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Just as Adobe announced its acquisition of Magento with great fanfare, another e-commerce giant announces its strategies that are increasingly centered on an immersive shopping experience. At the recent Unite event, Shopify announced a series of new services and initiatives that can leverage 3D content and AR and VR apps to better support the online experience of the brands that use its platform.

According to Daniel Beauchamp, head of virtual reality at Shopify, “our vision is that technologies like Augmented Reality will fundamentally change how we shop in the future. We are working to offer the possibility of managing 3D content through the modeling and management of the 3D catalog. The 3D model storage service will be active by 2018“. 3D on the web is a scalable concept that can adapt to the needs of any product company, from a multinational to a small enterprise. “The ability to store 3D models in Shopify,” continues Beauchamp, “allows us to continue to act as the hub for businesses of all sizes, and to help them reach their respective audiences. Just as merchants today use a JPEG file to surface a product image, they’ll soon be able to use interactive 3D models that give customers a chance to get to know a product better.

Support and management of the 3D model catalog is the basis on which to build the shopping experience on traditional websites and thanks to mobile applications in Augmented Reality.

The operating concept of Augmented Reality in the mobile context is very simple. Thanks to the device’s camera, the application uses digital tracking techniques that allow you to position 3D objects within real space. Therefore there is an overlap between digital elements created in 3D, and real elements reproduced on the display of the device.

The fact that Apple and Google have made a tool such as ARKit and ArCore available to developers is greatly facilitating the creation and dissemination of these kinds of applications that are very easy to use by any user directly on their smartphone.

The case study of Shopify for Magnolia, as well as the famous AR app IKEA Place, clearly show how it is possible to contextualize 3D digital objects in a real environment. Another example of using AR for the online shopping experience is given by the possibility of using the smartphone as a mirror. The cosmetics industry has used AR to simulate facial makeup, like in the app Sephora: Makeup, Hair & Beauty. The case of the Virtual Try-on of Glasses.com shows us how the enhanced mirror functions can be used to allow customers to try on glasses without necessarily having the physical product on hand. These are just two of the many examples that are added every day on the iOS and Android app stores.

If, thanks to the diffusion of mobile devices, Augmented Reality can easily support the digital experiences of brands, thanks to the WebVR technology, Virtual reality has also started to make its presence felt on the web. Increasing investments in the sector have marked the birth of specific divisions such as MozillaVR and the consequent arrival of a-frame, a framework that allows you to develop 3D applications in html5 (webGL) environment that can be used in VR on any web browser without having to install any dedicated plugins or apps, as demonstrated by the following Shopify VR promo.

The enthusiasm of Shopify concerning immersive experiences on the web confirms that 3D is taking on an increasingly crucial role in online sales thanks to its ability to generate realistic and engaging situations. These qualities allow the customer to touch the product, configure it, feel it and take the decisive step towards buying it.

For practical examples and insights on 3D for the online customer experience:

Sparco – online 3D configurator

Lanieri 3D Experience – online 3D configurator

Words by Milor – online 3D configurator


Sources consulted for the drafting of this article: Shopify, Shopify Blog, SayDuck, Snapchat Lenses, Clara.io, PlayCanvas, Mozilla A-frame, Apple ARKit, Google ArCore

Credits Cover Image – Shopify

This post is also available in: Italiano

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Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at Treddi.com and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.