Preparing for the VR Store of the Future Using 3D Scanning
As product design entrepreneurs and major brands review their marketing and product strategies for the upcoming year, they must consider the digital transformation that is occurring in the retail sector, specifically virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). We’ve already seen brick and mortar locations slim down as foot traffic gives out to web traffic, take Target as a prime example. The large retailer has found success in small-format stores while continuing to build a robust online presence. Integrating VR/AR technologies into this transformation is the next step, allowing buyers to experience products in a new and unique way. However, as retailers look to evolve their digital strategies to hone in on modern innovation, they must first start with enabling technologies such as 3D scanning.
3D scanning works by taking a physical object and using a 3D scanner to accurately capture the geometry and color of the item. This data is then processed into a 3D model, a digital replica which can be uploaded into modeling software to then be manipulated and redesigned. Once you have the final digital model, companies and retailers have many different options on how to best use it.
3D Scanning for Future VR/AR Stores
VR and AR is possibly one of the most exciting ways that 3D scanning is preparing retailers for the future. Once an object is 3D scanned, the digital format of the object can be used to recreate an entire VR world or used to view an item in your own house via AR.
Anytime a customer is browsing through a store for home décor, one of the biggest challenges is imagining the design in their own home. Does it fit within the existing floor plan, current furniture and can you visualize all the design pieces together? Companies are starting to identify these pain points and are using this technology to bring store products directly to consumer. Take IKEA for instance. IKEA offers AR versions of its products featured in its mobile app. Customers can use their phone to identify a product in the IKEA print catalog and then quickly locate it within the IKEA app. From there, they can easily hold their phone up to where they visualized the item in their home and view it in AR. The objects created in this augmented world are identical in texture and color, much due to the abilities of technologies such as 3D scanning.
3D Scanning Saves Time and Money
3D scanning has also allowed product designers to save time and money in virtually every aspect of the process from the first time creating a product, to mass manufacturing, to marketing the product. Expanding further with an example from IKEA, in 2013 the company began using 3D generated images of its products in print and online catalogs. By using the 3D created images, IKEA was able to save money on products images that normally would require a physical prototype. Often after the prototype photos were taken, products were just thrown away. When the product design is just in the digital world, the “throw away” process is much easier – just press “delete,” thus saving resources.
3D scanning can also be a vital instrument for designers to get ahead of the curve during the product design process. For companies like this Oakland-based furniture design store, 3D scanning has allowed them to save time and money while designing products and the marketing afterward. Prototypes of its furniture are scanned, digitally edited and shipped to its online manufacturer– cutting out multiple traditional steps, logistical nightmares and production costs.
Having a 3D model of a product allows a company to be ready for integrating its furniture into virtual showrooms. Whereas before, a prototype would be made and then shipped from country to country throughout the entire manufacturing process. Now, 3D scanning software can accurately replicate the texture, size and color of the product that is 3D scanned. A company can just virtually send the product anywhere in the world for it to be manipulated as necessary to meet the desired product design or easily manufactured as is to create an exact replica. This significantly reduces the time from product design to mass production.
Finding the Perfect Fit the First Time
Retailers are also turning to 3D scanning as a way to save on costly clothing returns. Often times when a customer purchases an item online, they are taking a leap of faith on whether the item will fit exactly as imagined. Globally, businesses lose an estimated $8.4 billion each year due to customers returning items because of wrong sizing. Advances in 3D scanning are helping customers to take the “guessing game” out of online shopping – saving retailers money and customers frustration.
There are even retailers, such as select Bloomingdale’s locations, that have partnered with 3D scanning companies to install body metric scanners inside its stores. A customer can visit any of these locations, get scanned and then use the digital model for online shopping. Don’t be surprised to see retailers take these capabilities even further as the new iPhone X opens the door to new possibilities with its the 3D scanning features.
3D scanning is currently only scratching the surface of possibilities when it comes to the future of retail, from bringing stores to the customer through VR/AR to providing an easier process for product design. However, as AR/VR ideas catch on, 3D scanning is becoming ever more popular and is one of the key technologies that is guiding retail stores through digital transformation.