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Online Shopping Gets Real: The Rise of Interactive Product Visualization

By Vivian Wagner E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
May 13, 2019 11:46 AM PT
interactive product visualization technologies make the online shopping experience more sensory

People like to try things out before they buy them, and that desire to touch, feel, see and hear is what interactive product visualization is all about. In a world dominated by digital interfaces, interactive product visualization gives consumers the opportunity to experience, see, and understand products before buying them.

"Interactive 3D product experiences provide consumers with the freedom to explore products online as though they were in a store, while getting direct access to enriched content and customization capabilities," said Aurélien Vaysset, CEO of Emersya.

These experiences "empower online consumers to fully interact with products to discover every detail, animate the moving parts, visualize interior parts, switch among color and material options on the fly, customize components and get informed about the special features," he told the E-Commerce Times.

In a shopping process that sometimes can feel removed from the real, physical, everyday world, interactive product visualization brings products closer to the people interested in purchasing them. It gives consumers a sense of confidence as they explore a product's features, uses and capabilities.

"By providing intuitive interactive product visualization, you are essentially giving the consumer full control of the process and access to the product in a new way," said Travis Keith, account director for Column Five.

The Benefits of Interactivity

One of the reasons interactive product visualization is so important is that it takes consumers on a journey with a product, thus improving the chances that they'll actually end up purchasing that product.

"Product visualization is intrinsic to the buyer's journey for a multitude of reasons," observed Philipp Krambeer, senior managing director at Dassault Systèmes' 3DEXCITE.

"Most importantly, it can instill a sense of ownership even before interaction with a physical product takes place," he told the E-Commerce Times. "This typically leads to higher conversion rates."

Interactivity also can allow for customization, which can be a particularly powerful tool along a consumer's journey, increasing a sense of participation and enhancing brand loyalty.

"Along with visualization comes the ability to offer product customization to reflect an individual's specific preferences or requirements in hyper-reality," said Krambeer. "Potential customers are more likely to become advocates, ambassadors or even advisors to brands or products that utilize visualization."

The process of customization also helps to create a beneficial back-and-forth relationship between a company and its customers.

"Because visualization supports customization, there's very vital data that can be collected on the back end to target product preferences to certain geographic locations based on gender preferences, and so on," explained Krambeer.

Ultimately, product visualization helps consumers become more familiar with a product, noted Krambeer. "Digitally based, visualized products can offer a view to componentry, unique features and functions that a potential purchaser can explore and understand by experiencing them up front."

Positive Interactions

A successful interactive product visualization ultimately is one that gives a true-to-life experience of a product, and a key part of this experience is an intuitive user interface.

"There's nothing worse than trying to engage with interactive product visualization and the tool isn't intuitive -- or it's incredibly difficult to navigate," Column Five's Keith told the E-Commerce Times. "An interactive product visualization with a poor user experience can actually do more harm than good, in most cases."

The effectiveness of the user interface is shaped in part by the browser and the devices used to access the visualization, so it's vital that a company incorporating this kind of technology into its sales and marketing strategy ensures that its users will be able to access it.

"It's important to do thorough target persona research surrounding what browsers your customers are using," said Keith. "Maybe you're marketing to a younger generation who are generally using modern browsers, or maybe you're focused on B2B enterprises, who generally use legacy browsers."

The quality of the rendering itself also is key to a successful interactive product visualization.

"Realism of the rendering, smoothness of the interactions, and the added value brought by the enriched content are key," said Vaysset. "From a technical standpoint, that means it is necessary to use optimized 3D models with the right technology to deliver the digital experiences."

Incorporating product visualizations into an overall story being told about the product and the company is another way to make sure they have a positive impact on consumer experiences and buying decisions.

"Good storytelling adds a lot, as it drives the consumers through the main assets of a product," explained Emersya's Vaysset.

The Future of Interactivity

Going forward, interactive product visualization's evolution likely will parallel technical developments in 3D rendering, augmented reality and virtual reality, with the ultimate goal being to put consumers in ever-more-realistic touch with products.

"Experimenting with the products in your own space, using augmented reality, is a major next step," said Vaysset. "This was done in apps for some time but with limited success, because consumers had to install the app and leave the e-commerce site. We are about to release a game-changing new concept based on our own algorithms which allows switching from the usual Emersya 3D product experiences to the augmented reality ones without leaving the e-commerce shopping page."

Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies have been allowing consumers to visualize not just the product itself, but how the product will fit into their particular lives, homes, cars and other personal spaces.

"We will see more use of virtual reality and augmented reality as it relates to product visualization," said Keith. "Amazon recently released a video where you can use augmented reality to see how products would look in your house before buying them."

Interactive product visualizations increasingly are coming to the mobile space, and technologies that allow for the exploration of these visualizations via mobile devices also will be key to the field's success.

"The immediate future is all about mobile," said Krambeer. "Consumers are likely to research a product on their mobile device prior to purchasing through their laptop or in a physical store. Changes will come with emerging devices and channels."


Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Email Vivian.


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