Chapter 1:

3D eCommerce

VNTANA's The Ultimate Guide to 3D E-Commerce

3D eCommerce is one of today’s most important innovations in online shopping. Brands and retailers adopting this technology enjoy higher customer engagement, increased conversion rates, higher average order sizes, and reduced return rates. In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of 3D eCommerce. We’ll discuss:

  • What 3D eCommerce is, how it works and why it’s important
  • How to use a 3D eCommerce maturity model to assess your brand’s progress in adopting this vital technology
  • The role of virtual reality (VR) in 3D eCommerce
  • The role of augmented reality (AR) in 3D eCommerce
  • How VR and AR differ
  • How to build a digital 3D showroom
  • How 3D eCommerce works with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the Metaverse
  • How to choose a 3D Commerce platform

Read on to learn what you need to know about 3D eCommerce and how to use it to grow your business.

What Is 3D eCommerce?

3D eCommerce is the use of 3D, virtual reality, and augmented reality technologies to support digital marketing and sales. It also may be referred to by terms such as 3D commerce, 3D modeling commerce, or immersive commerce.

Examples of 3D eCommerce applications include:

  • Customization of or configuration of products in a browser or mobile app based on a selection from virtual models
  • Showing interactive, 360-degree views of products on an e-commerce shopping website
  • Placement of products in a user’s actual physical environment using smartphone or tablet cameras
  • AR try-ons of fashion products like clothing and footwear
  • Immersive multimedia and video gaming experiences
  • Digital product showrooms which present 3D models of products
  • Metaverse shopping in 3D space

These applications enable 3D technology to be incorporated throughout the eCommerce experience. Shoppers can engage 3D marketing content and ads, browse virtual catalogs of product and service selections, see virtual previews of benefits, and test simulations of the ownership experience. 

How Does 3D eCommerce Work?

Before you can get started with 3D eCommerce, you must have 3D models ready to go. Existing 3D design files (or 3D CAD files) used in manufacturing are the starting point for many brands. To get started with 3D model creation, there are three main approaches to creating 3D images:

  • 3D scanning: A 3D scanner bounces light off a physical object from multiple angles to capture data about the size and shape of the object. The data is then converted into points and shapes on a mathematical coordinate system to create a 3D model of the object.
  • Photogrammetry: A digital camera captures images of a physical object from multiple angles. Photogrammetric software then converts the images into points and shapes on a coordinate system.
  • 3D design: A graphic designer uses software to create a 3D model of a real or prospective object by working from product descriptions and images.

Once a 3D model has been created, it can be used for eCommerce through 3D viewers, virtual reality, or augmented reality technology. 3D viewers present an interactive 3D model to visitors on the web or in mobile apps. Virtual reality involves using a 3D image to simulate a physical experience of any object digitally. For example, an architect sharing a building project with a client might show them a three-dimensional digital blueprint of the building. Augmented reality layers a 3D image onto the physical world of the user using a smartphone or tablet camera and display — using the virtual world to enhance the experience of the physical world. For instance, a furniture seller might use augmented reality to let customers see how a piece of furniture from their catalog would look in their client’s home. 

Both VR and AR can combine visual images with other types of sensory immersion, such as surround sound, haptic gloves, which simulate touching an object, or haptic shoes, which simulate walking. In this way, 3D eCommerce potentially can provide an experience that closely replicates physical experience.

Why Is 3D Vital to the Future of eCommerce?

Several recent technology trends have converged to make 3D increasingly vital for the future of eCommerce. One is the growth of eCommerce itself. Already growing in significance before the COVID-19 outbreak, eCommerce has accelerated in importance due to the pandemic. U.S. eCommerce sales increased 14.2% in 2021, according to fourth-quarter 2021 data on quarterly retail eCommerce sales released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Global retail B2C eCommerce will continue growing by 1% annually to account for 22% of global retail sales by 2024, projects the International Trade Administration.

As eCommerce grows, so will multimedia marketing and sales. 3D technology represents the cutting edge of multimedia marketing. The use of 3D displays to support advertising is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 22.6% from 2020 to 2027, reaching over $2.253 billion, according to market research firm ResearchAndMarkets.com.

A key technology trend supporting the deployment of 3D eCommerce technology is 5G adoption. Delivering VR and AR experience over the Internet depends on sufficiently fast connection speeds. The accelerated connectivity 5G provides is conducive to increased adoption of VR and AR. With the global 5G market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 58.7% in the period between 2021 and 2026, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com, VR and AR adoption are poised for explosive growth.

As VR and AR become more mainstream, competition will promote innovation, promoting more growth. Improvements in image capturing and modeling, virtual showrooms, and computer vision will make VR and AR more efficient and more effective. These trends and others will help make 3D a critical part of future eCommerce.

The Benefits of 3D eCommerce

3D offers several compelling benefits to eCommerce brands and retailers:

  • 3D more closely approximates everyday human experience, making 3D, VR, and AR more realistic than other forms of digital interaction with customers
  • 3D, VR, and AR renders of products can convey information to customers which is difficult to describe in mere words or 2D images
  • VR and AR allow customers to realistically experience products before purchase, enabling virtual “test drives” which promote higher conversions and lower product return rates
  • 3D and AR technology can be incorporated by brick-and-mortar and mixed retailers as well as online eCommerce retailers, inviting in-store customers to virtually interact with products

These benefits help make 3D technology a powerful tool eCommerce businesses can use to drive revenue and create deeper customer relationships.

The Challenges of 3D eCommerce

Adopting a 3D eCommerce strategy can present new challenges for your business to address. Some of those areas of interest include:

  • Technological learning curve: Adding VR and AR to your company’s technological toolkit can take time, particularly if you’re going it alone within your own IT department. Partnering with third parties can help shorten the curve.
  • Product catalog digitization: If you want to add VR and AR models of your products to your sales catalog, you’ll need to go through your inventory and create 3D models of each product.
  • Developing 3D marketing materials: VR and AR can be used in your marketing to tell your brand’s story, showcase your products and create promotional content. However, you’ll need to get a knack for telling stories in 3D.
  • Sales pipeline integration: If you’re going to make 3D part of your sales process, you’ll need to review your sales pipeline to identify places where VR and AR can be used effectively and develop standard operating procedures to leverage these technologies.
  • Cost: The challenges listed above entail expenditures in time and money.

These are some of the biggest challenges facing eCommerce retailers who want to incorporate 3D technology. Companies incorporating 3D should develop strategies for addressing these challenges early in the adoption process for best results. Working with the right provider can help you create an effective strategy and avoid costly mistakes.

Tracking the Performance of 3D eCommerce

To make sure your 3D eCommerce strategy is effective, you must track your performance. You can do this by establishing key performance indicators in a few major categories:

  • Pre-sales marketing KPIs: Metrics such as website visits, visitor-to-purchase conversion rate, and cost of acquisition can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your VR and AR marketing campaigns
  • Sales KPIs: Numbers such as sales volume, conversion rates, revenue per sale, average cart size, and average customer lifetime value let you measure the value of your 3D eCommerce campaigns
  • Post-sales KPIs: Metrics such as return rates, support ticket volume, and Net Promoter Score can help you weigh how well your 3D efforts contribute to customer satisfaction and retention.

To collect and analyze the KPI data you need, you can use several categories of tools:

  • Website analytics tools
  • Social media analytics tools
  • Embedded eCommerce analytics tools built into your shopping cart
  • AI-powered business intelligence apps

These tools can help you assess whether your KPI performance meets your business goals. This will empower you to optimize the value of your 3D eCommerce investment.