The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is quite old, but its application is more important than ever for eCommerce merchants. High-quality product images can increase sales and reduce returns in almost every industry.
Fortunately, software today makes it possible to create visual content easier and cheaper than ever before. And this content is no longer limited to static images: Today’s retailers can offer shoppers Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D experiences that help them understand how their offers move through the buying process.
AR for Retail: Offer product previews in context.
The average eCommerce retailer loses about 75% of potential sales by discarding shopping carts. The main reason why customers do not complete the purchase is usually due to the rather poor return policies of shop operators.
Offering AR on your website can help you address this problem by showing customers exactly what your products will look like in the context you want them to see. This will give your customers the confidence that your product will work as intended, so they won’t have to return it when it arrives.
So what might AR look like in this context?
A furniture retailer might let customers use the camera function of a smartphone or tablet to overlay an image of a sofa with an image of your living room. A paint dealer might offer something similar.
AR solutions are very well suited for retailers selling large or expensive items, where returns are unwieldy or whenever a customer wants to experience a product before deciding to buy. By combining real-world images with digital renderings, AR gives shoppers an impression of the size and detail of products so they can make confident purchasing decisions.
VR for the retail trade: offering tours from the couch.
VR enables shoppers to have a completely immersive virtual experience, usually made possible by a headset. While some retailers (such as Ikea and The North Face) offer VR experiences in stores, we have found that shoppers are less satisfied with VR in public spaces and more comfortable at home.
This makes sense: venturing into VR means giving up the ability to see the world around you. Most people feel more comfortable doing this at home.
Retailers can take advantage of VR by offering virtual tours of their rooms to answer common questions or alleviate anxiety. For example:
- Grocers could even take a tour of the gluten-free section of their store, even through the factories where gluten-free food is produced. This would remove concerns about contamination for allergy sufferers and other dietary restrictions.
- Mass retailers could offer site-specific tours aimed at parents hoping to skip the toy or candy aisle and avoid shouting.
- Gyms could give potential members the opportunity to visit the facility without interrupting the sweaty training of existing members. This also has the advantage that the facility is presented in top form and not the way it is most frequented.
Admittedly, this experience requires that buyers own VR headsets. While overall acceptance is still modest, improvements in features are attracting more and more consumers, so VR tours are likely to be more effective in the near future.
3D Renderings: Sale without prototype.
When it comes to using 3D for product visualizations, there are actually two different strategies: 3D product renderings for creating photorealistic two-dimensional images and interactive 3D.
The former involves using software to create hyper-realistic 2D images from CADs or other digital designs. This process is extremely cost-effective compared to traditional photography, in part because it allows retailers to adjust and manipulate images as needed after the initial image creation.
Creating images from 3D renderings can be especially useful when:
- A product or product type has not yet been manufactured, but you would like to start accepting orders.
- You have a limited budget for photo shoots (e.g. if you want to have photos of your product at a distance, 3D renderings can make this possible without the cost of an on-site photo shoot)
- They have a large catalogue of articles.
- Your catalogue is updated regularly.
- You want to experiment with different backgrounds.
- You want 360-degree images.
The crucial point is that users cannot tell the difference between images created from renderings and “real” photos. So, for a fraction of the cost of traditional photography, you can get results of similar or better quality.
Interactive 3D: resolves all doubts.
Another way to use 3D is to create fully interactive 3D visualizations on your website, which the customer can manipulate, animate or configure according to his needs. This technology tends to work best for:
- Expensive or high-quality items that the buyer wants to see from all sides before buying.
- Elements with complicated details, including components for machines.
- Items that are returned frequently (the ability to see something from all angles prevents surprises and can reduce the number of returns)
- Technical articles with complex interiors that can be illustrated with virtualized failures (like a football helmet with additional safety features)
When shoppers manipulate interactive 3D visualizations on handheld devices, they enjoy an intimacy similar to that of a brick and mortar store, which can help them gain confidence in what they are buying.
Improve your ROI.
Regardless of which digital visual components make the most sense for your e-commerce site, choosing digital visualization of products leads to more conversions and better ROI – for less up-front investment than traditional photography. Add to that the ability to customize visualizations on the fly and digital imaging has a clear advantage over traditional analog imaging.
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