After a record breaking holiday season, retailers are poised to undertake an ambitious slate of initiatives for 2020 — from omnichannel integration to speedier last-mile delivery to customer service chatbots. Now, thanks to their growing accessibility and potential impact on the bottom line, augmented reality (AR) and 3D are moving to the top of the priority list.
Recent innovations in mobile operating systems and browsers, immersive commerce experiences that use AR and 3D to depict products in real-life context are increasingly accessible via the mobile web, with no specialized app required. The rollout of 5G cellular technology will further widen access, as immersive experiences will load instantaneously without needing a wifi Internet connection.
As access to 3D and AR experience improves, usage is on the rise. Currently, 1 in 5 U.S. consumers interact with AR content at least once per month, according to eMarketer, mostly via games such as Pokémon Go or through “lenses” for social media platforms like Snapchat.
While current usage centers around entertainment, demand is high for more practical 3D and AR applications: 57% of consumers told Vertebrae they want help visualizing how products would look in their environments, and a quarter want to virtually try on new makeup or clothing styles — ranking these functional uses as being more desirable than further gaming and social media add-ons.
With expectations rising for immersive experiences, 3D and AR imagery is poised to become as pervasive as 2D product photo arrays are now. Brands are ramping up: technology researcher Gartner estimates that this year, 46% of retailers will have deployed AR features to support the customer experience.
Launching 3D and AR initiatives requires an investment in the technical resources to produce and manage high-quality assets. But by prioritizing Web-based 3D and AR development in 2020, retailers can stay ahead of the competition and realize a number of business benefits, including:
- Boosting pre-purchase confidence. With the ability to examine items from every angle and zoom in on details such as straps, closures, fittings, and ports, 3D imaging gives shoppers a close-up view of products they’re researching. AR tools combine life-size product images with cellphone pictures of physical surroundings, putting product dimensions into true-to-life context.Armed with this rich visual information, shoppers can proceed to purchase with a high degree of trust that the products will fit their needs and their physical spaces, driving higher sales and conversion for retailers. Furniture retailer CB2 realized a 7 percent overall increase in sales, a 21 percent increase in revenue per visit and a 13 percent increase in average order value on product pages featuring 3D and AR technology.
- Overcoming key mobile purchase hurdles. Building purchase confidence is especially important on mobile, which is quickly becoming the dominant online shopping touchpoint; during the 2019 record CyberMonday holiday event, for example, mobile devices claimed 54% of shopping visits and a third of all online revenues. The lag between browsing and sales on small screens is due in part to inadequate product information and imagery — a deficiency that 3D and AR capabilities address. As an added benefit, shoppers take an active role in consuming 3D and AR content by manipulating 3D images and layering in mobile camera photos to create AR displays, making for a highly engaging experience.
- Winning search visibility. Google is now testing integration of 3D and AR capabilities directly in search results, with both organic and paid placements set to link directly to merchants’ immersive features. Target, Wayfair, New Balance, and a handful of other beta partners are the first to try Google’s new tools, with further rollout expected in 2020. Merchants with 3D and AR assets that can be incorporated into product feeds will have the opportunity to win increased visibility.
- Innovating on social media. Facebook is working with Vertebrae to help retailers develop AR commerce across its properties, starting with AR ads on Facebook. 3D and AR content on social media can help improve brand engagement and make product information tangible without leaving the social environment, shortening the path to purchase.
- Syndication to dealers and marketplaces. Manufacturers and distributors using Web-based 3D and AR assets can share them with retail partners and third-party marketplaces to boost brand visibility and sales. By furnishing innovative tools to boost consumers’ purchase confidence, brands earn credibility as the definitive source of content about their products and demonstrate their technology know-how.
Thanks to advances in mobile technology, Web-based 3D and AR are set to become widespread in 2020. Brands that prioritize implementation of immersive features can meet consumer demand for rich product information, improving purchase confidence for both mobile and desktop users, and take advantage of syndication opportunities to boost visibility and engagement.