eCommerce Product Configurator: Get Started With 3D & AR

As consumer purchasing preferences progressively skew towards eCommerce, buyers now crave interactive shopping experiences that can increase purchase confidence. With the average rate of returns for online purchases peaking at 20.8% in 2022, data supports that consumers may visualize a product as enticing enough to purchase but increasingly find it does not meet their expectations.

To help effectively drive online sales, reduce product returns, and increase general brand approval, today’s consumers require online shopping experiences that can give them a real sense of how a product will appear once it arrives. Fortunately, online retailers can make this happen with the correct eCommerce product configurator. Here’s what to know about online product configurators.

What is a Product Configurator?

Product configurators are a variety of software tools eCommerce storefront operators can integrate with their website to allow consumers to customize a product and visualize its final configuration virtually. A consumer can alternate and select various configuration options, including color, pattern, size, and texture, to accurately visualize the specific product they desire.

From footwear to jewelry, the typical online consumer anticipates a reliable, high-quality visual of a product before making any purchase decisions. A single, front-facing product image no longer suffices to market the appearance of a product. Neither do multiple 2D photos. Instead, toda’ys eCommerce buyers increasingly prefer website product configurator tools that provide in-depth product customization and viewing experiences in 3D and AR.

With an eCommerce product configurator, customers can now tailor the product to their exact needs and accurately gauge if that customized product will meet their preferences even before receiving it. For example, an online eCommerce shop selling apparel can provide multiple configuration options for a dress, allowing customers to alternate color options and sizing models that accommodate their specific needs.

Likewise, product configurator options are essential for eCommerce operations that offer customizable products. Online eCommerce services such as print-on-demand t-shirt providers or custom jewelry offer countless product configurator options such as text, images, and colors to help customers envision a wholly customized product before it’s even produced.

What Are the Advantages of Using Product Configurators?

Analysts estimate there to be 266.7 million digital buyers in the United States and some 2.14 billion worldwide. Consumer expectations for the online shopping experience continue to advance. Today’s shoppers anticipate an interactive experience that allows them to familiarize themselves with a product before making a purchase.

Accurate visualization of a product can be made possible with eCommerce product configurators that offer customizations to fit customers’ needs and expectations. However, online configurators can also work in favor of an eCommerce business. Consider the advantages of product configurators in eCommerce, such as reduced return rates and competitor differentiation.

1. Increased Conversion Rate and Average Order Value

An abandoned cart is one of the most dreaded aspects of owning an eCommerce storefront. Without the right visual tools, customers may add items to their carts but simply not have the confidence to complete the purchase. Merchants who utilize eCommerce product configurators provide a more accurate product representation, ultimately enticing a customer to convert.

Just as fewer abandoned carts lead to higher conversion rate,  providing more detailed product visuals through a product configurator may also increase a company’s average order value (AOV) over time. Rather than avoid purchasing additional products due to uncertainties about size or color, a customer can become more confident in shopping across multiple product categories with robust product visuals that subsequently drive up AOV.

2. Reduced Product Return Rates

Companies that provide poor visualizations of a product run a higher risk of not meeting customer expectations once it arrives. A poor first impression often results in returns, which equals lost revenue for the eCommerce business. A high return rate is detrimental to the health of an eCommerce operation. With eCommerce product configurators, consumers can gain a more accurate sense of the product, decreasing the chances they’re unhappy with the items delivered.

3. Differentiate from Online Competitors

In the world of eCommerce, standing out from the competition is everything. If two companies offer the same or similar products, but with contrasting shopping experiences, you can expect the consumer to shop with the site that provides a more confident, reliable shopping experience. This is why using eCommerce product configurator tools is one of the heaviest differentiators in online shopping.

Using product configurators with numerous options takes the shopping experience to an entirely new level by providing a realistic view of a product — as the customer would receive it — rather than one or two still images. These tools can also add a sense of authority to an eCommerce site, demonstrating further purchase confidence for the products sold.

4. Provide a Superior Customer Experience

Regardless of whether a customer completes a purchase, a lack of product visualization and realistic examples can leave a poor taste in a customer’s mouth. The inability to picture a product on their body or in their home can create a barrier to the purchase, which inevitably creates an overall negative opinion of the eCommerce platform.

With online configurators, eCommerce shops can create a more interactive and enjoyable shopping experience that provides higher confidence with the purchase and increases satisfaction. With increased customer satisfaction comes a higher chance of returning shoppers becoming brand advocates and recommending the site to friends and family members.

5. Improved Customer Insights

Using customer data helps eCommerce businesses make better business decisions that range from properly scheduling inventory restock to determining pricing specials. The use of a website product configurator allows shop owners to also pull data regarding how customers prefer to view products and which options they gravitate towards. These highly-relevant customer insights can help forecast inventory needs and reduce revenue loss caused by underperforming products.

Types of Product Configurators Used in eCommerce

With the above benefits in mind, you may wonder what the best product configurators are or how you can tie such technology to your eCommerce operation. There are three primary types of product configurators used in eCommerce, each with features and capabilities to match the specific needs of your business. Here are the top eCommerce product configurators available.

Static 2D Product Configurators

The most commonly used online product configurator in the eCommerce space is static 2D. A 2D eCommerce product configurator provides a two-dimensional flat and static visualization of a given product. The term static means that the product images do not move or offer consumers a 360-degree, three-dimensional view.

However, static 2D product configurators still offer various options for a more tailored visualization of a product. Customizable options often integrated with static 2D product configurators include elements such as color, pattern, materials, and textures. While the image won’t have 360-degree movability, multiple angles of a product can still be captured and integrated with various configurator options to provide a comprehensive product view.

For static 2D product configurator examples, let’s use the online furniture dealer, Burrow. Offering a wide variety of furniture pieces ranging from couches to tables, Burrow’s online platform allows consumers first to select a product they wish to view. Once on the product page, a static 2D product visual is provided. The consumer can decide among various configurator options, including fabric color and leg finish material, to visualize the specific piece they want.

Interactive 3D Product Configurators

Interactive 3D product configurators are a step further from static 2D product configurators that use an interactive design to provide customers with a 360-degree, three-dimensional view of a product. An interactive 3D product configurator provides numerous customizable options to help create a personalized vision of a product that can be viewed from multiple angles at a time.

As technology has advanced in the eCommerce market, merchants are increasingly turning to interactive 3D product configurators for a more immersive shopping experience. With the ability to alternate between various color, finish, texture, and shape configurator options, interactive 3D configurators allow the customized product to be navigated and viewed from every angle.

Vans, a footwear industry veteran with a robust online marketplace, offers an interactive 3D product configurator for customers looking for customized apparel. From sneakers to backpacks, Van’s interactive 3D product configurator allows users to browse numerous color, pattern, and material configurator options to create a customized product. Customers can drag and pull the product from any angle or distance when customizing a product.

Augmented Reality (AR) Product Configurators

As we discuss these various advancements in eCommerce technology, one to absolutely not forget is augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality product configurators have recently grown in popularity — quite dramatically — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when consumers had a difficult time leaving their homes to visualize and interact with a product in person.

AR product configurations allow consumers to digitally experience a 360-degree, three-dimensional view of an eCommerce product, such as outdoor gear or furniture, in their real-world setting. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which provides users with an artificial environment, AR product configurators allow users to place a virtual item in their living room or bedroom.

For example, mega eCommerce furniture dealer Wayfair uses an augmented reality product configurator to help customers visualize furniture pieces in their homes virtually. With Wayfair’s mobile app, users can scan the dimensions of their room and browse various future pieces, such as chairs and lamps, that can be virtually placed in the surrounding environment. Consumers can compare potential products with existing furniture items for a more confident purchase decision.

Tips for Implementing 3D Product Configurators for Your Ecommerce Strategy

Though a minimal product visualization experience can be a massive downfall for an eCommerce business, poorly implemented online product configurators can be even more frustrating. If your business is looking to include interactive 3D product configurations in your eCommerce strategy, there are a few best practices to ensure a smooth transition and positive results.

1. Create, Manage & Optimize Your 3D Files

A valuable eCommerce strategy that uses 3D product configurations must also incorporate a well-developed 3D file creation, management, and optimization strategy. To help streamline this process, eCommerce businesses should consider using a robust content management system (CMS) that allows them to complete these processes from one place.

VNTANA is the industry-first purpose-built 3D CMS that helps streamline 3D and AR management efforts, from design to product marketing. For 3D development and optimization purposes, VNTANA’s software automatically optimizes and converts 3D product models to meet web, social media, and mobile standards easily.

For ongoing 3D and AR file management purposes, VNTANA also offers expansive team capabilities that accommodate remote eCommerce operations. Our premium 3D web viewer can be accessed and collaborated on by remote teams from wherever to create compelling 3D web content for eCommerce websites.

2. Optimize Your 3D Product Configurator for Website Speed

When it comes to website loading speeds, a lagging 3D web viewer can quickly encourage potential customers to click out of the product page and away from the eCommerce site. To ensure a fast-loading 3D product configurator, eCommerce businesses need a solution that can properly optimize 3D files for quick load times and lag-free visualization.

With VNTANA’s patented optimization algorithms, 3D files are automatically reduced by 99% while maintaining a high visual quality that requires no manual touch-ups. With up to 10X faster load speeds, customers can effortlessly browse website product configurators for an enjoyable shopping experience that supports high-performing conversion rates.

3. Create Immersive Experiences with Augmented Reality

Once 3D assessments have been developed, optimized, and properly managed, eCommerce companies can take their strategy to the next level with augmented reality (AR). With the right 3D CMS, 3D content can easily be deployed across a website’s 3D product configurator and into consumers’ surrounding environment via AR.

VNTANA’s comprehensive platform allows eCommerce professionals to embed 3D product models into their websites easily. Once optimized for the eCommerce site, built-in augmented reality features allow users to pull the 3D product model from their mobile device and place it in their surrounding environment to visualize the product true to size.

Get Started with 3D Product Configurators

Has this in-depth dive into eCommerce product configurators inspired you to get started? With VNTANA’s 3D eCommerce platformcompanies can create, manage, and optimize 3D files from one platform that offers a multitude of powerful tools. Now is the time to upload 3D product models for an interactive customer experience shoppers will be telling their friends and family about.

Schedule a demo today to discover what VNTANA can do for your eCommerce strategy.