So you’ve heard about AR and now you’re wondering how in the world someone goes about creating it?
We know the problem.
For many, it’s as though they’ve found themselves in a space race with their competition. The problem is complicated and the stakes are high. If you get it right, you’re Neil Armstrong.
One small step for man, and all of that.
If you get it wrong, you’re the unnamed Russian astronaut, sitting on the couch, watching his competition take all the glory.
But not to worry. You’ve come to the right place to learn all you need to know to start with AR building and begin your journey to the moon.
In this article you will learn about:
- Virtual environments – and the difference between using AR and VR technology
- 5 AR building examples
- How to build AR for retail
Virtual environments – and the difference between using AR and VR technology
What are virtual environments? They’re a form of AR building that uses 3D projections to let the user feel like they are in the projected scene.
Let me make things clearer – when you go to the theatre to watch a movie, imagine that instead of enjoying it on the silver screen, you could step through the screen, right into the movie. Imagine that the movie unfolded all around you, wherever you turned.
That’s what ARbuilding can offer you. The chance to fully immerse yourself in a 3D world.
Kind of awesome, right?
AR building offers a host of opportunities for companies in a wide range of industries. Anyone that has products to present – be they purses, cars, or houses – has a use for virtual environments.
Where does the choice between AR and VR come into question?
Those two options present the two different ways users can access virtual environments.
AR allows users to explore virtual environments on their mobile phones or computers. VR means they can fully immerse themselves in a separate reality, but this requires VR headsets to do so, which is why AR is the preferable option as it is currently far more practical.
AR also allows users to engage with the real world by bringing objects into a real-world context by use of their devices. They can take 3D models displayed in the virtual environment and use preview placement to see how they might look in the environment they mean to use them in.
This versatility is the reason augmented reality building is used in:
- eCommerce and Retail
5 AR building examples
1. Show rooms
Digital showrooms are an innovative example of AR building, that aims to achieve a simple goal: how do we make the buyer feel as though they are in a brick and mortar store without ever leaving the comfort of their couches?
AR building accomplishes this by creating a virtual environment and allowing the customers to access it through an online platform. Customers can examine the 3D models of products in the virtual environment, then order the products through the platform.
In doing so, AR building bridges the gap between the digital and physical worlds, representing the culmination of all that AR technology has to offer.
By engaging in this form of AR building, brands have the chance to integrate all the augmented reality tools at their disposal into one cohesive virtual environment that has the potential to take the customer experience to the next level.
While browsing through products, they can pick out the one they like using 360-degree visualisation to view it from every angle. Or they can use a 3D product configurator to adjust the product to their needs.
Even better, they can utilise virtual ‘try on’ to see how that piece of clothing might fit, or use preview placement to see if a piece of furniture fits in their environment.
AR showrooms present the next step in the evolution of the shopping experience, offering buyers possibilities that were hard to imagine only a few years ago.
2. Digital product launches
A good product launch is a key factor in the journey of any successful product. By being the ‘new kid on the block’, a company has the opportunity to capture a lot of attention.
Getting it wrong comes at a price. Does anybody remember Amazon’s Fire Phone?
Getting people talking about your product is what the product launch is all about.
People thought that the launch of the Tesla Cybertruck became a disaster when Elon Musk threw a brick at a supposedly bulletproof window and broke it. But Tesla ended up with 250,000 orders for the truck in the next five days.
How’s that for falling forward?
Digital product launches, compared to their physical counterparts, have the potential to reach a far greater audience. Sony’s online launch of the PS5 was viewed by 7 million people altogether, for example.
But digital product launches are a powerful tool because of the added opportunities they offer for a brand to communicate the benefits and workings of their products to the customers.
An example of added opportunities offered by digital product launches are:
|Green screens||They can be used to create thrilling virtual experiences.|
|Animation||Allows customers to see products in action.|
|Interaction||Increases customer engagement and leads to a better understanding of the product.|
3. Flagship stores
With the rise of AR building, eCommerce has gained a powerful ally destined to tip the balance away from brick and mortar stores to the online experience.
But retail stores aren’t quite finished. They have a little bit of fight left in them, and they don’t mind using AR building to battle it out.
You can’t blame them. Changing consumer behaviour has demonstrated the revolution is underway and many brands have already adjusted accordingly.
The role of their flagship stores is changing. Where in the past, the flagship stores could be relied on to create massive sales, these days they are starting to play the role of marketing and service channels.
These retailers are trying to combine real-world elements with online features to create the ultimate shopping experience.
Nike, for example, has opened a flagship store in New York. You can skip the checkout line by scanning the QR code of your product and paying for it over the app. There is the ‘Speed Shop’ where customers can reserve shoes online and come to the store to try them on.
Brands like John Lewis have begun to introduce beacon technology that connects to the customer’s phone and provides them with product information and offers as they walk around the store.
In an effort to add tools from online stores, retailers have also begun to add virtual mirrors to their stores so customers can try out pieces of clothing without ever having to change.
4. Trade shows
Different from digital showrooms, digital trade shows are meant for wholesale buyers and general B2B customers.
The form of AR building has slowly begun to be adopted over the years, but since the COVID pandemic hit, adoption picked up as companies needed to find a way to present their products to their buyers in a safe way.
Fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger have discovered that trade shows can help ease the logistical nightmare that comes with preparing for the sales season.
Furthermore, with digital trade shows, the company has found a way to cut costs related to the procurement of samples by up to 80%.
Retail buyers are invited to visit digital trade shows at the time that suits them best. Many buyers can visit and buy at the same time, eliminating the scheduling complications and streamlining the entire process.
It saves the company money needed to rent a physical space and answers a consumer need as 70%-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service.
Digital trade shows can also help serve as virtual press rooms for media contacts and the analytics of customer behaviour in the virtual environment can help companies gain valuable insight into customer behaviour.
5. Brand positioning
By engaging in AR building, companies have a chance to stand out from the crowd and position their brand as one of the organisations leading the charge in technology and progress.
New experiences stick in our minds and leave a mark. The company that is the first to provide a customer with the delights of AR is sure to be one the customer associates with progress for a long time.
The marketing and user experience benefits of augmented reality building help separate a brand from their competition.
Here are some staggering stats:
- 61% of consumers say they prefer retailers that include AR experiences, which is not an advantage that is easy to dismiss.
- Less than 1% of retailers actually use AR.
That state of the retail and eCommerce industries offers brands an unprecedented chance to take advantage of the opportunity in the market and take the next step into the future of eCommerce and retail shopping.
How to build AR for retail
Key use cases
When deciding to engage in AR building for retail, it’s important to answer some questions first. Why is 3D/AR visualisation the right solution, and what is meant to achieve? Is it supposed to bridge the visualisation gap, overcome remoteness, capture a new audience?
How does 3D/AR visualisation intend to augment existing user experiences? Do you plan on adding to the user experiences like digital flagship stores or do you want to provide an alternative to the retail shopping experience in the form of an eCommerce site?
These are the questions every brand has to answer before they can begin with AR building as they will clarify what kind of tools they need.
Goals and objectives
Determining the company’s goals and objectives is a crucial step of AR building as it informs the design of the user interface and the user experience. Think of both those concepts as tools.
The goals and the objectives are the tasks these tools are designed to accomplish.
There are a number of possible goals and objectives. User engagement, brand reach, high conversion rates, and lower return rates, and on it goes. They determine which tools you should use as certain AR tools are better suited to improve the company’s marketing while others are focused more on the products and informing customers about their uses.
Also, the company must know their primary target audience. Are we talking about B2B customers or B2C? These insights inform the user journey.
Identify products to include
You need to know which products will be made into 3D models. How many of them, and in how many variations will they come? Sometimes, it can only be a question of different colours, but in certain cases, companies have modular products that can come in many different iterations.
How visually complex your products are, determine the AR building process.
How will the various products be grouped? Are they a part of collections or are they sorted by their uses?
When engaging in AR building, these questions will determine the design of the virtual environment and help create the ultimate user experience.
Determine 3D scan vs. 3D model
There are differences between the two and each comes with its own set of benefits.
3D modelling is the process of using computer graphics to create a 3D representation of any object. The benefit of 3D modelling is that the creator does not have to be in contact with the product they are modelling. In fact, the product does not even have to exist. Companies can test the demand for a product without actually making it.
3D scanning, however, is the process of using a laser sensor that captures all the information about an object. It is faster than 3D modelling and better suited for more complex objects. It eases the information gathering process and produces very detailed objects.
Define the user journey
The company must determine how the user will enter the experience and navigate within the space.
The user journey goes something like this:
- The access point is the point from which the user enters the showroom.
- The “Entry” point follows.
- The user chooses the space and the destination.
- The user selects the product category.
- The user views the product and has the option to interact with it.
- The user reaches the end. They can return to any point in the journey, exit the showroom altogether, or switch to a different environment to complete their purchase.
Define user navigation (of the space)
The 3D space can come in a number of different layouts and styles. Different styles correspond with the layouts as each has an option for a best fit.
The three main styles are:
The Lobby Style
The lobby style best works with a guided tour of the virtual environment, meaning the user follows a set path through it.
The Doll House
With the dollhouse style, the user can jump in and out of rooms and does not have to follow a sequential path.
The Menu Style
The Menu style follows an in-and-out layout where the user jumps directly into the spaces they wish to visit.
Identify ‘fill’ of spaces
Customers must decide how many products they mean to display as the answer can impact the performance of the virtual environment. It is at this point that considerations such as how quickly the environment works online come into play, and if they can be supported by some of the older devices.
With that in mind, the designers of the environment have to make decisions regarding the quality of all the 3D models. Certain details in the environment that are not meant to be closely inspected, will be of low quality to ensure the environment performs well in terms of load times etc.
2. Design phase
Design of the space itself
The key considerations are the layout of the space, the furnishings, and the space palette. This step determines the look and feel of the virtual environment.
UX and UI design
The user interface represents the journey the user will take. The user experience represents what they will feel as they go through the process.
The user interface and the user experience should be designed with simplicity in mind. How the user discovers and interacts with the products should be generic and simple to use across a range of devices.
Enter and exit the experience
When entering the experience, the user is faced with a selection of product categories.
When exiting the experience, the user should find a link coupled with a call to action, or the choice to abandon the experience.
After the virtual environment experience is over, the user must have the option to continue with his journey, whether that means having the option to visit another webpage or triggering a new event.
3. Content production
This step is mainly dependent on the conditions outlined above. Companies should keep a close eye on the content production as possible to ensure the end product is shaping up to meet their expectations.
When it comes to implementation, the first question to answer is the company’s choice of platform.
Now, if a virtual environment is created in-house or through a specific product provider, they will still require a platform where they can publish their 3D models.
Product providers like Plattar offer end-to-end solutions, meaning companies can create their 3D assets with the company and publish them on Plattar’s platform.
To ensure the 3D assets live up to the expectations, the company can also engage in user testing to ensure the user experience is good enough.
Once the platform is selected, the company can bring its 3D models onto the Plattar platform with simple import options. From there, Plattar allows users to build, manage, and publish their 3D/AR experience to any touchpoint.
How much does it cost?
If we consider the benefits of AR of any kind, and recognise that virtual showrooms are the culmination of all AR tools, we can easily see its value, and the statistics prove it.
|Conversion rates||Augmented reality building can increase conversion rates by as much as 94%.|
|User engagement||Augmented reality tools increase user engagement by offering intriguing and unique user experiences.|
|Customer loyalty||The improvements in user experience and shopping benefits are proven to increase customer loyalty.|
Do I need 3D content?
Adopting 3D content into a business only seems like a choice for the moment. It won’t feel that way for long.
When the pandemic hit, it expedited the process, meaning 3D content has become an absolute necessity for any company wishing to keep pace with the competition.
The numerous benefits provided by AR building cannot be ignored. They have the potential to reshape the market environment in every industry and those who do not jump on this train will find themselves left at the station.
How long does the process last from start to finish?
3D product providers such as Plattar advise a phased approach, with first beta versions to test within 4-6 weeks.
Building AR is quickly becoming an indispensable part of every company’s business process.
At first glance, the idea of adopting these tools into their business processes can seem daunting as well as unnecessary – that will not be the case for long.
The sooner a company begins to engage in AR building and integrate these tools within their companies, the better equipped they will be on the day when every customer expects 3D and AR solutions on the product page of their website.
Whether you are looking for support through part of the process, an end-to-end solution, or are looking for a leading platform through which you can publish your 3D content, contact Plattar today and take advantage of AR opportunities before you.