In preparation for our upcoming webinar on the relationship between PIM and DAM, we spoke to Sam Sesti, President of inRiver partner ONU. He gave us an interesting glance into the future of 3D and how you can use it for creating richer customer experiences.
Q: What was the genesis for starting ONU?
Sesti: I was working with a digital martketing company that was doing some very experiential things with marketing. They were way ahead of the curve with creating mobile and virtual reality applications for organizations like the U.S. Navy, Chevrolet, OnStar, and Coca-Cola®. However, at that time, we would create the experience, it would get used just one time, and then be discontinued. Every time we would have to create something, we would get a CAD file—typically from a manufacturer—and try to figure out how to best leverage or optimize it for use in 3D for mobile, the web, and virtual reality applications.
When we started to research what could be used for an asset creation pipeline, we realized that there wasn’t anything out there. So, we developed a 3D visualization platform to help companies to streamline and publish 3D imagery out to different endpoints, such as mobile, the web, and virtual reality.
Q: Where are we in the adoption lifecycle of 3D imaging in e-commerce?
Sesti: The scales are starting to tip, such that there is a higher concentration on real-time rendering of 3D imagery. For about a decade, computer graphics companies used still 3D images of a product. Most people can’t tell the difference between that and a photo. Then came 3D video, which was more educational and engaging, but still had a beginning and an end, with no real interaction with the user.
In contrast, what we have the capability to do now is provide a 3D experience that the user can interact with. They can change the experience to what they want to see. Real-time rendering is starting to catch hold, especially on the web as HTML5 is more widely adopted, browsers are more accommodating, and 3D is more widely accepted. We were the first to do this four years ago, but now, every day, more companies are providing 3D interactive experiences, primarily for customization, personalization, and configuration for products. It results in an experience that is much more engaging and educational.
Q: How does the use of 3D images increase conversion rates?
Sesti: Just as everybody is now an online shopper, every company is putting their products online. Shoppers are seeking all the information they can get on a product when looking to buy it, whether it be size, shape, color, or other details. But just as a a picture speaks a thousand words, they would rather not read through text or rely on a few photos that were chosen by the vendor. If the shopper can see product animations and view different angles, or flip, turn, rotate and zoom in on the product, they are more likely to buy. A study by Adobe that ONU cites in a recent blog post indicates that e-commerce vendors have to have at least 360-degree product imagery. Another study by Gallup showed that if consumers don’t get what they want they can become disengaged or even antagonistic towards the brand.
There are very high expectations out there. 3D imagery is a great way to differentiate and drive conversions.
Q: In which industries is using 3D imagery more important?
Sesti: Products that are more complicated, such as small household appliances, automotive, machinery, and consumer electronics can all benefit from these applications. In addition, 3D is common in sporting goods and footwear, where they release more new products and have shorter product cycles with increasing innovation. It is useful anywhere people are thinking of different ways to present new products or for anything that is detailed, complex, and hard to explain.
Customization is becoming a huge selling point for companies. For example, Nike made a big splash when they began enabling customers to make their own custom shoe. Many companies are following suit. That is probably the biggest use case for 3D—customization applications.
We also see alot of product tours that provide a level of education about the product that can’t be provided otherwise. A tour may show an animated video of different features and functions of the product, but also allow the user to explore on their own. In addition, virtual reality is great for recreating experiences that are difficult, risky, or hard to reach in real life.
Q: What are the challenges for companies in terms of storing and managing 3D imagery files and assets?
Sesti: That is where ONU can help the most. CAD files are heavy, dense files, and are typically not in a format that is accessible for e-commerce, or suitable for the web. ONU’s proprietary algorithms can optimize and convert those files into something that is ready for mobile and web endpoints. Customers can store and manage assets in our cloud-based platform and then can use those same assets on a mobile app, for example, for use by their sales teams.
Your sales team may need a mobile app, marketing may need to put a 3D application on the web, the training department may want a virtual reality experience, and the service department may need augmented reality to do their job. In the past, the organization would have an internal dept or outside agency create experiences for them. They would send their CAD files off to different agencies and pay for the rendering of each version. They would receive the mobile app, web site, AR/VR experience, but not receive the assets back! Now they can use our platform, get their files in the right format, and agencies can download and upload them to streamline the process.
Q: What is the role of imagery in developing a context for each product and improving customer experience?
Sesti: 3D imagery is a perfect fit for this application. For example, the technology could be used for choosing a team uniform. As you choose each component, you could see how each piece jives with the other pieces. You can put everything together in 3D space. There could be millions of combinations of different colors, facemasks, chinstraps, and the like. If you need images for all of those combinations, it would be very time-consuming. With 3D assets you can do that on the fly. You can make changes real-time and it saves alot of effort and alot of pain. It makes life alot easier for companies with large databases and many product options.
In addition, you can place products into different environments, depending on what you are planning to do with it. You can test how the product operates in that context.
Once you have these assets, the possibilities become endless.
Q: What do you see for the future of product imagery?
Sesti: Everything will become somewhat virtual. We tell manufacturers, ’All sales will be this way in the future—augmented and virtual reality, online, and retail space. People will buy products this way. You have your CAD files already, so the sooner you can get your products into a 3D aspect the better.’
We will be able to do even more in sales and marketing once the form factor is smaller and 3D will render better on smartphones.
We are not that far away from having eyewear that can provide information on-the-fly in stores and airports. Companies will augment reality with actual with objects that don’t exist in front of you and will push information on top of those objects. It will be fun.
Want to learn more? Register now for our upcoming webinar: DAM! I thought I had a PIM!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
Valentine’s Day—what a great day to celebrate! I mean, really, who doesn’t want to celebrate love and our loved ones! We, at inRiver hope you had a fantastic Valentine’s Day!
What do you think of, when you think about love? Is it always the romantic kind? Or do you sometimes daydream about that really special pair of shoes, your dog, or—as in my case—coffee?
It is true for most people that we want to be loved just as much as we love to love! And for companies, we want our customers to love our products and, by extension, love us.
We want our customers to be happy and return and buy from us again. Sure, we may give this emotion elaborate, practical names—customer advocacy, customer loyalty, lifetime value of a customer. But in the end, it really all comes down to love.
However, we also know that love is a two-way street. Sure, we may have learned this the hard way—nothing hurts worse than that pang of unrequited love. And our companies may have experienced the hurt—across the entire enterprise—when we launched a product that our customers rejected.
But today, life is different. You have a product that is perfect. You have worked hard to perfect it, to meet your customers’ every need in your defined space. Now, to show your customers some love, you have to make sure that they can find your product, that they are aware of your product, that your product will make their lives complete.
In fact, you have to become a little bit obsessive!
Face it—coming up with the perfect product for your customer required something of an obsession. Every facet, every detail had to be flawless. You—and your customers—would accept nothing less.
So now, as you get ready to go to market, don’t dare drop that obsession with perfection. Stick with it and give your customers all the love that they deserve. Provide them with the perfect product story—enriched with romance copy, hero imagery, and accurate specifications—so that they will know just how much you care.
Why settle for love when you can be customer-obsessed?
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Manager, inRiver
I love marketing. I find it to be a fascinating intersection of creativity and business savvy, and it has been an area where creative people have worked and thrived.
However, as Bob Dylan sang, ‘the times, they are a-changing.' Digital channels now require and provide vast volumes of information. To optimize the efficiency of the marketing efforts, marketing organizations are required to collect a lot of data about the customer behavior and how they interact with the marketing content. Marketers also need more content to be produced and disseminated to an increasing number channels.
It is difficult to create, manage, analyze, and optimize huge amounts of content manually. It can’t be done using creativity alone. Even the best analytics tools and content management systems cannot help an organization to make the right decisions at the speed of digital—at least not manually. Not only does Web and eCommerce personalization require super-fast number crunching to present the right message in real time, but also significant amounts of granular product information are needed to put the product story together.
Not even with an army of super creative marketers would it be possible to do this manually. Customers require relevant results in real time. It also becomes increasingly difficult to manually produce all the content that is needed to put the right message together for your individual customers, at all touchpoints, for all stages in the buying journey. When you add the requisite analysis and optimization it to the mix, you will find that a new breed of solutions is needed.
Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to save the day.
How can AI and ML help?
AI can be used to make split-second decisions. Combined with ML, AI can learn how to make better decisions over time. AI can also adapt to changes in buying behavior long before any human has had time to put a report together, analyze it, test a new idea, and iterate until it works. Most of us interact with AI- and ML-powered behavioral recommendation engines every time we shop at Amazon and many other retailers’ sites. AI controls product recommendations, provides optimized guided navigation, and adds inspirational suggestions, all based on customers’ behavioral patterns and buying habits.
This development changes the role of the marketer. AI and ML will take care of most of the merchandising—automatically and in real-time. But a behavioral merchandizing engine needs fuel, a lot of it. This fuel comes in the form of large volumes of high-quality, granular product information. In addition, to be efficient, AI also requires the right content to create a relevant, personalized and compelling product story.
How does the marketing department know if they produce the right content in the right volume? The answer is: by getting feedback on how the content performs in all their channels and then crunching the numbers. Creating too much content adds unnecessary cost, and creating the wrong content might be even more expensive as it is detrimental to sales. Thus, optimizing content production to produce just enough of the right content is crucial to be successful.
Again, AI and ML come to the rescue. Not only can these solutions control what content that the marketing department produces, but also it can create it as well. For example, companies like Automated Insights provide AI/ML-based services that can write product descriptions automatically based on product specification and categorization data.
Get ready now!
AI and ML will not replace marketers anytime soon, but they will dramatically change what marketers do and how they work. These technologies are already a critical component of online merchandising, and are spreading to all other areas of marketing. Companies need to invest in solutions that can help them move at the speed of digital, but also introduce new roles and ways of organizing the marketing department because AI and ML are going to play a significant role in marketing going forward.