July 27, 2011
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Before the advent of the Internet, for most people, shopping has traditionally involved an element of seeing, touching
and feeling a specific product before buying it. But shopping online hasn't ever quite replicated that same touch and
feel experience. But now there is a least one company that is trying to change that. Whether it will succeed still remains
to be seen, however.
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Now with the help of 3D technologies, eCommerce could be transformed to a certain degree says VirtualE, a company that
specializes in developing 3D technology adapted to eCommerce websites. With its VirtualEshopping.com shopping mall, now
eCommerce site owners can operate and license electronic malls to give online shoppers the sense of actually being there,
However, VirtualEshopping.com's eMalls do require that users download its software, which then lets them create a
virtual shopping avatar, wander through a 3D electronic mall space, and see what's on display.
Malls, after all, have always been as much about social interaction and people-watching as they've been about shopping.
New digital versions of shopping malls, therefore, are integrating social media along with a 3D experience to replicate
the feeling of being in a real physical shopping mall.
"If what you're looking for is close to the mall experience -- looking for deals, browsing to see what's available,
chatting with friends, stumbling upon stores -- you'll find it in our virtual malls," says Mark Stein, CEO of VirtualE.
"It makes for a more dynamic experience," added Stein. And VirtualE's closest rival, the the ZeDDD Group, is also
working on a very similar project, with what it calls "z3D" technology. "ZeDDD is working with a number of eCommerce
companies around the world to set up z3D virtual malls and stores," ZeDDD spokesperson Michael Hodges added.
"ZeDDD can actually provide a customized or template z3D application. The z3D Store application is free for anyone
to download and then they can set up their z3D shop," Hodges said.
Internet stores set up with his company's software can be linked with other virtual spaces, noted Hodges.
"The great feature with the z3D shop is that it can be linked easily to other zones, to create any configuration from a large z3D
shopping mall to a virtual city with z3D streets and z3D malls," he said. "ZeDDD hopes to provide a number of z3D
applications such as z3D Malls, z3D Shops, z3D Tourism, z3D Trade shows and z3D Social Networks, and these will eventually
include avatars and virtual homes."
Because of the unique experience they offer, such 3D eCommerce sites have the potential to attract new and varied
customers from all over the world. "Generally, z3D shops have the capacity to attract new customers because of their
novelty, compared to standard websites that don't offer that kind of interactivity and that new look," said Hodges.
"Shopping malls attract loads of customers because they provide a level of entertainment. Virtual z3D malls can attract
customers in the same way. They can provide a sense of exploration and entertainment, especially with the avatars."
Additionally, 3D rendering also offers new branding opportunities simply not possible in the 2D format, Hodges argued.
"Branding is often more than just a sign," he said. "It can include the style and color of a shop interior. z3D Shops
provide more capacity to reflect the overall brand and sub-branding, as you would expect in the real-world shops."
Plus, the structure of 3D virtual stores lets retailers use some of the sales tactics that have been developed in the
traditional (read physical) shopping world.
"Real world shopping has developed a whole new science around behaviors of shoppers, which can be emulated in z3D
shopping as well, such as 'stack them high and watch them fly,'" explained Hodges. "A display bin stacked high with the
same product can make customers perceive real value, whether true or imaginary."
However, in order to transform an eCommerce portal into 3D, businesses need to create digital 3D versions of their
products, and companies like Creative Dimension Software, with its 3-DSOM Pro software, offer a way to do just that.
3-DSOM Pro translates a series of digital photos into a 3D image that can be rotated, manipulated and viewed from any
"Interactive 3D images are the next best thing to actually holding an object in your hand," says Adam Baumberg, director
of Creative Dimension Software. "We have found that end-users really appreciate being able to smoothly rotate and interact
with 3D models online."
3DSOM's software has been used by retailers, museums and educational institutions to display items virtually. "Our
technology provides opportunities in eCommerce for designer items, toys and fashion as end customers really appreciate
being able to examine these items closely in a fun and engaging way," said Baumberg.
"Overall, 3D technology offers the online consumer the ability to really engage with the object as if they are holding
it in their hands," he added. "They can turn the object around see what it looks like from any angle, quickly zoom in to
see the details, and get a much better understanding of what the actual object really is like. And of course, they can
still read the specs online since space will have to be planned for it on the 3D site."
Whether all of this is for the average eTailer needs to be addressed, however. It will be interesting to see how this
potentially new trend (if it is) develops in the next few months.
As always, we will keep you posted.
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