A picture can be worth a thousand words, but it’s no guarantee that a couch will look good in your living room or that the refrigerator you like will fit properly in your kitchen.
For all their amazing attributes, eCommerce marketplaces are built on static product images — photographed for maximum desirability, but offering little by way of actual product perception.
Adding contextuality is the missing visual link, says Sravanth Aluru, founder and CEO of Avataar, which is helping ignite a revolution in visual imagery that leads to higher sales, greater customer satisfaction and fewer returns as the result of misinterpreted 2D images.
“The best way to think about us would be a pre-purchase discovery experience for commerce, in the sense that today there’s a significant gap between how online commerce works versus how you experience commerce in a physical store,” Aluru told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster.
Avataar’s 3D augmented reality (AR) image process renders interactive, life-size 3D models with the potential for impressive bottom-line results.
Aluru told Webster that marketplaces using the tech see conversion rates and engagement time going up as consumers use the tech for “discovering various different products within the context of their own home.”
It’s also helping with returns, as consumers that buy based on better imagery are more satisfied.
“There is an obvious impact in terms of return rates,” he said. “If you’re choosing the product after evaluating both look and fit, the likely return rates for that category would go down.”
Coming Soon: The AR-3D Catalog
As the pandemic progressed and eCommerce moved to the foreground over the past two years, more store-based operations sought to quickly originate sales online. Image advances are helping.
“What we saw was a lot of overlap in terms of digitally-influenced physical and physically-influenced digital,” Aluru said. “At some point, technology does bring in the dynamism of the reality, which is the storefront and the digital overlay taking the entire experience to the consumer’s home.”
This led Avataar to take its visual overlay technology and adapt it to solve consumers’ issues of spatial understanding of items to purchase. Added confidence equates to higher conversions.
“From a merchant perspective, what really matters is the ROI in terms of transaction uplift by upgrading the 2D product catalog into life size 3D, and helping those products reach consumer homes virtually, and then help the purchase decision made after,” Aluru said. “For us, time to value is very important because for marketplaces, scale is what matters. The real problem is photorealism at scale.
“Historically, the problem was Hollywood CAD/CAM style manual creation of assets, which took weeks. The challenge at scale was inconsistency, because it depends on the skill of 3D artists at some level. What we’ve done is come up with an end-to-end pipeline, which starts from the 2D images of a catalog that already exists.”
100 Million ‘AR Shoppers’ in US Today
AR shopping online is catching on in much the same way peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers did: a handful of consumers try it, become true believers, and word starts spreading.
That’s already happening, even though Aluru said it’s still early days.
“Consumers want a pre-purchase discovery that’s more informed, and the current digital experience doesn’t suffice. They’re also saying, ‘I want AR,’” he said.
Aluru cited a Deloitte finding that there are roughly 100 million “AR shoppers” in the U.S. right now. Per Aluru, “94% of that 100 million say, ‘I want AR for my next purchase.’ The first time they get an experience of this new shopping, they’re literally rendering AR as consumers.”
Avataar is still working on creating online human avatars for selling apparel and accessories that are often returned because they simply didn’t look the same in person.
“We do have tech today to be able to create human avatars, drape an outfit on it, but we still haven’t seen a solid proposition in terms of sales uplift happening,” he said. “That needs more innovation and maturation.”
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