By Bill Bloom

COVID-19 has radically altered the consumer shopping game. From a shopping perspective we are seeing the rise of what McKinsey & Company has labeled the “homebody economy.”

In a recent study they found that more than 70 percent of survey respondents don’t yet feel comfortable resuming “normal” out-of-home activities. For more than three-quarters of consumers who adjusted their behaviours due to the health crisis, the easing of government restrictions won’t be enough.

Physical distancing and stay-at-home orders have forced whole consumer segments to shop online. Although pundits may disagree on exactly how this will all unfold, they all agree that digital shopping is accelerating, and that the online shopping experience needs become more engaging, personal and intimate.

In this the “next normal” retail environment, market dynamics are also shifting fast and furiously to mobile shopping, thus increasingly challenging brands to engage the ever-evolving consumer. This striking behavioural change has also been reflected in a shattering of brand loyalties, with 36 percent of consumers trying a new product brand and 25 percent (McKinsey & Co.) incorporating a new private-label brand in their carts.

In the next normal retailers and consumer-packaged-goods companies need to rethink consumer-decision journeys.

Going 3D to bring spending back
The inability to engage customers in a physical environment has pushed some retailers to experiment with ways to recreate the in-store experience online. And interactive product images will play a major role because 3D 360 product images placed within a virtual shopping experiences can more closely emulate the in-store experience.

Clearly interactive 3D 360 product images offer customers a more intimate examination of the product. Retailers and brands that have implemented interactive 3D 360 product images have consistently reported significant increases in online engagement and sales.

Why 3D 360?
As retailers flock to immersive commerce using augmented reality, 3D imaging should be treated as a crucial standalone asset that can communicate vital product information at a glance. 3D imaging can help shoppers resolve key questions about product size, style and dimensions. The ability to zoom in and examine products from any angle is especially crucial for mobile users, given that one in five smartphone shoppers hesitate to buy because they can’t see item details clearly.

While displaying multiple two-dimensional images can show a product’s back and sides, only 3D visual assets allow shoppers to tilt, flip and rotate items for a full view from every angle. And unlike 360-degree still photos, 3D images can be zoomed to show fine product details, such as buckles and zips on a handbag or ports on a computer, leading to a better shopping experience.
Some of the key benefits of interactive 3D 360 shopping as stated in 2020 McKinsey & Gartner studies, include:
• Reduction in purchase anxiety. 3D has the power to give shoppers certainty and eliminate that anxiety that might have kept the shopper from hitting “buy”;
• Increase in confidence. Today’s buyers face a crisis in confidence in their ability to make good online buying decisions; and
• Bridging the online-offline shopping continuum. Brands that maintain an on-and offline presence often struggle to create a cohesive customer experience across channels. 3D product images can make that process easier by enabling an online shopping experience that includes more tactile elements of in-store shopping.

The importance of testing
With many leading brands beginning to implement interactive 3D 360, the ability to market test interactive images in a simulated eCommerce environment is a significant competitive advantage. Recognizing the opportunity for marketers, in Q3 2020 we launched a software testing enhancement that enables brands to display and measure the impact of industry standard interactive 3D 360 image files.

The test environment we created closely mimics the desktop and mobile eCommerce experience. In step one study respondents are given a choice of competing product designs to vote for by spending virtually currency (tokens). Prior to investing virtual currency, the respondent can pop up the 3D model and spin it 360 degrees, closely mimicking the shopping experience. Survey respondents not only respond to the visual design but also to the quality of the interactive experience, which is an essential component to predicting eCommerce behaviours: click, buy or pass.

By using virtual currency and scarcity to mimic a real consumer experience, respondents must carefully weigh the pros and cons of each idea in relation to each other. Scarcity is key as it enables analytics to predict what consumers will do, not just learn what they say they will do.

Once the respondent spends all of their tokens they are asked why the spent them. Doing so enables research analysts to correlate the behavioural token investments with respondents’ purchase rationales. Altogether the entire session takes only a few minutes so respondents remain engaged and do not suffer survey fatigue. (why is this very important?)

The Passion Score
Once the data is collected a proprietary metric, optimized to closely predict purchase intent, which we call a Passion Score, is calculated.

This metric is created by exclusively focusing on those consumers who are most passionate about purchasing or who have the strongest belief in the idea. Additional metrics, such as Affinity and Controversiality, assist in adding colour and providing direction for decisions based on consumer insights.

By employing a scarcity design model, combined with deep scoring metrics, brand stewards have a powerful new way to optimize the interactive 3D eCommerce experience, enabling them to attain significant sales lift and sustain a competitive advantage.

Bill Bloom – Over the last 20 years Bill Bloom, CEO and founder, Fast Focus, has established himself as an innovator and business builder: disrupting long established industries, driving growth and profitability through innovation operational, creative, and sales excellence. Bill’s innovations include award-winning 3D digital games for Disney, launching the first digital brand for Unilever and the development of AI powered talent mining systems for the FBI.

In 2016, Bill started on his mission to reinvent the market research industry. Frustrated with traditional market research’s slow, expensive and outdated methods, Bill and his team launched FastFocus in February 2018. FastFocus delivers qualitative and quantitative research, faster and cheaper than traditional solutions, positioning FastFocus to play a major role in disrupting the $20 billion market global market research industry.

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