e-Commerce Evolved - 3D Stores
The ever-increasing use of e-Commerce in the retail marketplace is having profound impacts on customers’ shopping behaviors and expectations. In order to remain relevant in today’s retail industry, retailers must have robust e-Commerce capabilities that showcase their products in an appealing manner. To this point, significant resources are dedicated to developing attractive shopping environments for customers in store settings as well as on-line channels.
An exciting new frontier in e-Commerce involves the use of 3D store environments, which share many characteristics with gaming environments that have become ubiquitous. Customers are able to navigate stores designed to closely resemble traditional brick-and-mortar locations. The stores contain shelving with products arranged on them as they are in physical stores, flyers decorate the store walls listing current promotions, and individual products are rendered in very high detail. The collective experience is intended to be immersive and encourage customers to browse products as they would in traditional retail settings.
In the following paper, 3D e-Commerce will be explored in terms of five key attributes (see Figure 1) that are critical during the evaluation and consideration of solutions. This discussion will serve as an introduction to those not yet familiar with 3D e-Commerce, but it will also provide guidance on best practices that have begun to take shape in this exciting new retail market approach.
Key Attribute #1: Extreme Realism
The quality of the virtual 3D environment is a critical component of the customer’s experience and its importance cannot be understated. The collective summation of attention to the store’s aesthetic details, ease of navigation, and shopping functionalities need to be effectively designed and managed to deliver superior customer experiences.
Figure 2: Extreme Realism
Achieving an optimal blend of appealing design and technical functionality will ultimately deliver a sense of what is referred to in the industry as “extreme realism.” To attain extreme realism, the 3D solution must allow for the uploading and integration of design elements (e.g. colors, signage, lighting, floor textures, etc.) specific to the retailer’s brand image that is found in its physical stores.
Figure 2 provides an example of the realism that is achievable in effectively designed 3D environments. The unique lighting effects, glossy floors, mannequins, and posters all combine to provide a highly realistic look to the store.
Key Attribute #2: Technical Capabilities
Given the number of different operating systems and devices, the accessibility of the solution needs to be carefully considered. Increasingly, customers are shopping on mobile devices, which means that the solution must be scalable to smaller screens. Additionally, the environments must be accessed in a manner that is not overly burdensome on the device’s battery, the customer’s mobile data limit, and wireless network connection speeds.
An important aspect that cannot be neglected is the range of e-Commerce capabilities available to customers in the 3D environment. Customers are savvy and have expectations in terms of shopping cart functionality, managing payment methods, selecting delivery times, and several other options that have become commonplace in the e-Commerce market.