Retail in a new dimension

Sai Krishna
January 10, 2020

The Internet creates a vast commoditization of goods. It has become easier than ever to find the product you want, at the best price and have it delivered to your doorstep. Through this change, what has become linearly more difficult is to get a customer to pay attention. Your store needs to create a memorable experience, and not just a listing. There must be a reason why customers buy your product over another.

A customer during and after the pandemic is going to be indoors, has access to information, and expects your business to react to their wants and needs, near instantly. A bit much? If you don’t, there are hundreds of others vying for the same share of the wallet.

Short attention spans, shorter time to gratification. This is fundamentally changing shopping. It is no longer simply a purchasing process. Rather, it is an experience that is expected to be personalized and immersive. It is this change that has enabled movements such as D2C brands to reach customers directly.

Not just commerce. In today‘s economic climate companies stand out from their competitors by ascending the economic value change to offer outstanding customer experiences.

Goods and services are no longer enough for your store to thrive. With everything becoming commoditized, the time to move to a new level of economic value that’s focused on staging experiences for your customers. Experiences become a distinct economic offering. This is where growth will come from and it would be further accelerated by the trends around us, as we all remain quarantined.

Wait. What’s even the difference?

What makes a service different from an experience? It’s about how time is used. It’s when your customers move from “time well saved” as a proposition to a “time well spent” mindset. By doing so, they want to spend time on your websites, in your store, and with your social media channels. Why care? The more time they spend with you, the more money they may spend.

Beyond the bottom line, your customers expect an emotionally satisfying product experience when they look through your offerings. It’s no longer an option. High expectations, higher effort you must take to meet them. This means your message, positioning, visuals, and brand must be consistent but different across the channels they cater to your customers at. phew.

Move where the puck is going to be

To thrive, retailers should look to stay ahead of the curve. A burgeoning technology in this regard is the use of 3D and Augmented Reality. Broadly called augmented commerce, this lets customers enable a **See-try-buy **workflow for a number of products.

With 3D and AR, you can not try-on products without leaving the comfort of your homes. This results in much higher confidence before a purchase and fewer returns. From small deployments, it’s become evident that there is now a growing need for this technology for retailers to move their operations online.

Changes with Covid-19

As more retail stores temporarily close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, brands must navigate how best to represent themselves to mobile and online shoppers. AR becomes a viable option as a way to make products further accessible to customers.

The advantage with Augmented Reality is that it uses your smartphone to overlay content onto the physical world. It makes the tool relevant for both escapist experiences and practical commerce applications. An online shopper in California can better understand the size of a traditional Indian bag by visualizing it on their kitchen table; someone in London using an app might be convinced to buy a sneaker after seeing how it will look on their feet; someone browsing Instagram in France can swipe through makeup products with a selfie filter.

AR is also becoming commonplace as more tech companies are integrating it. What started with Amazon and Ikea has now become mainstream. Over the last few weeks, Shopify made it easier for any brand to add AR content to their website, and Apple introduced an iPad Pro with a ToF/lidar camera that makes it easier to place AR content in the real world. In the past year, Pinterest and YouTube have both added AR makeup try-ons, and Facebook and Instagram have begun rolling out AR-enabled ads and AR-enabled posts.

People are realising that there’s been this consumer shift around the camera. It’s where people are spending more and more time – - Snapchat’s Carolina Arguelles, Lead product marketing, augmented reality

When Instagram began testing AR Try-Ons with brands such as Nars and Oliver Peoples, within 2 months of the pilot it found that 24 per cent of people who viewed an eligible product display page used the AR try-on feature and that people on average tried on 3 different AR products

Rebecca Minkoff was one of the first brands to test AR-enabled 3D products on Shopify
Rebecca Minkoff was one of the first brands to test AR-enabled 3D products on Shopify

3D as a design medium for experiences

3D Commerce and configuration is developing as a critical feature for the retail business. It lets brands to plan things rapidly and remotely. Once made, 3D assets — which are three-dimensional, photorealistic computerized models of products — can be utilized in a number use cases, from making social media posts and virtual showrooms to account-based marketing pages and augmented reality experiences, similar to the ones above. With the supply chain more digital than before, production speed increases and it’s a win for companies working to become more cost-efficient whilst adding sustainable practices.

The technology has been of increasing interest to the fashion industry, and use cases are proliferating. But the past two months have forced an urgency on digital design that didn’t previously exist. Now, brands are racing to understand and implement a technology that could allow them to continue operations at a time when draping physical fabric, shipping samples internationally, and showing on a runway are at a standstill.

Designing more efficiently

To create new products, the digital design uses software in situ of paper and fabric, and designers can create and alter designs without having to physically produce them. The physical properties of materials are measured and recreated digitally, and avatars act as fit models to portray how clothes will slot in the real world.

Showrooms are closed, brands have two options: either stop doing collections or show in a different way. Three-dimensional renders can show up in look books, virtual showrooms, and online product display pages when they’re made.

3D models can give more context than a static image. Rebecca Minkoff, who began testing Shopify’s 3D model capabilities during her vacation, found that sessions that interacted with a 3D model were up to 44 percent more likely to add to cart and 27 percent more likely to convert to an order. Overall, Shopify reports that customers who’ve interacted with 3D models were up to 2 and a half times more likely to shop** **than customers who failed to. “People are going to start expecting 3D models,” says Shopify head of AR and VR Daniel Beauchamp. Facebook, Snapchat, and Shopify each have vetted partners that can create 3D assets for brands.

Enhancing the customer experience

Digital assets will be used beyond buying and selling. “We’re seeing more and more opportunities for these digital assets to be used across various channels,” Beauchamp says. 3D product models are the content that goes into AR features like face filters and try-on, additionally to more nascent uses like in-game content, dressing digital avatars, hologram-like displays and extended reality. An average customer visits a minimum of 14 different channels before making a sale. You should be where your customers are.

If you zoom out a bit, this is just visual computing, and it’s all driven by 3D content, which can show up in multiple other ways. It’s visiting an accelerated path now more than ever, but we are going to get to the purpose where you can’t merchandize a product without it.

With more online retail organizations feeling the extra strain to exhibit profitable growth, it will be hard to form deep investments into what presently seems like the long game of emerging technology. Augmented shopping relies upon a mix of established and emerging technologies today, yet the patterns appear to show that 3D technologies are being embraced by industry and buyers alike

Given the complexity of technologies behind augmented shopping, organizations shouldn’t defer investigating its advantages and building their knowledge in this area. In case you’re not finding the different ways AR and 3D technology can change retail today, you’ll wind up lagging before you know it.