The Future of 3D Scanning In Online Retail

Cole Wiley
CEO, CTO & Co-founder
April 9, 2020

E-commerce sales reached 3 and a half trillion dollars in 2019 - the highest number ever for online retailers, and one expected to continue rising throughout the 2020s. Innovations such as one-day shipping and the increased role of personalized recommendations have certainly had an impact on the wider adoption of online retail - and on the increased competition across sectors.

From massive marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba to individual artisans on Etsy, anyone with an online sales platform is looking for new ways to stand out and provide greater value to their customers. At Scandy, we’re often asked if 3D scanning technology has a place in online stores. The answer is yes - in fact, many of the most appealing features are already available on major platforms like Shopify.

Let’s take a look at a few of the ways 3D scanning is primed to boost online sales, now and into the future.

Real Products, Real Previews: AR in Online Shopping

When you view a product description on Amazon, you’ll typically find at least one 2D photo previewing what’s on sale. Hopefully the seller has uploaded several images, or perhaps even a video of the product in use. Consumers are better equipped to make a purchase when they’re provided this relevant information.

A 3D scan of the product confers benefits beyond photo and video. Shoppers can look at a product from all angles, gaining a better sense of dimension and size than they would through viewing a photograph. We’re already seeing this type of technology being implemented on major e-commerce platforms.

Shopify is just one example: Their AR platform came with considerable announcement hype on their blog, where real-life Shopify retailers showed how they used 3D to improve customer experience. The ability to see a bicycle from every angle via a 3D model, or to take part in AR interior design with virtual products, is now readily available - albeit, at a price.

Right now, these AR models are created by digital artists, and cost $100 per SKU at minimum - well outside of the price range for most small retailers using Shopify. 3D scanning reduces the cost of creating this type of 3D content, thus allowing greater access to better product previews for retailers of all sizes. Expect to see wider adoption as retailers increasingly seek ways to stand apart from their competition.

An Individualized Experience

The current range of iPhones offer consumer-facing technology that allows for personal scanning. What this means is that anyone with an iPhone can scan parts of their own body to create a 3D representation. There’s a great deal of potential here that online sellers can utilize, particularly when it comes to providing personalized products.

Returns in online shopping are higher than with brick and mortar, at 20% versus 8-10%, respectively. This statistic is particularly pressing for the fashion industry - we’ve all had the experience of buying clothing online, only to return it the same day due to a poor fit.

There’s no issue with ambiguous sizing when products are tailor-made to a person’s size and shape. With a simple 3D scan, a customer could provide a scan of their feet to purchase custom shoes, or do the same with their hands for custom gloves. Moreover, simply having a scan of the shopper’s frame would allow for better sizing recommendations, which are the key to reducing returns and increasing customer satisfaction.

3D scanning won’t completely overturn the way we shop online. Rather, by utilizing scanning technology and the apps already available, shoppers and retailers can ensure better purchases with less returns and more trust than ever before. It’s the kind of technology that gives both retailers and consumers more choice - a true win-win in an era of digital commerce.

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