Shopping in store can either be a favorite activity, or the most dreaded thing on the planet. While a larger and larger portion of commerce is taking place in the digital realm, there are times where there is no substitute for physical retail, or when someone just needs to wander around Target and buy random items they saw on Instagram.
Either way, physical retail will never completely disappear, but that does not mean that it can’t or shouldn’t evolve along with the digital age. Advancements in technology mean that physical stores have the opportunity to leverage digital touch points and interactive tools, delivering a better shopping experience for customers and higher sales for the brand. One of the most powerful tools a brand can leverage is 3D product visualization.
The biggest advantage to shopping in store is being able to physically interact with products. Shoppers can see the size, the materials, and the colors of a product to help determine the level of quality and whether it will fulfill their needs. Humans process visual cues much faster than text, and the visuals we receive greatly impact how we evaluate everything in our environment and how we make decisions. But while some products can be fully evaluated by picking it up off the shelf, others require either heavier lifting or another approach to gain that visual feedback. Though few will admit it, most people are not good at imagining what something will look like if they are given a description, and when a product arrives that does not meet expectations, it is not a good day for the buyer or the seller.
Product visualization brings highly accurate, scale representations of products to life in a digital format that shoppers can interact with. These models allow shoppers to view and evaluate products even if they are not available on the sales floor, providing an endless digital shelf life and access to products both available locally and via shipping.
3D commerce, which includes product visualization, 3D configuration, and augmented reality, has already been deployed by several major retailers both in-store and online. While many of these deployments have focused primarily on the digital space, there are ample opportunities for brands to optimize their in-store and omnichannel strategy with 3D.
Think of a customer going to buy a couch. The sales floor is full of sample models, but to actually purchase a piece of furniture they often have to place an order that will then be delivered. If the customer wants the exact floor model then they can see what they are getting right in the store, but if they want a different option, they are often dependent on a fabric swatch booklet and trying to imagine what the couch will look like in that color and texture.
What if instead the sales associate was equipped with a product visualizer? Instead of relying on their imagination, the customer can view a lifelike model of the couch in the color and material they want to order. The sales associate can save the model and send it to the customer to view at home if they still need to make a decision, or, if they are equipped with augmented reality, can send that couch home with the customer to try out in the room where the couch will be placed. 3D commerce puts the power in the buyer’s hands and builds confidence in knowing that what they order will look like what they are expecting.
That confidence is particularly important when it comes to customized and configurable products. While countless options and add ons are an exciting prospect for buyers, choosing the features, colors, and materials can be overwhelming, and compiling the picture in their imagination gets harder with the greater number of variables. 3D visual product configurators can be used in store in the same way that they are deployed on a brand’s website, or combined with in-store assets to further enhance the experience. That fabric or paint swatch book might be difficult to use in simply imagining a new purchase, but when paired with a 3D product configurator, the shopper gets the best of both worlds in feeling the texture and viewing the complete picture.
Each of these digital touchpoints remove friction from the buying experience and increases the likelihood that the customer will be satisfied with their purchase.
The benefits of 3D also do not need to be limited to interactive experiences for customers. 3D product visualizers allow brands to easily update and maintain digital signage and product promotion throughout the store, without the need of a photo or video shoot. Have a special edition item coming soon? By updating the model in the product visualizer, new imagery can be pushed to digital assets in a seamless process.
Sephora’s ModiFace mirror uses augmented reality to allow buyers to try on various shades of makeup without the hassle of repeatedly wiping it off or leaving the store with multiple colors on each side of their face. The experience can be used through kiosks throughout the store, on a sales associate’s tablet, or on the shopper’s own device and showcases how each color would look in real time as opposed to having the user upload a photo. Not only is this a more seamless experience, but it gives the shopper a more realistic view of how the product would work for them.
Apparel brand Timberland drove high engagement with in store shoppers and increased foot traffic by installing their Magic Mirror in the store window. Shoppers could view and virtually try on selections from the store by interacting with the mirror.
One of the most impressive uses of AR in the last several years has to be UK basedThree’s partnership at London Fashion Week in 2020. The team captured model Adwoa Aboah in high def 3D to then create an AR experience for the finale of Fashion Week’s opening night. Attendees were able to view Adwoa as she sat in the front row of the show, while also walking down the catwalk via the tablets provided by the show.
Augmented reality has the potential to shape not only how consumers shop through digital channels, but also what they expect to experience at physical stores. These digital touchpoints give shoppers the power to explore and engage with products on their own terms, and in ways that drive significant value for the brands.
Ready to see what augmented reality can do for your brand? Give it a try!