In the dynamic landscape of modern commerce, the growing demand for 3D and augmented reality (AR) among consumers has become impossible to ignore. Businesses, keen on meeting consumer expectations, are recognizing the profound benefits that 3D and AR integration can bring to their operations, leading to increasing adoption that is only likely to accelerate given the investments in the technology from leading Silicon Valley players such as Apple and Meta.
For business leaders looking to leverage these transformative tools for their own operations, the first questions that usually arise are: how to integrate 3D and AR, how to do it quickly and seamlessly, and what technological expertise will be needed in order to do so. However, the rise of web-based, no-code solutions, along with sector experts who can guide companies on every step of their journey, has made the process simpler than ever. This article provides expert guidance for businesses seeking to integrate 3D and AR solutions, identifying the market considerations and need-to-knows to help any company get up and running, as well as answering those fundamental questions of how to do so as quickly – and simply – as possible.
Consumers embracing 3D and AR
Consumers have led the way in adopting 3D and AR experiences as something they expect to use as part of their normal shopping routines. Research from consulting giant Deloitte found that 76% of people view AR as a practical tool for use in their everyday lives, while the same survey forecast that 75% of the global population are expected to be frequent users of AR by 2025.
Where it still persists, the misperception of 3D and AR as a novelty, or technology limited to entertainment uses, is at odds with consumer sentiment and real-world results. In an IPSOS study, 77% of consumers said they want to use AR to interact with products before buying – while a separate report found that 61% of consumers would choose to shop with retailers offering AR over those that did not, with 40% even stating they would be willing to pay more for products they can trial in AR first.
With booming consumer-side demand for 3D and AR experiences, the opportunities that exist for business are evident – particularly given the ease with which the technology can be integrated and deployed today. One of the conclusions of Deloitte’s report was that AR “will revolutionize our lives and will become as significant of a technology shift as the web or mobile was to society.” In this reckoning, companies that fail to offer their customers 3D and AR are as likely to be left behind as those that failed to adapt to the advent of the internet and the iPhone.
Personalize and visualize in augmented reality by clicking on "See in your space".
Considerations before adoption
As with any potential technology investment, research into numerous factors has to take place in order to determine how best to proceed. In the field of 3D and AR, business leaders most commonly seek information in four main areas. Let’s take a look at each in turn, offering guidance on the key points of note:
1. Uses and benefits of the technology
While 3D and AR technology has existed for decades, its adoption by mainstream retailers for commercial purposes is relatively recent. Leaders inspired by seeing Amazon, Home Depot, IKEA, and other global brands deploying immersive experiences are rightly prompted to seek out more information about the potential of the technology for their own business. As with all emergent tech solutions, the recent, rapid, and ongoing evolution of its application, which sees new use cases being developed regularly, creates a knowledge gap that must be filled.
For leaders looking to grow their understanding of immersive technologies, comprehensive resources exist that can provide everything from foundational knowledge to detailed analysis of the benefits, while sector experts such as Enhance can guide businesses from the earliest stages of their journey with 3D and AR.
In a challenging economic environment, every penny counts, and every investment has to justify its implementation. But the cost of integrating 3D and AR has fallen dramatically from where it was even a few years ago, bringing the technology within reach of budgets of all sizes. Furthermore, as 3D and AR has been shown to boost conversion rates and reduce product returns, it stands out as an investment with the potential to not only pay for itself, but to generate significant return on investment (ROI). UK furniture giant DFS reported a 22-fold ROI when rolling out immersive experiences to its customer base.
3. Technical requirements for integration
3D and AR are powerful tools that enable cutting edge customer experiences such as enabling live product configurations and visualizations. The end user needs only a smart phone or tablet to be able to customize a product to their preferences in real-time, and then immediately view a lifelike digital model of it in their own home, checking for color match, placement, fit, etc. In this context, leaders are naturally curious to know what the technical and coding requirements of such a deployment would be.
The answer often surprises. Today, web-based, no-code solutions exist that allow companies to create 3D and AR experiences in under 30 seconds. This type of AR solution uses a simple piece of web–responsive code, which companies can copy and paste into all their channels – a process which requires no coding knowledge and can be executed quickly and easily.
4. Making the process seamless
3D and AR are transformative technologies that are revolutionizing sales, marketing, customer engagement, and more. It’s easy to understand, therefore, why leaders need to know how integrating the technology will impact their existing platforms and workflows, identifying what adaptations or changes might be required.
The reality, however, is that by choosing the right technology partner and solution, 3D and AR can be integrated without causing so much as a ripple. The most advanced web-based solutions integrate seamlessly, requiring no changes to existing websites and platforms, and no updates to software or IT infrastructure. That means that just by dropping a snippet of web-responsive code into their channels, businesses can offer customers the immersive experiences they are seeking in a matter of seconds.
A three-step plan for 3D and AR integration
By following this simple roadmap, any business can elevate their operations with powerful immersive experiences quickly and easily:
1. Strategy and planning
“Understanding the unique needs and goals of the business is the foundational step towards effective AR integration,” says Rafael Muñoz, Founder of Enhance XR. Identifying opportunities where 3D and AR can enrich customer experiences or streamline operations, provides the basis for developing the specific objectives of the deployment. From there, companies can plan for how to test, learn, and iterate with immersive commerce, gain stakeholder buy-in, and agree on the long-term criteria for success.
As part of that process, companies should think carefully about selecting the right technology partner for their rollout. Some of the attributes to look for include:
- Extensive experience specifically in the extended reality (XR) sector.
- Ability to guide and support at every stage of the journey, with a boutique approach and consulting capabilities.
- A roadmap for the creation of an ecosystem that leverages the benefits of 3D and AR for the long-term, rather than a one-time, transactional approach.
- Ability to simplify the process and the way the technology is deployed – keeping the complexity behind the scenes.
- Offering a no-code platform with a simple user interface and intuitive user experience, meaning no additional staffing or training requirements.
- A platform with comprehensive analytics capability that can track customer engagement in granular detail, enabling firms to leverage immersive data insights.
- GDPR compliance.
- The commitment and capability to constantly update their platform to ensure it remains compatible with all devices and hardware in a fast-evolving and innovative landscape.
- The aim to enable businesses to control their own AR experiences independently – while remaining available to guide and support as needed.
“Selecting the right technology partner is one of the best ways to generate positive outcomes,” Muñoz continues. “In a dynamic and rapidly developing industry, 3D and AR experts will work with clients to develop a long-term plan for success, in alignment with the strategic goals the business has identified.”
The right partner should have the necessary infrastructure, expertise, and capabilities to adapt as the technology evolves, ensuring the immersive deployment remains compatible with all software and hardware advances, the user experience remains optimized, and unforeseen costs are avoided.
2. Asset creation
3D models, sometimes referred to as digital twins, are the building blocks with which immersive experiences are created. 3D product models are digital replicas of an object which accurately recreate their physical counterparts in lifelike detail.
The process of creating 3D models can be carried out in-house or by a third-party provider, and selecting the right option will depend on the assets and capabilities of each individual business. Whichever the chosen option, there are clear guidelines as to best-practice for creating 3D models, such as how to develop realistic digital twins and how to achieve the appropriate level of detail, and the right technology partner should be able to offer guidance in all these areas, to ensure the models created are optimized for augmented reality applications.
Product models are the representation of a company’s intellectual property in the digital world, and often the first point of engagement with customers – hence the need to make them the best they can be. Companies should ensure their technology partner can guide them not just in the creation of 3D models, but in making 3D part of the product lifecycle, helping them to develop a 3D pipeline strategy and to develop models in the necessary formats and fidelity to maximize their long-term adaptability for a range of digital environments.
3. Integration and distribution
Two key considerations when adopting 3D and AR are to make the integration seamless, and to ensure the distribution of immersive experiences is intuitive, frictionless, and able to be done at scale.
The best way for companies to meet these two needs is by selecting the right 3D and AR tool – one that will work within their existing ecosystem and infrastructure, that their teams can operate and navigate with ease, and that their customers can access instantly, without the need for app downloads or additional hardware.
The criteria to lookout for in an ideal 3D and AR tool include:
- Frictionless distribution: web-based, no-code AR solutions offer a non-intrusive way to integrate 3D and AR just by dropping a snippet of web-responsive code – without disruption to existing websites and platforms.
- Compatibility with all commerce platforms and hardware, making the experience instantly accessible to a wide audience.
- Intuitive end-user interface, to ensure optimal customer experience.
- A dynamic content management system that enables editing direct from the platform.
- A 3D asset library and a variants library that enables the storage of all materials in one place and allows firms to manage every aspect of their 3D and AR experiences from start to finish.
- This should include comprehensive analytics capabilities and an online editor that allows companies to customize how buyers will see the product.
The ultimate goal of any 3D and AR implementation is to bring customers closer to products through engaging experiences that make it easier for them to buy with confidence. The most effective way to do that is by making the process seamless for all parties, from the client all the way through to the end-user, empowering the technology to deliver on the many benefits it offers.
Buyers are ready for AR. Are you?
With the overwhelming demand amongst consumers for immersive experiences, integrating 3D and AR in business operations is not just a technological evolution but a strategic imperative.
Buyers have become accustomed to using 3D and AR in their everyday lives, won over by the transparency it offers when shopping online, the convenience of being able to visualize and virtually try on products, and the wow-factor of the latest immersive experiences. Firms that fail to offer those experiences run a serious risk of missing out on revenue potential, as buyers migrate to competitors who establish, early on, a differentiation in the marketplace and harness the power of the technology. And as more firms discover the speed and ease with which 3D and AR can be rolled out, that risk only grows more pressing.
The three-step approach outlined above provides businesses with a practical and actionable path to AR integration, making clear the priorities to focus on and providing answers to the key questions business leaders have about the process. By following this pathway, firms will learn what consumers have already discovered: immersive commerce is the future, and the future starts now.