3D Shopping Meets Pre-Metaverse Mania

The metaverse is as exiting as it is nebulous. The term is so overused that it’s almost lost all meaning. Meanwhile, we see two metaverse tracks. One involves virtual and synchronous worlds. And the other adds digital dimension and context to the physical world. Both will take years to materialize.

In either case, a core tenet of the metaverse is 3D… or what Mark Zuckerberg calls an “embodied internet.” So 3D content – and the tools to create it – are key metaverse building blocks. Better yet, 3D content is finding pre-metaverse value today in social (think: Snap Lenses) and commerce.

The latter is particularly opportune. It includes product visualization such as 3D shopping (product models to spin & zoom on your desktop), or AR (the same thing but overlaid in your space). Tools like Google Swirl offer both, which has been shown to boost conversion rates meaningfully.

And all of the above comes at the right time. Not only has the Covid era boosted eCommerce – and shopping tech with it – but 3D product visualization scratches an itch by bringing some IRL dimension back to shopping. It’s been particularly valuable in distancing-heavy categories like cosmetics try-ons.

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Shopping Flow

Against that backdrop, San Francisco and Bengaluru-based Avataar just raised $45 million in Series B funding. The company helps brands and e-tailers provide 3D and AR product visualization in their shopping flows. It boasts a low-friction way for these entities to get up and running quickly.

For example, companies can use 2D images from existing product libraries, as long as they’re at least 1080p resolution. From there, Avataar’s tech goes to work to stitch together 3D models. It can also create customized variations for a given product on the fly, including colors and textures.

The results can be meaningful, including increased conversions, as noted. For Avataar, this happens to the tune of 3.5x deltas over 2D benchmarks. 3D product visualization has also been shown elsewhere to reduce product returns – an expensive problem – given a more informed consumer purchase.

Meanwhile, Snap and Deloitte report that mobile AR adoption follows the trendline of early smartphone adoption. From there, it extrapolates that 75 percent of the global population will be frequent AR users by 2025. Moreover, it reports that there are already 100 million consumers who use AR to shop.

Back to Avataar, beyond its funding this week, additional validation comes from the brands and eCommerce players it works with, including Samsung and Pepperfry. And its funding round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Sequoia Capital India, bringing its total funding to date to $55.5 million.

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Building Blocks

It’s worth noting that Avataar isn’t alone in providing AR and 3D enabling tools. There’s an ecosystem forming that includes 3D scanning technologies (CG Trader), infrastructure and digital asset management (Mawari, VNTANA), and AR commerce enablement (NexTech AR Solutions*), among others.

These players fill a key gap, and lower adoption barriers for brands and retailers. For example, AR shopping early adopters like IKEA and Wayfair have developed homegrown tech. But for most other brands to jump on board and scale up large product libraries, standard tools like the above are needed.

Moreover,  enabling tools will be needed for AR and 3D shopping to move down-market to the long-tail SMB segment. The technology could take a while to gain traction among SMBs en masse, but competitive pressure will eventually compel them. And they’ll need tools to ease the transition.

Meanwhile, “picks and shovels” 3D shopping tech providers could be where the real opportunity lies. Though front-end tools like Snap and Shopify get most of the spotlight for bringing AR commerce to consumers’ fingertips, 3D and AR shopping enablers are doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

*Disclosure: the author of this post owns stock in NexTech AR Solutions

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