To date, the path to in-app augmented reality (AR) for retail has largely been sequestered to specialized or owned apps. But with social media giant Facebook now joining the growing number of platforms that support direct access to immersive content, marketers who can unlock their 3D and AR content for broad syndication across web, in-app, search, and now social stand to reap greater rewards than ever.
Facebook and Vertebrae recently co-hosted a panel discussion with luxury brand Coach and home improvement retailer Lowe’s to discuss how 3D and AR help drive engagement and overcome key purchase hurdles around understanding a product digitally. AR ecommerce tools virtually display products in real-world environments to help shoppers “try before they buy” online—gauging fit, matching colors and styles, and designing their own physical spaces; while with 3D, customers can manipulate views to explore items up close and from every angle.
Consumers crave this information, with 57% of respondents in a Vertebrae study saying they wanted help visualizing products in their environments, and a quarter seeking to use virtual tools to try on new looks.
With the potential to drive conversions and reduce the burden of reverse logistics, it’s no surprise that more and more merchants are implementing immersive commerce features. Technology researcher Gartner estimates that by 2020, 46% of retailers will have deployed AR features to support the customer experience.
Now, both Google and Facebook are incorporating immersive commerce experiences on their platforms, further boosting the potential benefits for brands and retailers already implementing 3D and AR. Facebook is working with Vertebrae to help retailers develop AR commerce across its properties. And earlier this year, Google announced that 3D and AR product visualizations would be accessible in search results, with both organic and paid placements set to link directly to merchants’ immersive features.
Portable, web-based 3D and AR assets are critical for merchants looking to capitalize on these new opportunities—and to “future proof” their immersive commerce programs for maximum agility in the future. To get started, merchants should:
Pick Products with the Highest Potential Impact
To make the experience most worthwhile for shoppers, merchants should identify which products are most apt for 3D and AR asset development. Starting with a subset of products can also speed time to deployment, and serve as a “proof of concept” to help justify further investment and wider rollout.
Top sellers and evergreen products are almost always solid choices, as are high-consideration categories, items with physical features and materials to examine closely, and products whose dimensions are best understood in real-life context. Merchants can use customer reviews, product Q and A submissions, and customer service logs to determine which items would benefit most immediately from immersive content development.
Lay a Foundation with Quality 3D Assets
3D is both the foundation of AR and a valuable asset in its own right, as it enables shoppers to tilt and flip items to get a full view from every angle, and to zoom in to show fine product details, such as buckles on a handbag or ports on a speaker.
In addition, quality 3D models ensure the AR experience will be realistic and accurate, and can power cutting-edge AR features that rely on highly detailed renderings. For example, custom configurator tools can be built to display shoppers’ color and style selections in AR in real-time—but only if the base 3D model includes individual components that can be recombined on the fly.
Luxury accessories brand Coach partnered with Vertebrae and Facebook to create ads that enabled shoppers to virtually try on sunglasses, with the option to purchase built directly into the ad. It was crucial to convey product quality and attention to detail in the 3D renderings that formed the basis of the experience.
“It was really important to my creative counterparts that the tea rose shimmered and the frame had the curve—and it did,” said Christine Petretta, senior manager of paid media at Coach. “It looked just like it would in person in the 3D rendering.” As a result, Coach reported a significant lift in ad recall and purchase intent, and is now planning to explore additional AR commerce initiatives. Coach is part of Tapestry Inc.
Align Syndication Outlets with Goals—and Measure
With so many potential implementation formats for 3D and AR assets, merchants should develop a roadmap and prioritize where to syndicate first. Those interested in improving brand or product discovery, engagement, or purchase intent may want to start with social commerce outlets, while those looking to drive direct conversion may want to deploy 3D and AR first and foremost on the ecommerce site and mobile web.
For each outlet, merchants must manage multiple moving parts, from creation of 3D and AR assets to generation of automated feeds and tags that conform to platform requirements. Testing and optimization are likewise crucial to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Finally, merchants should ensure 3D and AR efforts are measurable across platforms and touchpoints, so they can determine which syndication efforts are most effective and adjust their offerings accordingly. Thanks to the interactive nature of 3D and AR assets, sellers can even pinpoint which features and styles shoppers are most interested in exploring up close—yielding new insights that can inform product development.
Thanks to a growing number of syndication opportunities across the Web, immersive content is poised to become mission-critical content for online retail. Merchants who invest in portable, web-based 3D and AR have a solid foundation for innovative experiences now and in the future.
Vertebrae Inc. provides technology that manages the process of 3D and augmented reality (AR) asset creation, management, deployment and reporting.