Tackling Digital Transformation and Sustainability with 3D

The reality of digitalization and globalization has prompted companies to adapt: increasing emphasis on eCommerce, investing in digital ecosystems and tools that support work, digital accessibility through mobile, and innovative experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). 

Without these changes, a company will pile up on inefficiencies and waste, fall behind competition, and lose out on opportunities to actively engage with customers via the predominating digital spaces. Ultimately, affecting the sales metrics and business as a whole.   

Another recent trend is the push for eco-friendly, sustainable businesses. Admittedly, there can be huge barriers such as sourcing and adapting relatively more expensive eco-friendly materials or the initial set up and implementation for businesses to achieve environmental sustainability. With buyers becoming increasingly eco-conscious, however, companies are working harder to invest in and focus on instituting greener practices. 

Achieving the competing goals of increased digitalization and becoming environmentally friendly does not always require separate strategies, however. 3D can be used—from product development to marketing to sales—to advance companies’ digital transformation and sustainability objectives. 

I’ll be sharing strategies used by some of our clients in various departments where they leveraged 3D to have a smooth transition to digitalization and sustainability.  

Design and Product Development

3D has been in the design department for a while. Virtual design or prototyping not only saves time and effort during the review process but also prevents all the waste associated with creating one-off prototypes with physical materials. Utilizing 3D in product design stages has been a crucial step to digital transformation for companies.

Take the fashion industry for example: in the past, designers would draw sketches by hand, compare and choose materials using swatches, which were often shipped from far-away factories, then physically create and showcase the prototypes for review. 

Typically, these physical prototypes would be iterated on with lots of back-and-forth and the creation of more prototypes using more materials. In addition, with physical prototypes, if designers wanted to change textures or materials, they would need to create the prototype from scratch and have the fabric or material in hand or ship samples from their suppliers to use. 

This process would continue until consensus was reached and the designer had created the final tech pack version of the product to send to the manufacturers. 

Thanks to technological advances, now designers can prototype apparel using 3D applications, teams can review and collaborate via a 3D asset management platform, and then companies can provide their factories with 3D assets for manufacturing. 

By migrating to the digital realm, brands are able to not only adapt to globalization and new trends but also move towards a more sustainable practice.


As the overhead for physical stores remains high and consumers increasingly turn to their phones and the Internet for shopping, the importance of eCommerce is unprecedented. 

We are daily bombarded by a plethora of channels and content, and brands must stand out from the competition to reach and convert customers. Here are some successful 3D strategies that some of Sketchfab’s clients have used:

3D Showcase


The most direct way to implement 3D is showcasing 3D models of products on eCommerce websites. Unlike 2D pictures that only allow specific product views, interactive web 3D allows shoppers to easily inspect products from all angles and zoom in to details. These models also achieve more active customer engagement when compared to videos.

By using 3D on their website Made.com for example, was able to not only digitally present products closest to that in-store but also drive more conversions.

Product returns

One of the toughest issues eCommerce faces is the ever-increasing product return rate. Not only is it bad for business, but it’s also bad for the environment due to the packing waste and carbon footprint involved in the shipping process. 

Companies that have provided customers with more realistic and engaging product representations in 3D and AR have also anecdotally reported a decreased product return rate and a boost in buyer confidence.

Trade shows

Another way to leverage 3D is to use it in place of physical products in showrooms and at trade shows. Several clients who sell bulky and complex products (e.g., construction, furniture, large machinery and equipment) have taken advantage of 3D to effectively demonstrate their products. 

This approach saves the cost and effort of having a range of physical products present—not to mention, it eliminates the carbon footprint produced as a result of the transportation of the physical products. 

In addition, with just a few clicks you could easily move those products around and zoom into features. With annotations and animations, clients will be able to interactively learn about the products without having a sales rep nearby.

On-Demand customization via 3D configurators

A 3D configurator provides the means to produce products on-demand and allows customers to easily personalize the products. This functionality could effectively decrease the stock upkeep, preventing the costs and waste associated with excess stock. 

Moreover, the 3D customization process seems to increase sales metrics, too. Formaspace, a custom furniture manufacturer, was able to garner more engagement and generate 30% more web leads by using a 3D configurator.

F. Domes, a geodesic dome brand, shortened the sales cycle and increased lead conversion. Customers love the DIY process of configuring their own personal product!

Marketing and Media

3D, along with VR/AR, is a powerful tool for marketing and media. Its interactive component encourages users to take control and explore, and 3D product representations stand out more than flat images. With AR, shoppers can literally showcase the products into their physical space.

Porsche, for example, offered viewers a new way to appreciate its race cars with interactive 3D, making it possible for anyone to inspect the cars close up without having to physically be in the same space as the cars.

Fnatic leveraged 3D to announce their special apparel collection. The 3D experience led to a high number of customer sign-ups and increased engagement. Moreover, they saved the cost and waste associated with traditional promotion methods, such as mailing flyers and hosting physical events.

“We believe this kind of eCommerce experience is the future of retail.”

—Benoit Pagotto, Brand Director at Fnatic

One of the strengths of a robust 3D ecosystem is the capability to utilize 3D assets from end-to-end within a company. Marketing teams can easily use models created by product development teams to create advertising content, and design teams can easily share accurate, photorealistic models with manufacturers, ultimately cutting down on inefficiencies, costs, and waste. 

When thinking about how to advance your efforts in digital transformation or sustainability, consider 3D as an effective tool to help you meet your goals and grow your business.

? If you want to showcase your product in 3D, just visit our plans page and subscribe to one of our licenses.