Presented by TurboSquid

You’ve heard it before: 3D technology has the potential to completely remake the shopping experience. Yet at this point, most people likely don’t even realize they have a 3D-ready tool right in their pocket.

But all that is changing. Whether in stores or online, 3D and its myriad capabilities — including augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) — are the next big thing. We know consumers are moving online: more than 8,200 stores are expected to close in 2019, and tech-friendly Millennials and Generation Z will soon comprise the largest consumer group. Yet they also expect to return more than 75% of the goods they buy online. And so the race to sell products in a more enticing way — not to mention more useful for the shopper — has led many retailers to 3D.

Able to depict anything from simple product spinners to immersive AR and VR experiences, 3D can either replace or enhance the brick-and-mortar experience, offering the realism required to hook people on any device. From Rebecca Minkoff’s digital dressing rooms, which reportedly tripled sales, to popular apps that let you “try before you buy” from the likes of IKEA or Warby Parker, experiential retail is on the rise. With 3D product technology, companies across industries have seen increases in profitability and conversion rates of 20 to 40% And as 5G mobile technology is deployed around the world, the use of AR, VR, and 3D will only continue to grow.

Whether brands are using 3D models for static assets like IKEA’s almost entirely CG catalog, or  award-winning interactive ad campaigns, 3D can save time and money. And while the idea of getting into 3D may seem overwhelming at first, most brands start to warm to the possibilities once they realize they’ll never have to do an expensive photo shoot (or reshoots!) again.

But here’s what nobody is saying: like anything worth doing, 3D comes with its own set of challenges. We hear this every day from major retailers who are either exploring or diving headfirst into 3D product marketing. And here’s the thing: no matter who they are, or what they sell (furniture, tech, appliances), the problems are the same — which thankfully means that the solutions are too. Here’s what we see most often.

Challenge 1: We have lots of assets, but we don’t know where they are

When a company gets the 3D bug, it’s not always an organized process. Assets start getting developed internally or by contractors, often under the guidance of different departments. Old products are reborn and new collections are crafted, only to be scattered across drives, continents, and desktops. How is a company supposed to scale, or put valuable assets into the hands of the marketing and sales teams when they have a good idea? After our customers started coming to us, we told them what they needed: an asset management system. So we built Kraken for brands that wanted to use the same techniques we use to organize the world’s largest 3D asset library. Now they can archive thousands of models in a highly searchable way.

Challenge 2: There are so many file formats

OBJ, FBX, STL, PLY, glTF, USDZ… It’s like a foreign language. And unlike a photo, 3D models are frequently limited by the application or renderer they’re created in. Many firms ask us how to future-proof their libraries, so models can live multiple lives as product spinners, configurators, VR/AR experiences, and more, increasing the value of the content. We point them to the StemCell method, which preps models for more 3D applications and game engines. This idea of standardization is going to become even more important as 3D takes hold in retail. We are currently working with companies like Target, Google, and Adobe as part of the Khronos 3D Commerce Initiative to solve this, so companies can “make it once” and use it again and again.

Challenge 3: My marketing team doesn’t think in 3D

When we were designing Kraken, a central idea was how to make it accessible to people with no 3D experience, so they could easily grab models and start putting them to work in ads, social posts, mixed reality, and more. Sometimes that means just sending a file to a designer. Other times it means using Lens, Kraken’s interactive web-based 3D viewer, to spin up a photorealistic image in seconds, using simple sliders to tweak, rotate, or re-light their assets. When barriers go down, creativity goes up. And for most teams, a simple tweak here and there is all they need to be successful.

Whatever firms decide, we are rapidly approaching the point where sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. Smart brands are diving in, building foundations that will keep them agile as customer needs evolve. The time is now.

Matt Wisdom is co-founder and CEO of TurboSquid, the world’s leading 3D marketplace, which services a diverse list of customers — from Disney to Boeing — in film & television, retail, gaming, news media, advertising, architecture, engineering, simulation, and defense. 

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