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3D Imaging And The Future Of Ecommerce

The future of ecommerce, astronaut carrying shopping bags

What’s the one thing you can’t do when you’re shopping for a pair of shoes or a shirt online? Actually try them on to see how they look and make sure they fit.

Sure all those photos and video clips are great, but they won’t mean a thing when you’re busy trying to stuff yourself into something that’s two sizes too small or doesn’t match your “tonal season.”

Although ecommerce sites might have lots of fancy bells and whistles, most are still missing the two key ingredients that really matter most to customers—the ability to find an item that they know will look good on them and having the confidence that it will actually fit before they place their order.

Thanks to the rapid advances in augmented reality and 3D imaging, we’re finally starting to get a glimpes at the future of ecommerce—a future that will blur the lines between our physical and virtual worlds and make shopping a whole lot easier. Cisco was one of the first to really push the envelope with their virtual dressing room concept.

As the name implies, in-store shoppers would be able to try on different outfits without having to lug them around the store or wait for a dressing room to open up. Likewise, online shoppers would be able to see how a shirt, dress, or pair of shoes would actually look on them—not some random model or mannequin.  

Once online shoppers are able to find the right look, then it’s all about fit. Earlier this week Shoefitr, a Pittsburgh, PA-based startup that uses 3D imaging to help online shoe shoppers figure out what size to order, released details from an on-going two year analysis with online running shoe retailer Running Warehouse.

According to their data, a whopping 65% of all footwear returns are related to improper fit. That means lots of unhappy customers, missed sales opportunities, and having to process all of those returns on the backend which costs time and money.

“People love looking at cool pictures and to see how shoes look from different angles. But when it comes time to making the purchase, they’re still hesistant as to whether they’ll actually fit. That can effect conversions rates, returns, and their overall shopping experience” said Shoefitr co-founder Nick End.

By using Shoefitr’s online shoe fitting application, Running Warehouse has been able to decrease fit-related returns by 23% and increase profit margin by 2.5%.

Beyond the direct impact to their operations and P&L which are definitely impressive, the technology has also created an opportunity to delight their customers. Since implementing the solution in June 2010, Running Warehouse has received an average of 250 messages per month from happy campers who received a fitting recommendation.

What is the biggest missing ingredient for a great ecommerce experience?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.


[Image: Flickr user idleformat]

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