Use 3D technologies to reduce returns and increase online sales

The pandemic has been an e-commerce reset as consumers have turned to online shopping in droves, including demographics who were previously reluctant to buy online. However, the growth in online sales has come with a major downside. U.S. customers spent $ 565 billion online in 2020, but around $ 102 billion in merchandise was returned.

Online returns more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, even as digital sales skyrocketed. Therefore, retailers have a double-edged sword: finding a way to maintain strong online sales growth and reduce the number of returned items to maximize profits. 3D technologies such as body scanning cameras, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can help retailers meet both of these challenges.

Customers want 3D technology to improve their retail experience

It’s no surprise that clothing and footwear are the most frequently returned items, accounting for 56% of all returns according to a Barclaycard survey. With a global market and manufacturer size differences, retailers are at risk. In the survey, 57% of retailers say returns have a negative effect on operations, and 20% say they had to increase prices to cover costs.

An investment in 3D technology can help retailers stem the tide of returns. With new body scanning technology, consumers can collect their precise measurements so they can order items online with confidence. This is a tool already implemented in stores like H&M, where body scanning helps shoppers find a perfectly fitting pair of jeans.

3D body scanning can go one step further, allowing customers to create personalized avatars that will virtually try on clothes and give the customer a glimpse into the fit and appearance of a piece.

You’ll already find 3D AR and VR tools helping shoppers see what items like furniture, rugs, and home decor would look like in their spaces, and those who shop for clothing online want access to the same solutions.

Online shoppers are asking for the ability to view products in 3D or via AR / VR, according to a Harris Poll poll, which found 60% said they would be more likely to purchase a product featured in 3D or AR . A majority of 66% said that 3D and AR visuals increase their buying confidence and make them more interested in shopping on a website.

Retailers who embrace 3D technology can now gain a competitive advantage

As 2021 rolls around, retailers are monitoring consumer behavior, wondering if the widespread distribution of vaccines will cause shoppers to revert to previous habits. Many analysts expect the new online shopping patterns to persist even after the virus is fully under control. This is why it makes sense to improve the customer experience for online shoppers in 2021 and beyond with 3D technology.

It is proven that investing in 3D technologies can generate positive returns. The Harris Poll survey found that 42% of shoppers are willing to pay more if they can view an item using 3D and AR. Buyers are also willing to pay up to 20% more for a personalized product. Factor in declining yields and the profit potential of the technology becomes clear.

Keep in mind that while the use of these technologies is growing, it is not yet widespread. This means that forward-looking retailers have the opportunity to gain an advantage. Retail was reset last year and the post-pandemic recovery is currently underway. For forward-thinking retailers, this can come in the form of investing in the right 3D technology that can reduce returns and increase online sales.

David Chen is co-founder and director of engineering at Orbbec 3D Technology International, Inc., a manufacturer of 3D cameras.

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David A. Albanese