3D and AR
How to increase ROI with 3D and augmented reality
3D and AR

How to increase ROI with 3D and augmented reality

Written by

Rod Reynolds


March 5, 2024

Table of contents

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In an age where digital shopping experiences are evolving rapidly, the question of how to increase ROI has a new answer. 3D and augmented reality (AR) stand out for their ability to bridge the physical and virtual worlds. The adoption of 3D and AR for commerce operations brings an array of benefits to customers, manufacturers, and retailers alike, enabling shoppers to try before they buy, instantly, and see how prospective purchases will really look in their intended spaces.

3D and AR have transformed the way consumers interact with products, shaping customer experiences and expectations as a result. Shoppers have come to expect personalization and visualization functionality as standard when considering a purchase, with 76% saying they see it as a tool they want to use in their everyday lives.

But while customers love immersive technology for the confidence, convenience, and control it offers, brands might rightly ask: how does this investment boost the all-important bottom line?

The answer lies in the numbers. DFS, the UK’s leading sofa retailer, achieved a 22-fold return on investment (ROI) when it launched its 3D and AR tool for customers. What factors influenced this success? An analysis of industry data reveals the many ways 3D and AR impact key business metrics such as conversion rates, product interaction, and customer satisfaction, delivering positive benefits right across the spectrum and – crucially – a significant return on investment.

Live product configuration and visualization boosts key business metrics. Try an experience now.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality is a technology that overlays digital information – images, 3D models, animations – onto the real world, providing users with a composite view. It differs from virtual reality, where the user is transported to a completely digital environment, usually via a headset or other wearable device.  

AR enhances the real world with digital details, adding depth to the users’ experience; most AR implementations – also referred to as immersive experiences – are accessed via the users’ smartphone or tablet, with no additional hardware required.

The application of 3D and AR in commerce

3D and AR technology allows customers to visualize products in a real-world context and customize potential purchases to match their preferences. Whether it's seeing how a new sofa would look in their living room or personalizing a pair of glasses to suit their face, 3D and AR provides online consumers with the kind of try-before-you-buy experience that was once only possible in retail stores, while broadening the scope of what’s possible when it comes to customer journeys.  

The adoption of 3D and AR in ecommerce is now firmly established, its rise fueled by the proliferation of AR-enabled smartphones and tablets and increasing consumer demand for more interactive and personalized shopping experiences. Recent market statistics reveal a significant uptick in 3D and AR adoption in retail, but around 50% of businesses say they’re not ready to integrate the technology into their operations yet, mostly due to a need for more understanding of the tools and how to integrate them, or because they lack the appropriate content or assets in the right format.  

Given the gap between consumer demand and the proportion of brands offering immersive experiences, there is clear headroom for further adoption – and for businesses to benefit. To better understand the impetus behind the technology’s integration into commerce operations, a review of the benefits provides illuminating answers to the question of how to increase ROI.

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How 3D and AR has revolutionized ecommerce

The integration of 3D and AR in ecommerce isn't just a step towards technological advancement for forward-thinking brands; it's a strategic move that reaps significant returns. Here's an overview of the benefits seen by companies that have adopted 3D and AR:

  • Elevating customer engagement: 3D and AR transform the online shopping experience from a simple screen interaction to a dynamic, engaging journey. Customers can explore products in lifelike detail in 3D and AR, while the technology also enables real-time product configuration, empowering buyers to personalize items to their preferences – resulting in more-involved and longer-lasting engagement with potential purchases. This interactive element not only makes shopping enjoyable but also memorable, encouraging customers to revisit their favorite online stores.
  • Fostering customer confidence and reducing returns: One of the most significant impacts of 3D and AR is its ability to let customers 'try before they buy.' By visualizing products in their own space or on themselves, customers gain a clearer understanding of what they're purchasing, leading to more confident decisions and higher satisfaction. This clarity not only enhances the customer experience but also leads to a further benefit for businesses: a reduction in product returns. With better-informed purchasing decisions, the costly issue of handling returns diminishes.
  • Boosting conversion rates: The journey from browsing to buying is often fraught with hesitations and second thoughts. 3D and AR effectively address these issues by providing customers with a realistic preview of the products, thereby converting potential interest into actual sales. Studies have shown that offering buyers AR functionality can lead to an increase in conversion rates of up to 200%, with global brands such as Home Depot, Gucci, and IKEA reporting such increases as a direct result of offering customers immersive experiences. This is a substantial uplift for any ecommerce business, highlighting the direct impact of AR on sales performance.
  • Securing a competitive advantage: In the crowded online marketplace, differentiation is key; 3D and AR offer an innovative way to stand out. By adopting immersive technology, businesses position themselves as forward-thinking and customer-centric, appealing to tech-savvy consumers. Moreover, the effectiveness of 3D and AR in enhancing the shopping experience attracts new customers and plays a crucial role in retaining them, with 71% of shoppers saying they would shop with a retailer more often if AR functionality is offered.

Augmented reality lets customers visualize products in their own spaces.

The impact of 3D and AR on key business metrics

The big-picture benefits of 3D and AR tell the story of why companies are eager to harness the competitive advantage offered, but a closer examination of the real-world data offers the most compelling insights for companies seeking to know how to increase ROI:

Average interaction time with product

The time customers spend interacting with a product is a strong indicator of their interest and engagement. Longer interaction times often correlate with higher chances of purchase.

3D and AR bring products to life, allowing customers to interact with them in a dynamic, immersive way, which explains why 3D and AR functionality leads to longer customer interactions – up to three times as long as standard video or pictures.    

Data from real-world case studies backs this up. A study by Harvard Business Review, conducted in conjunction with a major beauty retailer, found that customers who used 3D and AR while shopping spent 20.7% longer on the retailer’s app and viewed 1.28 times more products on average, compared to customers who did not engage with AR.

Time spent on product configuration

3D and AR allow customers to customize products in real-time, seeing changes instantly. This interactive customization process can be both enjoyable and informative, encouraging buyers to spend more time perfecting their choices and configuring items to their preferences.

The time spent by consumers configuring products in an 3D and AR viewer is indicative of immersive technology’s ability to foster a deeper level of interest and potential attachment to the product.  

Research has found that 77% of consumers want to use 3D and AR to view product variations, such as color, material, and finish options, leading to 4.5-times longer dwell times on 3D and AR-enabled product pages. Forbes asserts that the use of product configurators can lead to conversion rate improvements of up to 40%


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Ultimately, sales are the most direct measure of business success in ecommerce. Increasing sales is the primary goal of any retail strategy.  

3D and AR have been shown to increase conversion rates by bringing customers closer to products, offering convenience and immediacy, and by providing them with a clearer understanding of what they are buying. This leads to more confident purchasing decisions and, consequently, higher sales.

A Harvard Business Review study found that customers using 3D and AR were 19.8% more likely to make a purchase and concluded that immersive technology usage “dramatically affects customer engagement, customer behavior, and sales.” With its influence strongest for customers who were buying from a product category for the first time, and for brands that are less popular, the findings demonstrate 3D and AR’s potency, and confirms its ability to boost buyer confidence.


High return rates can be costly for businesses, eroding profit margins. Reducing returns is a crucial aspect, therefore, of maintaining profitability.

Immersive technology gives customers a more accurate preview of products, reducing the discrepancy between expectation and reality. This accuracy in expectations can significantly decrease the likelihood of returns.  

Data from Shopify shows that product purchases in which customers interacted with 3D and AR as part of the buying process resulted in a 40% decrease in returns, representing a significant cost saving.

Return on investment

As with any investment made by a business, its success or failure will largely be judged on the return it generates. The metrics examined above highlight the boost 3D and AR provide across a range of key indicators, demonstrating the technology’s value to manufacturers and retailers when it comes to how to increase ROI.

The final data point, however, goes some way to quantifying the ROI that can be achieved when integrating immersive technology. DFS, the UK’s largest sofa retailer, rolled out the world’s largest web-based 3D and AR integration, offering customers visualizations of 10,000 of its products.  

As a direct result, the company achieved a 112% increase in conversion rates for customers who used 3D and AR visualizations when shopping, a 106% jump in revenue per visit, and an overall return of 22 times the cost of the investment.

An investment that pays for itself

Taken together, the real-world success stories from retailers and manufacturers who have deployed 3D and AR experiences demonstrate the technology’s transformative power. By driving a positive impact on key metrics including sales, conversion rates, customer engagement, and return rates, 3D and AR represents a worthwhile investment that brings a host of benefits – and one that can pay for itself many times over.

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