Managing the Flip Side of Augmented Reality (AR) in E-Commerce

Posted on July 3rd, 2018

Our clients, typically the more innovative and sizeable eCommerce players, work with us on a multitude of challenges regarding Augmented Reality and other 3D innovations.

The challenges are not only on a technical or design level, but extend to many other facets of their business and business partners.
As the CEO of SuperDNA 3D Lab, I have the opportunity to talk to and work with my clients and have a first-hand perspective of their challenges with augmented reality and latest trends of 3D models. My inquisitiveness kept me deep diving into it and helped unfold some of the most crucial, yet less-talked-about, elements which I would like to share with you all.
Being closely engaged with augmented reality since its inception, I have experienced its potential being harnessed in many ways to take online shopping to a whole new level. It is no wonder this technology has opened up a whole new door of possibilities for e-commerce player to better engage and support consumers. However, along with the success components that exhilarate the users, augmented reality brings its own set of challenges to the industry. Here are some major AR challenges I experience in the e-commerce industry:

IP Rights issue: Currently, e-commerce companies get the 3D models of the products designed themselves at their own expense and showcase them on their online platforms. While the product is technically owned by the manufacturer, and in some countries even the derivatives of those products – there is a grey area about who actually owns the 3D models. Many of the e-commerce players and manufacturers we interact with are uncertain about it and sense a lack of transparency in this matter. Looking at the big picture, I believe manufacturers getting the 3D models created and owning them could be a viable and profitable option in the long run. In this way, they will own the assets and can share with multiple e-commerce players and applications.

  • Model Standardization: Some of the important aspects of virtually defining an object by converting it into a 3D model include how light interacts with it, how rough or smooth, and how transparent or shiny its surface it. Since there is currently no standardization among companies to define these elements, the same product may look different when turned into a 3D model by different artists. I strongly feel model standardization is essential to ensure everyone follows a standard guideline for creating 3D models and govern the way the models are viewed and compared.  Besides, standardization will help AR apps to interpret these models accurately.
  • Sales Conversion: Yes, the revenue and profitability do matter for all businesses. After talking to many e-commerce leaders and manufactures, we sensed a common thing among many of them – everyone wants to pour in money in AR only after seeing significant traction in the market. And surprisingly they are the ones who are responsible for driving the market. It is good to observe that lately the conversion rate has been going up significantly which indicates improvement in customer confidence and awareness. Customer do not only buy quicker, but also more – which means an increase in total order value and total order for the shop. Considering this, it’s just a matter of time before the mass adoption takes place.
  • Scaling Issues: One of the significant issues I saw online sellers facing is scalability in 3D modeling. That means when an online seller is new to implement augmented reality and needs to convert hundreds of products into 3D models, the process gets cumbersome and expensive. It demands overlong time and substantial effort for businesses to make this happen, and everyone is not well equipped with skilled manpower and required tools. Having been worked with online businesses of all sizes, I observed,  the best way to work for e-commerce players is to work with their partners/suppliers to find priority list and for manufacturers, to look at products which are hot cake for customers. This will give a quick start in the AR journey and enable companies to focus on the important products first and keep gradually developing others as they figure out.
  • Lack of Technology Expertise: With augmented reality, digital technology can definitely transcend the boundaries of our computer screens and move into the 3-dimension, interacting with the physical world around us. However, creating augmented reality experiences demands right technology expertise and visual creativity. Since the trend is still on the rise and there is a lack of trained developers in the field, companies face challenges with finding skilled workforce. Now that the trend is skyrocketing, we as a leaders in the market must take ownership and train as many as professionals possible and equip them with right skills – to take AR to the next level. Leading AR firms must invest in the research and development, and technology thought leadership, aimed at spreading knowledge and creating awareness.
  • Social Responsibility to Drive AR: Since SDK providers like Google and Apple have done their parts by providing the potential platforms to build AR apps, now the ball is in all our courts – the AR solution and service providers, e-commerce companies and product manufacturers. Today, customers  expect e-commerce platforms to offer them personalized and better experiences and it’s our responsibility to work towards it and make it happen. As a leading augmented reality solution provider, I see a huge scope in the market that is going beyond digital technologies. We must realize the potential and customer needs, and collaborate to create a better world, leveraging AR.

From my 15 years of experiences in the technology industry and recent couple of years with e-commerce and augmented reality – I personally believe most of these challenges are manageable and can be overcome, if addressed rightly and promptly.
As a technology and growth evangelist, I urge all the e-commerce players and manufacturers to come forward and contribute to this next level of transformation – in order to make a better experience for masses. The mass adoption of a trend doesn’t happen by itself – we must need to work on it together and invest our resources to see augmented reality become a mainstream for the e-commerce industry.
For any queries related to above, augmented reality and 3D modeling creation for e-commerce, feel free to write to me at [email protected] . I will be glad to assist you.
I would like to know – as an e-commerce company or a product manufacturer, what challenges you are facing and what’s your plan to overcome them. Your inputs are most welcome in the comment box below.