A lot of us in the e-commerce content creation industry have interest in computational technologies, like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). But how do we transition from intrigue to action? To help, Rick Allen joined The E-Commerce Content Creation Podcast to chat with host Daniel Jester. Rick is Hogarth Australia’s photographic operations manager and a leading mind in computational tech in the studio environment.
Want to hear Rick and Daniel’s talk in its entirety? Stream the podcast on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website. For a quick overview, though, read on and learn about three ways content studios are using AR and VR.
Wrenches, Tents, and Tennies: Select Industries Embrace 360 Tech
AR and VR have had a lot of starts and stops in their acceptance from content studios, Rick says. But we're now in a push to use it more—at least in certain industries.
Home improvement brands have benefitted from 360-degree assets, Daniel notes. "The 360—that asset was almost a by product of the process of scanning the product for other AR, VR type things," he says. But these accidental assets have stuck around within that category. "Home Depot and Lowe's here in the U.S. have 360s on their sites. So definitely some retailers are still seeing value in that asset on its own."
These 360 assets have also found acceptance in footwear e-commerce. "I shoot a lot of 360 shoes, and it's great to be able to see from the top and profile to really get an idea of how it might look on," Rick says.
But footwear is taking it a step further. "We've started to see AR building models of shoes that you can then try on virtually," Rick says. "My kids love that feature on any website."
Daniel and Rick also spot a push among outdoor recreation brands. "We're doing a lot of AR with tents at the moment, and the goal is that you can kind of see the tent on your campsite, and see if it's going to fit in an area and things like that," Rick says.
So while computational technology is useful for items other than flashy kicks and cabinets, it's at least proving to be a form of content consumers have come to rely on.
Virtual Dressing Rooms Might Soon Reach Physical Stores
Virtual try-on has become a popular application of AR in fashion. Of course we expect to see an increase of that to meet consumer expectations exacerbated during the pandemic shutdown of in-person shopping.
But what would it look like for virtual try-on in the form of smart mirrors to cooperate with brick-and-mortar shopping environments?
Rick's bold prediction is that now, with physical stores reopened, some brands will want to use smart mirrors in a physical environment. This tech-augmented shopping path for the consumer could be great for completing the look. "You can kind of get outfits together that you really want to consider and then try on the actual outfit," Rick says.
Let's see virtually if these wide-leg jeans work with these flats, and if our virtual try-on appears promising, we can step into a dressing room to verify before we buy.
Why Influence When You Can 'Simfluence'?
The rise of AR and VR content might be concurrent with, if not due to, the dip in influencer marketing. For Rick, this delves into a deeper point about what we consider "real."
"I think we will see a shift in attitudes towards the metaverse, and what is real and what isn't," he says. "I think authenticity has been really important for brands over the last few years, but I can see a shift towards... I think everyone's pretty understanding that a lot of these influencers aren't exactly authentic."
In the same way that user-generated content has replaced the marketing model of hyped internet personalities hawking product, simulation technology has a chance to take an increased share of a brand's marketing effort for the sake of trust.
Years ago, a computer rendering would've been considered less "real" than seeing a photo or video of an item worn or used by a real-life person. But marketing through influencers who seem so far from the average consumer's real life has created a curable consequence, that it's purer and truer to review a product through AR and VR, devoid of a curated lifestyle.
"I've always said that a huge part of product photography for a brand is about building trust with your customers," Daniel says. "You're trying to convince people to give you money in exchange for a thing they can't hold in front of them, in some cases. So the way that we approach this, I think, is going to have a big impact on the trust we have in consumers and how that might evolve over time as we start to shift more and more into some of these things."
For the content industry, one of the ramifications of this rise in AR and VR is a lessening reliance on sample availability, Daniel points out.
"You're not worried about getting those samples in if you can convincingly render all of your imagery," he says. "When your entire supply chain for the purpose of creating content becomes virtual, everything just happens a lot faster. But we're going to have to navigate this with some responsibility, I think."
As you can tell, Daniel's chat with Rick was loaded with future-invoking, thought-provoking challenges for content studios. To hear the whole thing, as well as riffs about AI-turned-evil films and giant paper airplanes, listen to the full episode on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.