There are No More Barriers to Mass Adoption of 3D for Ecommerce

I’ve been pushing hard for the past 7 years to get 3D adopted for ecommerce. Having to go through multiple different photo angles of a product to see how it looks has always seemed cumbersome to me, given the product exists in 3D in real life. Yet pitching Sketchfab and 3D for ecommerce has always been challenging. The barriers which continually come back are:

  • it’s hard to create 3D content
  • the rendering isn’t photorealistic enough
  • the technology doesn’t work for some of my customers
  • it doesn’t load fast enough

It’s still a challenge today, but we are finally starting to see some traction, and I can fairly say that those four barriers are essentially gone.

From our case study with MADE.COM

Easily create 3D content

On the creation side, thanks to photogrammetry software, anyone can come up with very decent results. I have no formal training, and here is a 3D scan I made of my old pair of Adidas Stan Smith, with no special hardware. Not too bad, right? I just took around 200 photos with my phone, and processed them with Agisoft Metashape. There are other great alternatives like RealityCapture, free solutions like Meshroom or 3DF Zephyr, and mobile apps like trnio to start with. We recently wrote a more detailed post about content creation here.

My 3D scan of an old Stan Smith

Photorealistic & real-time 3D rendering in the browser

On the rendering side, brands have been complaining that 3D doesn’t look realistic enough. They prefer a 2D beauty shot then an interactive 3D model. To be honest, I’m not sure the customer would say the same. As Heron Preston of Nike recently said:

People are tired of seeing things that are so perfect

We’ve also gotten to a place where web-based real-time 3D rendering doesn’t have much to envy to 2D beauty shots anymore. Among other things, Sketchfab supports Physically Based Rendering, allowing content to look very close to photorealistic. Sketchfab is also tightly integrated with tools like Substance Painter, which offers the best-in-class texturing solutions.

The automotive industry is probably the most demanding in terms of rendering quality, and even though they don’t do much ecommerce (yet), their products probably represent the best showcase and benchmark of what’s possible today, like this Porsche by Karol Miklas, featuring clear coat, image based lighting, PBR…

Sketchfab  also continuously improves with post-process effects and other rendering features like automated ground shadow, which are great for product display. And with our APIs, you can build robust configurators For instance, this  sample  AUDI Q7.

Distribute at scale with a cross-platform solution

When we started Sketchfab back in 2012, WebGL — the underlying tech we use to display 3D graphics in the browser — was in its infancy, and it required a compatible browser. It worked for less than 60% of people. It did not run on IE or iOS. It took 4 or 5 years to get there. But today WebGL — according to WebGL Stats — works for 98% of people, which means it is a truly cross-platform plugin-free solution that requires  no user install.

A screenshot from WebGL Stats

Fast performance with proven ROI

3D used to take ages to load. We’ve spent the past 7 years making sure it would load as fast as possible. And today, Sketchfab is fast enough to be used for programmatic ads or ecommerce every day. Our client MADE.COM has implemented Sketchfab across more than 1,000 product pages and seen a 25% conversion increase. You can read more about it in the case study we did with them.

This ROI speaks to the two previous notes: it’s only possible because the content looks good enough and works everywhere. Here is an example of one of their products, displayed using our enterprise version which gives you access to a fully unbranded player. You can also see it in action on the product page (360 button).

The Rubens armchair showcased in 3D with Sketchfab by MADE.COM

tldr: no more excuses for not adopting 3D for ecommerce today 🙂 If you want to chat about it, feel free to reach out!