Business transformation
15 ways to reduce business costs with 3D and AR
Business transformation

15 ways to reduce business costs with 3D and AR

Written by

Rod Reynolds


July 4, 2024

Table of contents

TOC Example

Some of the most potent technology innovations for business are the ones that bring new capabilities to carry out operations more efficiently. Consider video conferencing, for example, which has unlocked remote working possibilities that have enabled firms to reduce business costs like travel expenses and office space, while making it easier to connect with colleagues, clients, and customers, regardless of geography.  

3D and augmented reality (AR) offer the same transformative potential. Immersive technology allows firms to enhance, automate, or streamline processes in ways that offer significant potential to reduce business costs, alongside a number of other benefits. Examples span a host of use cases and applications, examined in detail below:

1. Expedite personalization for complex products

3D modeling unlocks new ways for businesses to facilitate complex product personalization. By using product configurators to enable virtual customization options, companies can save on labor, materials, and logistics costs associated with explaining intricate product variations and creating ad hoc designs for customers. This streamlined approach to product design not only saves time but also enhances the customer experience by offering an engaging way to explore and interact with products.  

Immersive technology makes it simple to sell products with complex configuration options | HMD Furniture

Buyers can customize items to their exact specifications without the need for extensive back-and-forth communication with sales teams, visualizing the results in lifelike 3D and AR to confirm suitability. This self-service model provides a clear way to reduce business costs and at the same time empowers customers by lending a heightened sense of agency and control to the purchasing journey.

2. Enable streamlined prototyping

The shift from physical prototypes to 3D model prototyping and spatial visualization presents substantial scope to reduce business costs. Vacuum cleaner pioneer Sir James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes on his way to developing the first bagless model, and while this is an extreme case, it highlights that traditional prototyping will always involve multiple rounds of iteration as new products are tested and corrected. How many rounds will be determined by a number of factors, such as budget, timelines, and complexity, with the general rule being that “the more innovative the product design is, and the higher the requirements for the finish, the more rounds will be needed.” For simple products, two-to-three rounds is around average, with four-to-five for those of higher complexity – and, in many cases, even more. With each iteration of a prototype requiring materials, time, and labor, the process is cost intensive.  

By moving to 3D and AR modeling, companies can create, refine, and share lifelike prototypes digitally, reducing the resources needed for each iteration. This approach saves on production costs while also giving rise to greater accuracy and an accelerated design process, allowing businesses to bring products to market faster. The ability to make quick adjustments and visualize changes in real time further enhances the efficiency of the product development cycle, while AR-powered renderings provide a spatial way to evaluate proportions, measurements, function, and more. While the exact savings will depend on the nature of the prototype being created, it is not unusual for individual prototypes to run to thousands of dollars. Compare that to the cost of a 3D professional or team of professionals, making instant changes on a digital model, and the potential becomes clear.

3. Let customers visualize products in their own spaces  

The ability to offer customers "try before you buy" capabilities with 3D and AR are transforming the purchasing experience, resulting in falls in return rates of up to 40% when immersive functionality is offered. With merchandise worth $743 billion dollars returned in the US in 2023 alone, every percentage point reduction achieved represents a material impact on a firm’s bottom line.

Enabling AR visualizations boosts buyer confidence and helps reduce returns | Furniture: HMD Furniture

Allowing shoppers to visualize products in their own space before making a purchase reduces the likelihood of returns caused by items not living up to expectations in the flesh, or because of size or style mismatches. Surveys show that 80% of buyers feel more confident in purchases when able to trial products in 3D and AR first, demonstrating how immersive technology is an effective way to reduce business costs associated with reverse logistics while simultaneously boosting customer satisfaction.  

4. Make product visuals immersive and interactive

The use of 3D product models has transformed product photography, offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional photoshoots. Businesses can now create high-resolution product images and photorealistic settings digitally, reducing the need for studio rentals, photographer fees, product transportation, and post-production expenses.

Furniture: Longstrup

Industry estimates indicate that cost savings of 50% or more are achievable, with Forbes reporting savings of over $9,000 per product on the average cost of producing visuals in the furniture industry. By adopting this approach to reduce business costs, companies can also take advantage of greater flexibility, easily updating product visuals as needed without incurring additional photography expenses. The result is a more agile and cost-efficient approach to visual merchandising that is better suited to modern customer demands, buying habits, and product line updates.  

5. Distribute product visualization experiences at scale

3D and AR experiences offer a scalable solution to product visualization that surpasses traditional methods. By integrating immersive product interactions across their platforms, significant scope exists to reduce business costs associated with printing and distributing physical catalogs and other sales collateral, while achieving broader penetration of the customer base. 3D and AR experiences bring lifelike product interactions within reach of any customer with a mobile phone or digital device – particularly key given AR usage is tracking smartphone penetration according to Deloitte, who forecast 75% of the global population to be regular AR users by 2025.  

High-quality 3D models convey product materials with lifelike realism | Furniture: ROCO

This digital approach allows for easy updates, ensuring that the latest product information is always available across all channels. Moreover, the interactive nature of 3D and AR visualizations provides customers with a more engaging and informative experience than static catalog images, with an array of real-world case studies that show businesses achieving improvements in conversion rates of up to 200%.

6. Showcase detailed product characteristics without physical samples

The ability to showcase configurable product attributes like textures, colors, and materials in realistic detail through 3D and AR marks a sea change for industries where physical samples have traditionally been a necessity. Immersive technology eliminates the need to ship fabric swatches or material samples worldwide, bringing savings on transportation costs and a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, it addresses the issue of potential lost sales from customers who are unable to evaluate materials in person because of lack of proximity to a retail store. By providing an accurate and transparent representation of materials, businesses can cater to a global audience without the expense of shipping and displaying physical samples in multiple locations, while simultaneously enhancing the customer's ability to make informed decisions.

7. Distribute high-quality visuals throughout the supply chain

Sharing immersive visuals with partners is an effective way to ensure products are showcased in their best light right throughout the supply chain. This is crucial given how changing consumer expectations have made visual merchandising increasingly key to the sales process. Since 2016, the average number visuals consumers expect to see before making a purchase has risen from three to eight, highlighting their prominence in making – or breaking – sales.  

Distributing high quality visuals in 3D and AR is straightforward, achieved by copying a common snippet of code called an iframe, which enables partners to integrate immersive experiences across their channels quickly and seamlessly. As well as mitigating the risk of sales lost to inferior visuals or product discovery experiences, this streamlined approach helps reduce business costs such as maintaining multiple cloud folders and uploading and updating additional product images, and when scaling across different territories.  

8. Introduce independent 3D model customization for contract projects

Empowering professional clients such as architects, designers, and specifiers, to configure and download their customized 3D models independently marks a significant shift in B2B interactions for many firms. By reducing the need for time-consuming back-and-forth between clients and in-house teams, significant efficiencies come into view, with one survey estimating that businesses save $1.5m dollars per year, on average, by automating processes.  

3D and AR configurators enable professionals to experiment with different configurations and designs, tailoring them to the specific needs of a given project, before integrating the final models directly into their plans. As well as eliminating email exchanges and queries, by enabling their clients to use immersive technology in this way, firms bring an immediacy to the process that is particularly valuable to time-poor professional customers.  

9. Create retail space in the cloud

The ability to create cutting-edge digital retail spaces in the form of virtual showrooms represents a significant opportunity for sellers of all stripes. Virtual showrooms enable brands to offer customers a lifelike immersive shopping experience, whenever and wherever they want it. By empowering buyers to explore products in an interactive environment where they can access the full range of configuration options and variants 24/7, with virtual assistants on hand to smooth the customer journey, firms can reduce their reliance on physical retail spaces and the associated overheads. With monthly rental costs for prime retail units in major European cities ranging from €250-€1,333 per square meter in 2022, the scope for savings is substantial.  

An interactive virtual showroom created by Enhance XR

Freed from space constraints, virtual showrooms offer the flexibility to showcase a much wider range of products than would be feasible in a physical store, while also allowing for real-time personalization and life-size visualization in the buyer’s own space. As a result, the experience in many ways surpasses that on offer in a physical store, with one survey finding that 70% of online shoppers who have visited a virtual showroom made a purchase. In addition, virtual stores provide a means to reach a much wider customer base, regardless of proximity to a physical retail outlet.

10. Integrate 3D viewers with AI to create virtual salespeople

The integration of AI into 3D and AR viewers offers the potential for significant efficiencies in customer service and product discovery. Combining AI with AR visualizations turns every 3D viewer into a virtual seller, capable of engaging with thousands of customers and answering routine questions that would otherwise have to be dealt with by humans. Industry estimates indicate that around 70% of customer requests can be automated with AI, with 63% of retail companies already using AI in their customer service operations. By letting AI-powered 3D viewers handle this heavy lifting, salespeople can focus on high-intent buyers, who’ve already had their basic needs and queries met, resulting in a better allocation of time and resources.

As well as boosting labor cost efficiencies, this AI-driven approach gives customers instant access to 24/7 product information and assistance – crucial when 90% of customers expect an immediate reply to their queries. The result is a more scalable customer service model that can handle increased volumes without corresponding increases in staffing costs, while still providing personalized and responsive customer interactions.

11. Ensure product highlights stand out

Displaying key product characteristics through dynamic annotations on 3D models is a powerful way to enhance product understanding while reducing customer service demands. By proactively providing detailed, highly contextualized information in an interactive format, firms can reduce business costs by addressing common customer queries before they arise.  

12. Provide intuitive instructions with 3D and AR

Creating product animations and setup instructions in 3D and AR formats allows businesses to overhaul their approach to product support. Deploying immersive technology in this way saves on costs associated with producing traditional instructional videos or having support teams on hand to provide human explanations. Offering interactive, visual guides that customers can follow at their own pace offers an innovative way to cut down on support calls and corresponding operational costs.

13. Use 3D viewers to amplify brand awareness

Utilizing branded 3D viewers serves the dual purpose of enabling product personalization and visualization while generating increased brand recognition. By incorporating brand elements into these interactive experiences, businesses can create memorable touchpoints that reinforce company identity, while embedding associations of a brand as innovative and forward-looking. Marketing budgets have grown as a proportion of revenues in recent years, from 6.4% in 2021 to 9.1% in 2023. Turning every product interaction into a mini awareness campaign provides an opportunity to reduce claw back some of these funds and business costs associated with traditional marketing and advertising approaches, or to redeploy those budgets into other channels.  

Branded 3D viewers amplify awareness and elevate customer engagement | Furniture: Coco Wolf

14. Simplify the order placement process

Combining live configuration functionality with downloadable product sheets, customized for the chosen specification, creates a seamless buying experience while helping to reduce business costs. By enabling customers to configure products, generate accurate specifications, and place orders in one fluid process, businesses can minimize errors associated with manual notetaking and reduce the workload on sales teams. This automated approach not only improves accuracy but also speeds up the ordering process, potentially leading to faster sales cycles.

15. Optimize advertising campaigns with immersive elements

Immersive advertising campaigns powered by 3D and AR have been shown to deliver uplifts to key metrics such as awareness, engagement, and sales. These interactive formats capture attention more effectively than traditional static or video ads; by creating more memorable and impactful advertising experiences, businesses can reduce inefficiencies generated by underperforming campaigns. As each impression has a greater chance of capturing and activating the viewer, integrating 3D and AR both optimizes ad spend and provides richer data on customer interactions, enabling more targeted and effective future campaigns.

A versatile tool to reduce business costs

Integrating 3D and AR technologies into business operations offers opportunities for savings across an array of functions while simultaneously enhancing the customer experience. Any technology investment is only worthwhile if the capabilities unlocked will generate tangible benefits; the use cases detailed above make a compelling case for 3D and AR’s ability to do just that. With careful planning and integration, the scope for meaningful cost savings through innovation with immersive technology is one few businesses can afford to ignore.  

To discover how to reduce business costs by using 3D and AR with Enhance XR, talk to an expert  

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