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Why 3D and AR Could Be the Next Big Innovation Wave in E-Commerce

For years now 3-D object renderings found their way to consumers through the clunky virtual reality headset experience or inside mobile apps built by brands like Sephora. Lately, some companies are developing ways to bring 3-D directly to web-based commerce, no app or headgear required.

People are better able to understand and interact with things that appear in three, rather than two, dimensions. The experience is more lifelike and when it comes to selling products online; the closer to reality, the better.

That’s what prompted Vince Cacace to found Vertebrae, an e-commerce platform that allows retailers to display 3-D renderings of their goods without confining them to apps—which are falling out of favor with consumers disinterested in downloading yet another piece of software they’ll use infrequently.

In an interview at NRF’s Big Show last month, Cacace told Sourcing Journal most websites today were purpose built for use on desktop PCs and not for mobile devices, which are quickly overtaking deskbound devices in web traffic volume. The movement away from apps and toward mobile web—and now especially progressive web apps that blend the best of native apps with the flexibility of browser-based software—has been well documented. Because of that behavior, Cacace said it makes sense to build a 3-D-oriented augmented reality (AR) commerce platform designed to operate in the web environment that “mimics the retail experience.”

Vertebrae can manage all of the 3-D image renderings for clients, and its platform does away with the array of photos you typically see on a product detail page. Instead, retailers feature just one high-resolution 3-D rendering that shoppers can pinch, rotate and zoom in on to see features and details similar to how they’d interact with a product in person.

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Augmented reality lets people “see” how 3-D objects would look in the real world; visitors browsing the website for client Tenth Street Hats, for example, can virtually try on a snappy fedora to get a feel for whether that style or color works for them. Since moving to the Vertebrae platform, Tenth Street Hats has seen engagement on product pages jump 74 percent, driving conversions up about 33 percent, Cacace noted.

There’s a growing interest in bringing AR and 3-D to an app-free e-commerce environment. Right after Vertebrae launched in November, NexTech debuted its competitor platform in December and now it’s announcing 3-D advertising solutions designed for Facebook.

“NexTech is systematically building out its product offerings and ecosystem enabling AR-3D objects to be seen and experienced at multiple touch points throughout a person’s daily journey, be it shopping, learning, video conferencing and now through ads on Facebook,” NexTech CEO Evan Gappelberg explained. “Having the ability to offer 3-D advertising options to our AR e-commerce customers is a big deal since the majority of spend in e-commerce is on ads.”

An A/B test of traditional versus 3-D ads indicated that the new high-tech options drove a 633 percent increase in sign-up conversions while click-through rates climbed 376 percent, NexTech said in a statement.