• December 10, 2020
  • By Bill Bloom , founder and CEO, FastFocus

Interactive 3-D 360-Degree Product Images Can Reshape Shopping

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In the new normal, market dynamics are shifting fast and furiously to mobile shopping, increasingly challenging brands to get ahead of the ever-evolving consumer. Physical distancing and stay-at-home orders have forced whole consumer segments to shop differently. 

Although pundits may disagree on how this will all unfold, they do agree that digital shopping is here to stay, and online shopping needs to be more engaging, personal, and intimate. The stakes for brands that don’t up their online marketing game, particularly in the mobile e-commerce space, are huge.

Consumers are switching brands at unprecedented rates. The crisis has prompted a surge of new shopping activities, with an astonishing 75 percent of U.S. consumers trying a new shopping behavior in response to economic pressures, store closings, and changing priorities. This general change in behavior has also been reflected in a shattering of brand loyalties, with 36 percent of consumers trying a new product brand and 25 percent incorporating a new private-label brand. Of consumers who have tried different brands, 73 percent intend to continue to incorporate new brands into their routine. Generation Z and high earners are especially prone to switching brands.

Clearly, COVID has changed the consumer shopping game. From a shopping perspective we are seeing the rise of what McKinsey has labeled the “homebody economy.” In a recent study they found that more than 70 percent of respondents don’t yet feel comfortable resuming their “normal” out-of-home activities. For more than three-quarters of consumers who adjusted their behaviors due to the health crisis, the easing of government restrictions won’t be enough.

In the next normal retailers and consumer-packaged-goods companies that use the transition period to rethink consumer-decision journeys can reshape consumer behavior.

Going 3-D to Bring Consumer Spending Back

The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed some retailers to attempt to re-create the in-store experience online. The winners in the coming years need to bring an in-store feel to the digital experience. That’s where interactive 3-D 360-degree product images, immersive experiences that allow customers to see products from every angle, will play a major role. And that’s why digital tools that enable retail marketers to test interactive 3-D 360 product images within a virtual shopping experiences that closely emulates the real experience will play a key role.

Clearly interactive 3-D 360 product images offer customers a more intimate examination of the product at hand. Retailers and brands that have implemented interactive 3-D 360 product images have consistently reported a significant rise and acceleration of online engagement and sales.

Why 3-D 360°?

As more retailers flock to immersive commerce using augmented reality, 3-D imaging should be treated as a valuable stand-alone asset to communicate vital product information at a glance. 3-D imaging can help shoppers resolve key questions about product size, style, and dimensions. The ability to zoom in and examine products from any angle is especially crucial for mobile users, given that one in five phone shoppers say they hesitate to buy because they can't see item details clearly. It's no surprise that shoppers find 3-D to be 38 percent more engaging than traditional 2-D photos, according to a study by Vertebrae.

While displaying multiple 2-D images can show the product's back and sides, only 3-D assets allow shoppers to tilt and flip items to get a full view from every angle. And unlike simple 360-degree photos, 3-D images enable users to zoom in to see fine product details, such as buckles and zips on a handbag, or ports on a computer. This leads to a better shopping experience.

Here are the key benefits of interactive 3-D 360-degree shopping, as stated in 2020 McKinsey and Gartner studies:

  • Reduction in purchase anxiety: 3-D has the power to give shoppers certainty and eliminates the anxiety that might have kept them from hitting the buy button.
  • Increase in confidence: Today’s buyers face a crisis in confidence in their ability to make good online buying decisions.
  • Bridging the online-offline continuum: Brands that maintain both an online and offline presence often struggle to create a unified and cohesive customer experience across channels. 3-D product images can make that process easier by enabling an online shopping experience that includes more tactile elements of in-store shopping

With many top brands starting to implement interactive 3-D 360, the competition is now in imagery optimization, and there’s no better way to increase conversion rates, boost customer satisfaction, and reduce overall returns than with 360-degree spin photography.

Why Testing Interactive 3-D 360 Product Images Matters

Let’s end with a look at how brands can optimize their product images. Like with traditional images, a poor 3-D experience fails to optimally showcase products. While quality 3-D imagery can lift engagement and sales, poor ones are off-putting. According to eMarketer, shoddy first efforts by merchants may doom future investments if shoppers are hesitant to give your product or even your brand a second chance. Meanwhile, the data clearly shows that implementing top-quality interactive 3-D 360-degree experiences will produce a significant and consistent sales lift.

We recognized the opportunity that 3-D 360 presents brands and their customers and developed a major enhancement that enables brands to display industry standard interactive 3-D 360-degree product image files. By mirroring the interactive 3-D e-commerce experience on mobile, brand stewards can quickly survey consumers to determine which images and messaging will maximize sales. Using a gamified experience that mirrors the mobile e-commerce experience itself, we can enable brands to measure their creative content at all mobile e-commerce customer touchpoints so only optimized imagery will appear in their marketing communications.

With a limited amount of virtual currency (tokens) on hand in a realistic online shopping simulation, each survey respondent must carefully weigh the pros and cons of each idea or image in relation to each other. This approach enables brands to predict what consumers will do, not just learn what they say they will do. The resulting prediction and preference survey environment more fully engages the consumer, encourages thoughtful responses, and gleans profound insights quickly while minimizing survey fatigue.

By allocating a limited number of purchase tokens in a scarcity design, and combining that with deep scoring and metrics, researchers and brands have a powerful way to determine which 3-D images produce the highest engagement, and potential sales lift. The speed of the survey application, which averages five minutes, enables brands to conduct a continuous “customer” conversation and to constantly optimize creative messaging and images.

Bill Bloom is the founder and CEO of FastFocus. After two decades as an innovator and business builder, Bloom and his team launched FastFocus in 2018 to deliver qualitative and quantitative research, faster and cheaper than traditional solutions. Bloom’s past innovations include award-winning 3-D digital games for Disney, launching the first digital brand for Unilever, and the development of AI-powered talent mining systems for the FBI.

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