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Posted By:  ECT News Network on 09/03/2019 in Ecommerce

Why Immersive Experiences Are the Future of E-Commerce

Why Immersive Experiences Are the Future of E-Commerce

By Ben Houston 

In the days when we had to enter physical stores to shop, every commerce experience was immersive: we existed in the same space as the products we were buying. We could see, touch, and smell them.

As more and more commerce has shifted to the Internet, digital marketers have been on the lookout for ways to make the online shopping experience as engaging as what happens in brick-and-mortar stores.

Recent advancements in visualization technology are bringing us closer than ever to recreating the in-store experience digitally. Here’s a look at why immersive experiences are the future of e-commerce and how visualization technology will usher them into the mainstream.

Immersive Experiences Let Brands Build Affinity

The old adage that consumers buy from brands they know, like and trust is as true today as it was 100 years ago. While trust is still largely the result of consistently delivering quality products and services, the ways brands get people to know and like them have evolved dramatically.

Take social media advertising. Platforms like Instagram let brands enter a content stream in a non-disruptive way. By positioning themselves among updates from customers’ friends and family, they weave themselves into the experience of digital engagement that social media offers.

Social media ads that allow swiping and shopping approximate a kind of virtual mall, where shoppers are engaging with both loved ones and brands. But brand engagement on social has already evolved beyond just advertising. Instagram, for example, is scheduled to open its Spark AR platform this summer (formerly in a closed beta) to anyone who wants to create augmented reality filters for stories.

Given that hundreds of millions of people use these filters every month, the opportunity for brands is enormous: By creating custom AR filters, brands can provide truly immersive experiences that increase consumer engagement and therefore drive brand affinity. Think of these as the digital equivalent of offering free samples at the food court, or letting people spritz themselves with tester perfume bottles.

Immersive Experiences Drive Increased Revenue

Of course, brand affinity is important, but only so far as it translates to increased revenue. Just as new tech available on social media can help create more engaging digital browsing experiences, technology now widely available for visualization can create more engaging digital shopping and buying experiences.

At the core of their power is personalization.

A recent Deloitte study found that shoppers are hungry for personalization:

Most people are willing to pay more for personalized products and services – typically around a 20 percent premium.

Shoppers want to be actively involved in the process of creating their personalized products or services.

Nearly half (48 percent) are willing to wait longer to receive personalized items.

In other words, today’s customers expect mass customization. They’re ready and willing to pay more and wait longer to get exactly what they want – and they want to be the ones deciding on the details. They want, that is, immersive shopping experiences that yield personalized products.

Visualization technology makes it possible for brands to deliver on this desire -- profitably.

Software like what my company, ThreeKit, offers translates digital representations of products (like CAD files) into photorealistic 2D images and interactive 3D, and makes AR applications possible. For a brand seeking to offer mass customization, the workflow would look something like this:

Input files of a product (e.g., a refrigerator).

Input data on possible customizations (ice maker, water filter, colors, freezer size, etc.).

Decide what customers will see on your website (2D images, interactive 3D, AR experiences that show products in customers’ homes, etc.).

Let customers shop and configure online.

Place orders with a manufacturer only when a customer has placed their order.

With this workflow in place, brands can offer customers the immersive shopping experience they want, yielding the personalized products they want. Further, we’ve found that offering personalization that’s visible in real time boosts order value by as much as 20 percent and improves conversion rates by about 40 percent.

With visualization technology, mass customization is highly profitable.

The Future of Immersive E-Commerce

Given these potential gains, it’s no wonder that by 2022, 70 percent of brands expect to be experimenting with immersive tech and a quarter expect to have already deployed it.

As technology and shopper expectations continue to evolve, so will the face of immersive commerce. Today, immersive shopping is fragmented and device-dependent. A conversation with Alexa may not translate to your phone. An AR display that lets you see a customized sofa in your living room may not let you share it in real time with your spouse.

The future is fluid, however. Just as visiting the shopping mall with friends was equal parts social and commercial, the immersive digital shopping of the future will be far more seamlessly integrated into our lives. Brands that perform best in this reality will be those that create enjoyable, immersive experiences that empower customers to create the exact products they want, and let them have fun doing it.

About the Author
Ben Houston is the CTO of ThreeKit, a software platform that helps online shoppers explore products in 3D, virtual photography, augmented reality and VR. ThreeKit enables an immersive experience so e-commerce retailers can drive engagement, trust and more sales.

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