The breakout success of Pokémon Go in 2016 (and its persistent success in the years since) proved that customers are ready and willing to engage with a digitally augmented version of their world. It’s no wonder, then, that today’s ecommerce leaders are using 3D and AR technology to make online shopping a lot more like shopping in real life.
Or, in some cases, even better.
Top online retailers are already using 3D and AR to let customers manipulate merchandise and see what it looks like in their homes – something they can’t do when they shop in-store. This kind of virtual engagement increases a shopper’s trust of a seller and their likelihood of making a purchase.
But that’s not the only way retailers are using 3D and AR to boost buyer confidence and take the friction out of ecommerce. Here are four ways retailers are using these technologies to transform the online shopping experience – and to substantially increase their revenue.
1. Win Buyer Confidence by Letting Them Visualize the Final Product
One reason online shopping for large items hasn’t taken off as quickly as in other categories is the simple problem of context. While shoppers may love the look of a sofa on their screen, they won’t know until it arrives whether they like it in their home. Research from Lowe’s shows that shoppers often take weeks to contemplate big furniture purchases so they can make the right decision – in part, no doubt, because of the prohibitive cost of return shipping.
With an AR feature like the one home remodeling marketplace Houzz.com offers, that problem disappears.
The Houzz Android app “View in My Room 3D” feature lets shoppers visualize products in their own homes. Shoppers can upload an image of their room, then superimpose any of a million 3D-modeled items onto that image to see exactly what products would look like in real life.
The results have been stunning: shoppers who use the AR visualization tool are 11 times more likely to purchase an item compared with those who don’t.
Home improvement giant Lowe’s has seen similar success. The Lowe’s Android app also lets shoppers view 3D models of products in their homes and items from the Lowe’s outdoor collection in their backyard. Customers who engage with the 3D viewing experience convert with order values 104 percent higher than those who don’t.
2. Increase Sales with Tailored Product Recommendations
Product recommendations have been a fixture in ecommerce for a while, but Houzz is making its recommendations more personal by letting customers view suggested products in their AR rooms.
The strategy works: in one example, while 38 percent of customers who landed on a product page made a purchase, a whopping 62 percent bought at least one of the products recommended based on their viewing behavior.
In other words, when retailers make it possible for shoppers to view recommended products in their actual homes, they’re more likely to make a purchase.
3. Solve Hesitation Around Fit by Using AR as a Measuring Tape
One hurdle for online retailers selling large products like furniture and appliances is helping shoppers know whether these products will fit in their homes. If they don’t, retailers can expect returns.
In fact, shoppers return as many as half of “expensive” items they buy online, which makes for a rotten customer experience and creates a logistical nightmare for retailers.
Wayfair, an online home furnishing retailer, is combating the problem with AR. Its Android- and Apple-compatible AR tool, “View in Room 3D,” uses exact product measurements for its AR overlay, so that a consumer can see whether the item works in their space. If a table would block an entryway, for instance, shoppers will see it in the app.
eBay offers something similar for sellers: its “Which Box?” feature lets sellers drag 3D models of USPS Flat Rate shipping boxes over the products they’re about to ship.
These solutions are exciting because they enable retailers to offer a digital experience that solves problems that neither earlier digital nor brick-and-mortar commerce could solve. They’re elegant and efficient and they eliminate major frustration points.
4. Bridge the Online-Offline Continuum
Another fascinating use case that involves creating a hybrid shopping experience comes from a second AR app from Lowe’s. The Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation app is kind of a Google Maps for Lowe’s stores: it lets customers create a digital shopping cart, then generates a path shoppers can follow through a physical store to pick up everything they need.
The implications are significant: with a clearer path through the store, more customers might skip shipping, which can save everyone money, which can lead to greater customer satisfaction. Plus, customers won’t leave without finding what they want, which means bigger order sizes and happier shoppers. And all this is possible without increasing in-store staff.
The app is still in a pilot phase, but it could have major implications for retailers with both an online and offline presence.
3D and AR Mean a New Day for Ecommerce
Historically, online retailers have touted benefits like convenience and efficiency compared with their brick-and-mortar counterparts. With the capabilities made possible by interactive 3D and AR, though, ecommerce brands have the capacity to supplement those benefits with a shopping experience that’s actually more engaging and useful than what shoppers can experience in physical retail locations.
In an era where customer experience is top of mind in every industry, early adopters of AR will have a significant edge.