The home furnishings giant widens access to its 3-D product images by placing representations of 1,000 SKUs in 3-D product warehouse SketchUp.

Wayfair Inc. is diving deeper into the third dimension.

The web-only home furnishings retailer has made 1,000 of its 3D product models available to professionals using 3-D modeling software SketchUp, Wayfair said Tuesday. SketchUp is a warehouse of 3-D product images used by architects, engineers, designers and construction professionals.

“We’re shortening the gap between designing and furnishing a space by providing a link to the product on Wayfair.com,” says Shrenik Sadalgi, engineering lead for Wayfair Next, the retailer’s research and development team. “This helps streamline the design process. Instead of having to search for similar products to match their concepts, designers can quickly bring their designs to life by using actual products from Wayfair that can be purchased.” Plus, the designs are more accurate because the 3-D model will be of a real product, Sadalgi says.

Wayfair, as an online-only furniture retailer, has the hurdle of selling large, high-ticket items to shoppers who cannot physically touch the products. Producing 3-D images of products helps the e-retailer overcome this obstacle by allowing shoppers to visualize products in the context of a home, says J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at research firm Forrester.

“By working with SketchUp, they expand [their 3-D product model] asset base to design professionals and architects, helping drive an ecosystem of partners who can entice buyers to include Wayfair’s product catalog in designs for customers,” Gownder says. “This move is a smart way to leverage the 3-D assets they’ve been building, and could help Wayfair drive more sales via the design channel.”

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In the past year, Wayfair has made a push to have more of its 7 million products modeled in 3-D. So far the retailer has created 3-D images for more than 10,000 items. Once a product has a 3-D image, it can then be used in augmented and virtual reality platforms, such as those that allow a shopper to visualize what a sofa would look like in her living room. Subsequently, the retailer has deployed several AR and VR initiatives, such as IdeaSpace, which is a virtual reality app that consumers can use in Google’s Daydream VR headset to tour rooms decorated with Wayfair’s home furnishings.

Wayfair’s announcement with SketchUp follows the retailer’s launch of an application program interface (API) that enables virtual reality and augmented reality app developers to populate their apps with any of Wayfair’s 3-D modeled products. That allows developers to obtain for free already created images of real furniture that they can use in their apps. For Wayfair, that means more eyeballs on its products, Sadalgi told Internet Retailer in October when it made this announcement.

Creating accurate 3-D product models, however, is no easy task. Wayfair produces the images in two ways:  The first is via an in-house 3-D scanner, which the retailer built. The retailer places a chair, for example, on a turntable and several cameras take pictures of it from different angles. The turntable rotates and the cameras take more photographs. On average, each 3-D image requires 150 photos. This process takes 10 to 15 minutes, says Mike Festa, director of Wayfair Next.

The second way Wayfair creates the 3-D images is for employees to draw them. Depending on the complexity of an object, this could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, Festa says. The e-retailer determines which products are good candidates for scanning, such as complex and highly textured objects, and products that are easily drawn, such as items with sharp edges and geometric shapes, Festa says.

Wayfair is No. 24 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 1000 Guide.

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