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Back to Reality: What’s The Most Powerful Icon In Online Retail?

Towards the end of 2018, founder and CEO of Shopify, Tobi Lutke, sent this tweet; “This icon is now the most powerful icon in online retail.” The accompanying icon, a small cube made up of various grey arrow shapes, may not be immediately familiar. But if Mr Lutke’s prophecy is anything to go by (and let’s face it, he’s in a fairly strong position to hypothesis here) then it’s a symbol we’ll all be seeing a lot more of in the years to come.

Today’s article takes a quick look at the platform’s current state of play in this field. We’ll also investigate the role that augmented reality is likely to play in online retail’s future.

When it comes to new technology in the world of commerce, it can sometimes be hard to identify a gimmicky ‘flash in the pan’, from the trends likely to stick around and become the new norm. While we’re all already used to using AR on a regular basis in the form of fun photo filters and mobile games, as a rule of thumb for commerce-related adoption: if it’s sending conversion rates in the direction you’re hoping for, there’s every chance the tactic is set to become the new standard.

This is certainly the attitude that Shopify has taken with regard to augmented reality in the last few years. Traditionally AR has been a costly and laborious addition to online retail, making it the preserve of a few of the biggest players, and more of a flashing marketing ploy than a standard function, gaining attention and cool points, but not a part of standard selling strategy. With the industry predicted to grow by a cool $120 billion in revenue by 2020, and 40% of consumers willing to spend more on a product if it offered an augmented reality experience, its no wonder that retailers are starting to sit up and pay attention.

Power To The People

In true Shopify fashion, the platform stepped in to help democratise the process, making it possible for small businesses to unlock the potential of this powerful tool, as well as the big brands.

Again, true to form, rather than commit internal resources to facilitate a tactic that does not yet have universal demand, Shopify is leveraging its horde of highly skilled third-party partners, via the services marketplace, to help their merchants obtain 3D models of their products.

At this year’s Unite, the blubolt team sat in the audience as Shopify announced further investment and native functionality for augmented reality and 3D modelling on its stores. 

With an onstage demo – highly relatable for any new parent – they showed how AR could help you to figure out if a child’s pushchair would fold up to fit in the boot of your car, without leaving the comfort of your home. It was a great use case, showcasing the real-world practicality of the resource, and getting every brain in the room whirring with the massive potential for specific clients. You can test it out yourself here!

The potential for 3D modelling to have a positive impact on online retail experiences is vast. One case study shows the following impressive results. Read more here.

What’s New?

Here’s a quick rundown of what Shopify merchants can expect from Shopify AG in the coming year:

  • Video and 3D update to the product section of the Shopify Admin will become available to all merchants. This will natively support video and 3D model assets for products.
  • Storage, delivery, and access through both the Shopify Admin API and Storefront API will become available. This also includes Storage (the ability to manage media from a single location, with Shopify hosted video and 3D assets sharing the same workflow as images) and Delivery (if using one of the 10 basic Shopify themes, merchants will be able to display their video or 3D assets on their storefront, through the Shopify video player and Shopify AR.)
  • A new Shopify player for video and viewer for Shopify AR, as well as additions to Liquid.
  • A new area for partner contribution: editor applications. Developers will be able and encouraged to build apps that allow merchants to create, edit, and refine media in the admin via a soon to be released, app extension.

What’s Next?

At blubolt, we’re fortunate to work with many brand-led, forward-thinking retailers, many of whom will unquestionably benefit from the massive potential that 3D modelling and AR will offer in the years to come. 

For homeware retailers, we can bring the showroom into the homes of their customers – how will that lamp look next to your bed, is it too large? For kitchenware, will that knife block sit comfortably below the wall-mounted cupboards in your kitchen? For skaters; does that scooter seem too small for your above-average height toddler? 

We’ve already started playing with a few ideas and products, and are working internally to produce prototypes of what’s possible and relevant to our clients. Check out the demo below…

As you’d expect from a platform that champions the entrepreneurial, Shopify Merchants are already taking full advantage of the amazing opportunities that AG and 3D modelling. 

For more inspiration, here’s a great list of stores already using AG to full effect. We’re all striving for better user journeys, longer dwell time, and personalised enhanced shopping experiences for our customers. AR and 3D modelling offers all this in spades, and the smartest retailers are already waking up to the huge potential.


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