The first 3D model was developed in the 1960s, but lately, it has become a hot new trend in e-commerce marketing. Why?
What is a 3D model?
3D models are computer-generated graphics that allow the viewer to see an object from any angle. They are created using advanced mathematics to generate and combine a set of polygons.
Why are 3D models gaining popularity?
In the early 2000s computing power was increasing at a dramatic rate. This boils down to what in computer science is referred to as; "Moore's Law". In its most basic form, Moore's law states; "Computing power is bound to double every 2 years". This evolution was important because it meant more and more people had access to computers that could build and render 3D models.
With more affordable computers that could render 3D models came the next important step, software. 3D modelling software is now available from various providers, affordable, and most importantly relatively easy to use. This meant that marketers could play around with these models, and figure out if they work in the retail space.
Fast forward to 2018, Amazon released official support for "360-spin". This was the last crucial step for 3D models to gain enough popularity. Digital marketers worldwide were hooked to this idea and 3D models became the standard way of showcasing products. Apple joined in with their iPhone marketing, Google followed shortly with the Android devices, and the consumers loved it.
For the first time, consumers could see a product in its full glory without physically touching it.
So why do brands still use images and videos in product listings?
The truth is that even with all the advances in computing power and software, 3D models are still relatively expensive to create. There simply aren't enough professional designers that have the technical skillset to develop such models. Because of this "shortage" of designers, a 3D model can cost anywhere from €250 upwards to thousands of euros.
The next big challenge is internet speed. More than 80% of consumers access e-commerce sites on their mobile devices. Even though all modern mobile devices can render 3D models, the file size of such models is still relatively large. On a mobile data plan downloading such files could quickly lead to a degraded user experience.
Are 3D models worth the investment?
Even with the current limitations, and considering that this technology is still in its infancy, 3D models can be a powerful digital marketing tool. But it's not for everyone.
When looking at any investment, we also need to look at potential returns, so let's analyse some data;
- Product listings with 3D models can increase sales by ±5-10%
- Pages that include 3D models have an estimated 30% more engagement time
- Pages that include 3D models are much slower to load and require downloading much more data which could hurt search engine ranking
- Expensive to create
3D models can be a very powerful tool in any digital marketing campaign. Especially in the online retail space. However, the investment needed to create such models is still out of reach for many startups. As mobile devices get faster, and the price of development goes down, we expect 3D models to be the norm in any product listing.