ship anything; everything from a prototype to the final product can be visualized remotely. When you want the model to display different attributes (e.g., fabrics or components), you just drag and drop. Reshoots and assembly are relics in an environment like this, nudging firms into a process that supports long-term goals, like creating content that can be used across channels, again and again.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. Everything is moving towards interactivity and choice. And if the choice is between a few photos and a 3D product configurator that lets a customer personalize their experience, the configurator is going to win. Moving towards 3D opens up potent scenarios, where product lines can be cycled through in real time, giving customers all the visual information they need to quell their fears about whether something is right or not. As AR becomes more entrenched, the buying experience will only grow more personal, as people will be able to place 3D items within any space they want, making a remote process tangible.
Spatial sales techniques aren't limited to virtual reality and AR, however. Companies like Modsy and Amazon.com are using 3D technology to help people decorate. In Modsy’s case, this functions as a consultancy. After you fill out a style quiz and submit a room photo, Modsy’s designers will send back renderings filled with selections from 100-plus retailers that have transformed their catalogs into 3D. Amazon’s Showroom, on the other hand, lets you test different products in a stock 3D room. Both options are great sales tools for brands … as long as they make the jump to 3D.
But let’s be honest, 3D comes with a learning curve. We get it, we run the world’s largest 3D marketplace. As 3D use has ramped up in the retail sector, a lot of our customers (many of which are Fortune 500 brands) have come to us looking for help with the transition. Historically, their process has been photo- and video-based, so those problems we mentioned above (shipping, reshoots, variations across regions) have been challenges for a long time. But they still see the potential, especially the idea of using assets across experiences. Therefore, if a model is developed, it doesn’t die out as a visualization, it can also find life in a product spinner or customization tool.
The best advice we can give is organize your assets. After hearing stories about scattered drives and files needing 18 steps to get from one team to another, we built Kraken to enable brands to archive thousands of models in a highly searchable way. A 3D process will still need artists, but if you can’t find your assets, it really doesn’t matter what they create.
The second way to move past photos is to start thinking like a 3D artist. With Lens, Kraken’s interactive web-based 3D viewer, marketing teams can play virtual photographer, spinning up a photorealistic image in seconds, using simple sliders to tweak, rotate or re-light a model. These teams are already thinking in terms of social, ads and in-store experiences. Now they have a way to create enticing images for these channels, whenever they need them.
Whether you choose 3D, photography or a combination of both (composites are pretty cool), the way you win is to provide the best customer experience. Your competitors are experimenting, or will in the near future, and trailblazers like Ikea are already dishing on their process. Therefore, the path forward is becoming more and more clear. Is it all going to be smooth sailing? No. But business is about setting yourself up for the future, and if it’s going there anyway, do you really want to be the one that gets left behind?