Why DIY 3D and AR is tempting — and why it’s a bad idea
As demand for immersive shopping features surges, retailers may consider keeping 3D and augmented reality (AR) development in-house — a temptation they should resist if their assets are to be accessible, effective, and portable for maximum ROI.
There’s no doubt that 3D and AR for commerce is more essential than ever. eMarketer predicts that 1 in 4 consumers this year will interact at least once a month with AR, and those consumers increasingly expect immersive features to be useful tools, not just cool playthings. More than half of respondents in a Vertebrae study said they wanted AR help visualizing how products would look in their environments, and a quarter said they wanted to use AR to try on makeup or new looks.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making the push for immersive commerce features even more urgent, brands are eager to launch new offerings — and thanks to the prevalence of simple 3D and AR creation tools, it can be tempting to consider keeping efforts in-house using existing resources.
But the ease of creating a standalone asset is deceptive. When retailers attempt to deploy 3D and AR at scale, their efforts often flag due to the complexity of the undertaking and the sheer resources required for success. Even retail brands with the deep pockets to hire 3D and AR specialists are finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage for top talent, who gravitate toward the entertainment and gaming industries. Indeed, the lack of internal expertise is preventing progress on AR for nearly a third of marketers, eMarketer found.
A number of brands partnered with Vertebrae after initial homegrown efforts faltered and are now thriving, thanks to Vertebrae’s platform, which offers a unified toolset for not only asset creation, but for the management, testing, deployment, syndication, and performance measurement necessary to maximize the effectiveness of 3D and AR offerings.
This end-to-end approach trumps in-house development by delivering essential capabilities at scale. Using Vertebrae, retailers’ 3D and AR assets are:
- High quality. As retailers create immersive commerce experiences, it’s essential to start with a solid foundation, in the form of quality 3D assets that can be selling features in their own right as well as the building blocks of AR. But creation of quality 3D is far from straightforward, starting with selection of the correct capture technique and including adherence to the latest industry standards to ensure assets are lightweight and high fidelity. Failure to meet rising production standards can doom nascent immersive commerce efforts, as poor quality is a top barrier to wider consumer AR adoption, according to eMarketer. Vertebrae helps retailers meet quality standards thanks to deep 3D expertise and image capture capabilities. Once 3D assets are created, the Axis platform ensures consistency with automated quality assurance testing to complement manual review processes.
- Commercial. The quality of product visualizations is just one aspect of 3D and AR asset creation. For maximum impact, immersive experiences must also be created with Web-based access in mind. Thanks to advances in mobile platform and browser technology, specialized apps or equipment are no longer necessary to view 3D and AR — as many have discovered when they used Google’s wild animal visualizations to divert bored kids during the ongoing stay-at-home orders. To liberate assets for use alongside 2D and video images at any point along the eCommerce path to purchase, retailers must create assets for compatibility with multiple browsers and device types. In addition, functional shopping criteria should outweigh aesthetics: for example, custom configurator tools rely on base 3D models with separate components that can be recombined on the fly. Commercial assets can also support direct purchasing capabilities, as when 1-800-Flowers leveraged Vertebrae to offer Apple Pay buttons directly from the AR viewer.
- Measurable. Integration into the eCommerce path to purchase means that immersive tools can demonstrate a direct impact on the bottom line — if measurement tools are available to track engagement with and conversion from 3D and AR assets. Vertebrae’s platform offers merchants integrated tracking of asset performance, as well as A/B testing capabilities, so that the impact of 3D and AR development is measurable and concrete.
- Portable. Not only should 3D and AR experiences be available across the branded eCommerce site; they should also be available for use across a rapidly-growing array of touchpoints that are now supporting immersive experiences. Google’s wild-animal renderings are just the starting point for integration of 3D and AR into Web search results and product feeds. Social media is also a nascent outlet for immersive experiences: Vertebrae is helping pilot AR advertising offerings on Facebook and Instagram. And just this week, leading Chinese messaging app WeChat debuted AR experiences for makeup, opening another frontier for immersive shopping. Retailers whose 3D and AR libraries are built for maximum agility can quickly take advantage of these new opportunities — and further future innovations — without needing to backtrack and recreate assets.
Brands can meet these criteria for successful 3D and AR experiences, but they’re unlikely to do so with a homegrown approach. Contact Vertebrae to join the vanguard of immersive shopping, and avoid the heartache and high costs of in-house development run amok.