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360-Degree Photography and 3D Models for E-Commerce: Why both?

360-degree photography and 3D models are two formats helping top brands and retailers stay ahead of the competition in today’s e-commerce. Now in wider use than ever before, these formats enrich the customer’s shopping experience, reduce costs for long-term operations, and ensure scalability for product content strategies.

Enhance the product experience with 3D models and 360-degree photography

Oftentimes, PhotoRobot clients ask if they need both 360-degree photography as well as 3D models for e-commerce retail and webshops. The answer to this often depends on a number of variables, but the truth is that every brand and retailer can benefit from doing both. 

Now more affordable and accessible than ever, in-house product photography solutions for 360-degree photography and 3D modeling provide brands and retailers the ability to create a product content strategy that will be cost-effective, efficient, and scalable over long-term operations. 

Afterall, the future of eCommerce photography is now moving towards augmented and virtual reality enabled product showcases, immersive and engaging online storefronts, interactive web experiences, and photorealistic product renderings. This means that, to prepare for the future and maintain a competitive edge, every brand and retailer should have a digitized product content catalogue composed of 360-degree spin images, product videos, and 3D models.

Moreover, companies don’t need to invest much extra to offer online shoppers all of the above, especially if they already have an online product showcase of 3D imagery. This is achieved by using catalogues of 360-degree photos to compile data and build or improve on 3D models, making the process not only easier but also more affordable. There is also now a wider variety of quality 3D modeling and rendering providers, as well as many platforms for hosting 3D models and renders on the web.

Computer monitor displaying photos of handbag.

Why use 360-degree photography?

360-degree product photography is used to create an interactive “spin” comprising high-resolution still images showcasing all angles of a product. By collecting spin imagery, brands and retailers amass a wealth of digital data they can use for all of their future marketing needs, from in-store displays and pamphlets, to promotional campaigns, webshops, and even 3D renderings for augmented reality and virtual reality. This toolbox means that companies get everything they need for future, repeatable actions in a one-time photoshoot. 360-degree photography provides shoppers with an interactive, 3D product, which they can spin from side-to-side and top-to-bottom as well as zoom in and out for detail, ultimately keeping shoppers on pages for longer.

Multiple angles of handbag with zoom into details.

Improving the customer’s experience with photorealism

Driving sales and increasing revenue in e-commerce revolves around professionalism, digital presentation, and high-quality product content. Products need to not only look life-like but should also replicate the in-store shopping experience, leaving no detail to the shopper’s imagination. This is where 360-degree product imagery creates the element of photorealism that is so critical for sales, and also makes companies look more professional to establish brand trust and encourage buyer’s confidence. 

Replicating the in-store shopping experience with 360-degree imagery

Moreover, when 360-degree content is rich in detail and high in quality, online shoppers are not only more likely to go into purchase mode, they are also less likely to return products overall. This returns to leaving nothing to the imagination. In 2019, a study by the Marketing Science Institute concluded that in-store products were returned at a much lower frequency than products purchased online, as shoppers had the opportunity to examine products in-hand for quality. This means that, for product content strategies, quality and digital presentation, above all, need to be top priorities for brands and online retailers to increase sales while also reducing returns and ultimately improving their bottomline. 

Enriching the browser and mobile experience

360-degree imagery is also now affordable and easy for brands and retailers to integrate into their webshops. PhotoRobot’s 360 Product Viewer, for example, comes at no cost and can be simply and quickly added to any webshop to display product spins. Moreover, it offers seamless integration for the browser and mobile experience, meaning online shoppers have a similar experience no matter if they’re shopping from desktop or on-the-go.

Cost-cutting and scalable

Whether seeking for in-house 360-degree product photography solutions or for third party providers, meeting your 360 photography needs doesn’t have to be expensive. PhotoRobot has provided tools and services to manufacturers, distributors, and e-tailers for years, helping them achieve their product content targets or to increase their own studio workflow. No matter how many product photos you need online per day, PhotoRobot’s goal is to help companies meet throughput needs and quickly distribute visual product content online.

Image example of adding 3rd dimension.

The advantages to using 3D models

Firstly, what exactly is a 3D model or rendering for e-commerce? Until recently, a 3D model was most often used in creating graphics for film or developing video games. Nowadays, however, due to advances in technology and the rise of more and more platforms providing or hosting 3D models and rendering, more and more 3D models are being used in digital advertising and marketing, especially for online marketplaces, e-tailers and vendors. These models are particularly useful for products like furniture and home goods, as shoppers can utilize augmented reality to digitally project and place objects in their home to decide if they fit or match the environment. 

No need to pack and ship a physical object

The next advantage to using 3D models for e-commerce is in the fact that products don’t need to be shipped before customers see or larger products. Imagine trying to sell a complex piece of heavy, technical equipment. Rather than moving this equipment to a showroom or transporting it to a customer for a demonstration, instead you can make use of augmented reality to not only show the potential customer a life-size model of the product but also to include additional information about complex components of the equipment. You also cut costs and time on all of the packaging, shipping, distribution and set up involved.

Example of augmented reality product projection.

Enhanced customer experience

3D models allow shoppers to imagine the product and experience it in a way similar to how they would in-store, or even better, as they would in their own house. 3D models can be projected to “stand” in place and display in life-size detail and color. Imagine a shopper trying to find the perfect size and color chair to fit and complement their new living room scheme. Rather than having to measure and compare dimensions and use online photos, they can project the chair directly into their living room to test out different sizes, colors, or even completely different pieces of furniture. It brings new, interactive life to the customer experience, and, moreover, it’s fun for customers and makes companies look like they truly value the customer and their product experience.

3 x 3 grid of handbag photos from different angles.

Creating 3D models with high-quality, visually rich 360-degree imagery

Utilizing 360-degree imagery to save time constructing 3D models

Without high-quality 360-degree product imagery, 3D models will suffer, so it’s crucial companies create and maintain a rich library of digital assets. In the past, creating 3D models was time-consuming, often done by hand, and required high-level professionals and specialized software to do the job. Nowadays, however, and thanks to evolving strategies in 3D modeling, 360-degree photography can now make the entire process much easier, more affordable, and more effective.

Extra imagery leads to better 3D models

The process of photogrammetry allows designers of 3D models to utilize 360-degree photos to create and improve on 3D models and renders. This is owing to the fact that, with 360-degree photography, many, sometimes hundreds of images are captured in one photo session, and all of these individual photos can then be stitched together with photogrammetry-based software. When combined, this imagery then forms and enhances 3D models.

Creating scalable product content

End game, the goal in digital marketing is to always create not only quality but moreover scalable content strategies that can keep brands and retailers ahead of the times and ahead of the competition. In this regard, the way forward is no doubt in creating a repository of 360-degree photography to use either now or later for 3D models, rendering, and augmented and virtual reality experiences. These product experiences are what will define online shopping and e-commerce success stories in the rapidly approaching future, and they will also help brands establish their professionalism and credibility among the widening pool of today’s online marketplaces, vendors and e-tailers.

If you want to learn more about photography for e-commerce, 360-degree product photography, 3D models or renders, feel free to visit the PhotoRobot blog for more articles like this, or reach us today to talk to one of our experts and see if any of our solutions might meet your product photography needs.