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Redefining Retail: How 3D is Closing the Loop

Why is 3D an afterthought for so many brands? PRINT and Adobe Dimension reached out to George Bennett, head of Immersive at LOVE, to find out.


Good designers—and many brand owners—understand the importance of brand guidelines. A lot of time and effort goes into them. A successful brand book is a thing of beauty—a distillation of good design thinking, an embodiment of the brand’s direction, values and essence.


But all too often, among the logo lock-up, the typeface, the color palette and the brand story, the 3D is neglected. It is consigned to future activations or campaigns.

Adding Another Dimension to Retail

Yet 3D is already shaping and redefining the world of retail and how brands appear online and on the shelf—the way customers shop, and what they expect from a retail experience and the brands they buy. As Allan Cook, managing director and digital reality business leader at Deloitte Consulting, puts it: “The massive shift to 3D technology will completely transform the retail industry and redefine how people shop.” Brand owners need to take note and start thinking about their 3D assets in a more strategic way, otherwise they risk being left behind.


A good 3D asset can be used again and again to create different forms of content—from key visuals and CGI product shots, to 3D commerce, social content and AR or VR experiences. Investing in high-quality 3D design assets from the start saves duplication and wasted budget further down the line.


Interiors juggernaut IKEA, for example, has already embraced this approach. It creates 3D assets at the design stage, and then uses them on its product listings or as CGIs in its catalog. This has removed the need for expensive photoshoots and gives the retailer a ready-to-go library of assets—used to incredible effect in its IKEA Place app, which allows the user to visualize true-to-scale items in their own home.


IKEA
IKEA

Driven by Alternative Reality

AR in particular has seen rapid growth in usage over the past year or so. It is no longer seen as an “emerging” technology on Gartner’s hype cycle. Advancements such as WebAR (which allows users to view AR content directly through their web browser without having to download an app) have considerably driven adoption. All social media platforms now feature AR content, and coupled with the advent of 5G, we are seeing a huge leap in potential capabilities of streaming 3D content and experiences on the go.


In retail, these already include 360-degree views of products, with virtual try-ons of fashion and beauty products. According to Shopify, allowing customers to view a product as a 3D model via AR can increase conversion rates up to 250%. And these developments are not just applicable in fashion or home furnishings. Even for a whiskey brand, virtually placing a bottle in a consumer’s own space adds to its perceived value and increases the likelihood of purchase.

Storytelling in Three Dimensions

But 3D content is not just about the practical, about figuring out a sofa’s dimension in your home or seeing whether or not a new sweater might fit. It is also about storytelling, bringing a product’s background or credentials to life, sharing information that has no space on a pack or a label. 3D can do so in a uniquely engaging way.


A great example is a recent AR campaign from Siduri Wines. Through scanning QR codes, users can access three multi-layered WebAR interactions that include a hologram of founder Adam Lee, who introduces the wines and gets the user to engage with some interesting facts. The experience perfectly encapsulates his laid-back and fun approach, while conveying the brand and its products’ unique character.


Siduri image: 8th Wall

Salt brand Reichenhaller’s recent AR experience, meanwhile, turned its pack into a 3D visual that shared the brand’s history. It included immersive tours of the salt mines as well as recipes. It was a great way to attract attention to a traditionally low-interest product and raise emotional brand awareness. Undoubtedly it fostered a welcome new cohort of loyal customers.


Reichenhaller image: Zappar

The three-dimensional can provide engagement that video can’t. According to Mindshare U.K., AR elicits three times more brain activity and holds 1.9 times the visual attention in users when compared to video, and can boast four times longer dwell times (ADVRTAS).


With such convincing statistics, it makes sense to give your 3D brand assets the attention they deserve. They need to form part of a brand toolkit right from the start, part of an ever-growing library of quality assets that can be used at a moment’s notice. It is a huge task for established brand owners to revise and create high-quality assets from scratch—not everyone has had the foresight of IKEA. But it’s a project worth starting, even if on a small scale.

Let’s Talk ‘Phygital’

What makes this “nice-to-have” even more of a necessity is the rise of “phygital.” The industry might need to coin a more palatable term, but it does highlight the fusion of the physical and digital. Not only does 3D facilitate at-home shopping, it also enables immersive, engaging physical experiences—and provides a bridge between the two.


Retailers are already experimenting with closing this physical-digital loop further. Fashion brand H&M, for example, has been exploring spatial computing, a type of 3D tech that interacts and integrates in the physical world, placing digitally created items into bricks-and-mortar settings. In its latest experiment, H&M teamed up with Disney to allow customers to design their own Star Wars–themed garment with digital design elements in its Tokyo store.



With wearable technology in the pipeline of all major tech brands, such 3D and immersive experiences will become even more the norm. Buying a product in a shop window with the nod of your head, say, or being greeted by an AR shop assistant as you enter a store to point you in the direction of a product viewed online—the possibilities are exciting, and not far off.

Another Level of Creativity

For many brands, 3D also provides another level of exclusivity and creativity. It can add excitement and wonder that complement and go beyond the physically real. Last year, Selfridges collaborated with 3D design collective Digi-GAL to launch an otherworldly digital collection accompanying its in-store garments.


Digi-GAL

Or take TheFabricant.com. The digital-only fashion house recently sold a “Digi-Couture” dress for $9,500. This may seem like a lot of money, but in a world where we curate our digital selves, and virtual experiences are becoming part of our everyday, the way we look—or what we consume—online will become just as important as our choices in the tangible world.


The Fabricant
The Fabricant

In addition, a lot is happening behind the scenes to ensure consistent quality of 3D content and experiences. Last year, open industry consortium the Khronos group launched an exploratory committee to create standards and guidelines for representing retail products in 3D. The Khronos 3D Commerce initiative is driven by major players in technology, retail and manufacturing, such as Adobe, Google, IKEA and Samsung, and aims to turbocharge the engagement with and adoption of 3D.


So as the physical and digital become increasingly intertwined, brands need to take ownership of their 3D assets. They need to start ensuring consistency and uniformity across all channels, to become future-proof, and anticipate future 3D activations and campaigns. From product to pack, from brand story elements to founder holograms, those assets need to meet the standards that consumers will come to expect. Building and implementing a 3D strategy may not happen overnight, but now is the time to start. Brands cannot afford to be caught napping.

George Bennett is head of immersive at LOVE, a multi–award-winning design studio with high-profile clients such as Häagen-Dazs, Guinness, LVMH, Johnnie Walker and Nike. With an integrated agency background, Bennett works to solve brand challenges through a deep understanding of the latest in technological innovation and always has an eye on what’s next. He is currently exploring the new opportunities offered by web-based AR and VR experiences and working closely with brands to create engaging and impactful campaigns that deliver long-term added value for customers.

If you want to learn more about how 3D is transforming design practices and workflows, check out this case study and video with Ben & Jerry’s on Adobe.com.

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