3d Shopping Experience Essay

You’ve probably been in this situation before: you’re looking at a product online and you hesitate to buy because you’d rather see it in person first. Sound familiar?

Wouldn’t it be convenient if that product could magically appear in front of you? Virtual reality (VR) lets you do that, and believe it or not, it can now be done right from your browser.

At this year’s Shopify Unite conference, we wanted to show how 3D and virtual reality could be seamlessly embedded into Shopify stores, using a new technology called WebVR.

At this year’s Shopify Unite conference, we wanted to show how 3D and virtual reality could be seamlessly embedded into Shopify stores.

WebVR is an open standard that’s being integrated into experimental browser builds. It allows interactive 3D graphics running inside a webpage to be displayed within any available VR headset, without needing to download an app or special plugin.

For Unite, we built a proof of concept around a standing desk from Shopify merchant StandDesk. Right from the online store, users could put on a VR headset and view the desk in front of them.

They could raise and lower the desk (at the rate it moves at in real life) to see what it would be like to use it. Users could also customize the desk in VR, and when they took off their headset, their desk would be ready to purchase. You can try it yourself.

This project shows what’s possible for ecommerce with VR and the web. With this in mind, let’s walk through the considerations we made when building out this experience, including options for turning a product 3D, and what development tools are available.

You might also like:17 Web Design Trends To Watch in 2017.

Why the web?

It can be frustrating to go to an online store only to be prompted with, “Download the mobile app!”. The same frustration can happen with VR shopping if you need to download a large app for every store you want to visit.

It’s also a high barrier to entry for a merchant, since they need to worry about creating and marketing an app, and also getting it on a marketplace like Steam or Oculus Home.

That’s why WebVR is so powerful. The 3D experience lives alongside the rest of the online store, and can take advantage of all the other benefits the web provides.

For our Unite experience, we found that we didn’t need to create a custom checkout in VR because we could just use the regular Shopify checkout flow. Customers would take their headsets off after viewing the desk, so having them go through a proven and optimized checkout was better than having them fumble with the process of entering a credit card in VR.

Responsive VR

One of the first things to consider with any VR experience is the type of headset it will run on. With web-based VR, we feel that implementations should adapt to as many devices as possible, in the same way that a website needs to respond to different devices and screen resolutions. Below are examples of how we accounted for each scenario.

1. Mobile headsets

Mobile headsets like the Daydream View and GearVR natively support WebVR. These types of headsets don’t allow you to walk around with them on as they only track where your head is looking. The accompanying controller can be used as a laser pointer for basic interactions with the scene, and moving around can be done by pointing and clicking where you want to go.

A Google Cardboard viewer can also be used, but the experience is limited because you don’t have a controller at all.

2. Desktop headsets

Headsets like the Vive and the Rift allow for the most immersive experiences because they track both the rotation and position of your head. Customers can walk around and fully explore a product, while being able to interact with it using a motion controller in each hand.

3. No headset

Most online shoppers don’t have VR headsets yet. The good news is that a 3D model can be interacted with, even without a headset. This functionality doesn’t need WebVR, and is supported by all major browsers.

4. Augmented reality?

It’s true…you’d rather see the desk where you’ll be using it, instead of seeing it in a virtual void. While WebAR is a thing, it’s got some catching up to do with WebVR. We’re hoping Apple’s ARKit will support it sooner rather than later.

For now, AR is mostly phone-based, and while it’s intuitive and convenient, the downside is that it’s not as immersive as VR. Instead of feeling like a desk is in front of you that you can walk up to and interact with, you feel like you’re looking at a photo of a desk on your phone. That’s why we’re looking forward to handsfree AR headsets with gesture tracking to become commercially available.

Turning products into 3D

Turning products into 3D is one of the biggest barriers for getting started with this tech, and there are a few ways we see developers tackling this challenge.

1. Photogrammetry/scanning

Photogrammetry is a technique where you take a bunch of photos of an object from different angles, and then special algorithms try to piece them all together into a 3D model. The results can be great, but the process to do it properly does take a good amount of skill. Highly reflective or transparent surfaces can also throw off the results.

2. Hiring a 3D artist

3D artists can create incredibly photorealistic models of pretty much anything. For the StandDesk example at Unite, we took several photos and measurements of the desk before modelling it. The process took a couple of days to get all the variations done.

The catch with this option is that it can be an expensive endeavour to get many SKUs modelled. But for a shop that only has one main product, or a selection of a few, it should be a no-brainer given how versatile the resulting 3D model is.

3. Converting CAD files

For many products, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files are required for the manufacturing process. These files can be very large and can contain an incredible amount of detail, making them too complex to render in realtime for VR. CAD models often needs to be simplified before being converted into a realtime format, which can sometimes be done automatically.

While CAD files were provided to us for the standing desk, they were unfortunately only in 2D so we couldn’t use them.

You might also like:How to Embed Shopify Stores into Mobile Games With the Unity Buy SDK.

Developing WebVR experiences

Tools for creating WebVR experiences are still very limited, and we tested out several before settling on one for StandDesk. The first one we considered was Sketchfab, which is essentially YouTube for 3D models: you upload a 3D model, and then embed the viewer on any webpage using a snippet of code. It even supports viewing the model in VR at the correct scale.

It’s a really simple process and the perfect solution for many use-cases, especially since there’s an API that goes along with it. It was unfortunately too limited for our desk example, as we wanted to include our own VR controls to customize the desk while having the headset on.

We also looked at using Mozilla’s excellent VR framework A-frame, and also Clara.io, but ended up using PlayCanvas because of how it sped up our workflow and gave us tons of functionality.

PlayCanvas feels a lot like Unity built for the web, but with the collaborative features of Google Docs. Any change you make to the scene or to the code is reflected on all connected clients. That sped up debugging a lot, as someone could be in VR and see the changes in real time, as someone else was tweaking the scene on their laptop.

We based our project off the PlayCanvas WebVR example, which provided us with a basic scene with support for mobile and desktop VR controls. It also showed us that it’s possible to achieve 90 frames per second (60fps for mobile) on the web.

We’re really excited to see how tools evolve to make it easier to publish immersive virtual experiences in the browser. It’d be amazing to use familiar and powerful game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, but their export to web functionality is clunky at best, and they don’t have any WebVR support yet.

You might also like:17 Incredible Ecommerce Trends That Will Boost Your Sales in 2017.

What’s next?

We're always looking at new ways of pushing VR and AR technology in the world of ecommerce. Our next steps are to make it easier for merchants and partners to get started with this technology on the Shopify platform.

We're always looking at new ways of pushing VR and AR technology in the world of ecommerce.

Shopify integration

A lot of custom work went into our Unite proof of concept. We’d like to make available parts of this so that developers don’t have to start from scratch with clients looking to use VR technology in their ecommerce site. Here are some common functionalities we’d like to provide:

  • Connecting each variant to different 3D models and materials.
  • Having the 3D viewer be in-sync with the Shopify page.
  • Customizing the environment (think Shopify Themes for VR).
  • Laying out an interactive variant menu for the virtual product.

In the not-too-distant future, you might even see the ability to upload 3D models for a product in the Shopify Admin!

Data analysis

While it’s nice to pitch merchants on the PR benefits of virtual reality hype, it’d be even better to show them how the tech can reduce returns by X% or drive up sales by Y%. That’s why we’re working towards providing Shopify merchants and partners alike with the data needed to backup this kind of development work.

Augmented reality

We’re going to follow ARKit, AR.js, and WebAR closely to see how we can bring AR seamlessly into the mix.

Shopify Partners for 3D/AR/VR

Merchants won’t be able to do all this themselves. Much like merchants can rely on our network of Shopify Partners and Experts to help with design, code, SEO, marketing, photography, etc., we want to start building a category of trusted partners for 3D model creation and building AR/VR experiences.

The future of VR

We’re really excited about how the immersion of virtual reality is starting to integrate with the power and accessibility of the web. This is just the beginning, and there’s still so much to learn and develop in terms of capabilities and best practices. If you’re looking to become a partner, or to build these experiences for your clients, send us an email at vr-team[at]shopify[dot]com.

Where do you see 3D/AR/VR in the world of ecommerce? Tell us in the comments below.

About the Author

Daniel heads-up Shopify’s virtual and augmented reality efforts. When he’s not working on VR, he’s probably still thinking about it.

Follow @pushmatrix


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Guest Post by Mary Walton, author at SimpleGrad – Education and Writing Tips

E-Commerce site’s leadership often focuses on end to end customer experience for their shopping sites, by using CX approaches like Customer Journey Mapping and advanced approaches like establishing Customer Rooms. But sometimes the basics can be overlooked. So here are 9 fundamental and perhaps obvious ways in which online shopping experiences can be improved.

1. Improve your grammar

Good grammar shows that you’re a professional, legitimate company. As well as with well proofread copy, as mentioned above, it shows that you’re paying attention to the details. Use a service such as Paper Fellows to improve your grammar skills, so you can write the best copy.

2. Make your website mobile friendly

Nowadays, most people aren’t viewing your website on a computer or laptop. They’re much more likely to be perusing your goods on a phone or laptop. That’s why it’s crucial to have a mobile friendly version of your site. This makes it much easier to browse, and shows customers that you care about their experience with you.

3. Provide customer reviews

Customers find it easier to trust an online product if they know someone else has bought it first. That’s why so many of the bigger stores online include customer reviews. It helps them make an informed choice about whether they want to buy from you, or not. If you have a new product, or you’re just starting out, try using a writing service such as Custom Essay or Do My Assignment to write reviews for you.

4. Give a live chat option

Every now and then a customer will have more questions about a product you’re offering. The easiest way of getting that question answered is to offer a live chat option. That way, they can contact someone right away, getting the answers they need.

5. Proofread your content

Proofreading is much more crucial than you’d think to the customer experience. It all comes down to trust. If they come to a site that is full of misspellings and errors, they aren’t going to trust the site with their financial information. Why would they? They’ll go elsewhere. To show that you’re legit, try using a proofreading service. Companies such as Easy Word Count, Academized and Essay Services can all help you out.

6. Offer free shipping

‘Free shipping’ are the magic words to many customers. Think about it. How many times have you filled up a virtual cart, only to rethink it at the last second because you need to pay a shipping fee? Exactly. Offering free shipping shows that you care about the customers’ experience, even as they’re paying for their goods. They’ll remember that, and they’ll be back.

7. Make your site easy to navigate

Nothing’s worse than a site where the customer can’t see where to go. Map your site out so they can see exactly what you sell, and where they should go to get it. It saves them time and hassle when they come to buy.

8. Use good photos

Show your customer what the product looks like from every angle. It helps them make the most informed choice before they hit ‘add to cart’. Also, make sure the photos are of high a quality as possible. They need to be able to see everything there is to see. Allowing customers to add photos to reviews is another way to help them get a really good look, too.

9. Don’t forget site search

Many customers, when they first come to your site, are going to be looking for the ‘search’ bar. They know that it’ll be the fastest way to find what they’re looking for. Make sure your is nice and prominent on the landing page, so they’re not wasting time searching for it. As well as this, make sure you invest in good search technology. You don’t want the customer walking away thinking you don’t have a product, when in fact you do.

These nine tips will help you give your customers the best experience possible on your online store. It’s all about making the buying process as easy as possible for them. If you do that, they’ll think highly of you are most certainly come back for more.

About Mary Walton

Mary Walton helps online businesses to improve CX experience on their websites. Here recent projects are Assignment Help and Custom Essay services. Also, Mary helps startups to find new talents with her online research skills.

Read Mary’s recent post on her blog: UKWritings Review. You can also find Mary on LinkedIn and Twitter

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