Why Brand Marketers Need a 3D Strategy

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First, What is 3D on the Web?

We live in a three-dimensional world but, until recently, our media has been mostly two-dimensional. 3D on the web refers to the relatively recent phenomenon of making three-dimensional digital assets viewable on the open internet. Sketchfab makes that possible with a viewer and rendering engine build for the web.

There are two primary means of building 3D assets: CGI and photogrammetry. CGI, or Computer Generated Imaging, uses software like Maya, Houdini, Blender, Autodesk and many others to build 3D renderings from a concept. Photogrammetry is photo scanning a physical object from all angles and then using software to map those images into a single asset. One is essentially building a full object from scratch while the other is scanning an existing three-dimensional object for display digitally.

Below are examples of each:

3D is The Future – And The Present!

3D has only recently become an important consideration for digital marketers, but three-dimensional modeling is nothing new. CAD (or Computer Aided Design) has been an important part of manufacturing and was first developed in the 1960’s.

CAD asset development has long been an important part of manufacturing, architecture, structural engineering and even fashion design. Often, when we work with brands on a 3D web project, we will work directly with 3D files from the manufacturing process.

It is the Foundation of AR and VR

If you have ever experimented with a VR headset or tried augmented reality on Instagram or Snapchat, you’ve engaged with 3D. VR and AR are not possible without 3D assets that make up the virtual or augmented scenes.

Sketchfab recently partnered with both Facebook and Apple to bring our library of 3D assets to AR Studio and ARKit. Though Sketchfab’s player can be easily experienced in a two dimensional environment like most web pages, it is also viewable in AR and VR right from the web.

Showcase Products in Stunning Detail

The Verge said that Sketchfab is “bridging the gap between today’s web and tomorrow’s virtual reality” because it works seamlessly with our current browsing behaviors but is also designed for a fully interactive three-dimensional internet of the future; an internet in which we are not constrained by smart phones and flat screens but immersed in virtual worlds.

3D is a novel way to interact with products on the web, and it allows detail and interaction that simply cannot be captured with classic images.

Digital Banner Ads are More Engaging

Truly engaging, interactive ad units have historically been difficult to create and even more difficult to distribute programmatically at scale. Because Sketchfab’s 3D playout is done through proprietary technology built with WebGL, it is compatible with all devices, browsers and ad servers, so adding interactivity and configurability to any banner creative is fairly simple. It’s essentially a matter of uploading a model to Sketchfab and then embedding the model in a banner through a standard iframe.

A 3D banner ad can be as simple as moving an object in space to configuring elements of a customizable product. Initial tests of 3D banner ads have shown as much as 35% increases in website conversions versus traditional, static banners.

The Sketchfab Guide to 3D Advertising lays out the process in detail.

eCommerce with 3D is More Like Shopping In-Person

Have you noticed that most eCommerce sites make exploring the contours of a physical object extremely inefficient? Often you will have to scroll through dozens of photos to find the angle you’re curious about – if that photo exists at all – and then struggle to zoom to the required detail. I recently had this experience trying to understand whether a new TV would work in my living room.

3D visualization makes it possible to explore a physical object from all angles, with any required customizations, using just one master asset. This is much more efficient and inherently engaging for the user. On top of that, add the ability to play via AR or VR directly from the web, and the benefits of 3D become even clearer.

Product Configuration and Customization

Real-time product configuration is also a way to dramatically improve engagement on an owned and operated website or microsite. This configurator from Zodiac Nautic allows users to customize all elements of their flagship product, view those updates in detail as they make them, and also see the associated pricing as they update.

Zodiac now receives more than 50% of their sales of the N-Zo model from configured boats. Dealers use the configurator to show the models during trade shows and the configurator has made the production process more efficient and cost effective; they can now keep less product in inventory as they custom-produce more. You can read our interview with Klaas who developed the configurator for Zodiac.

Explore Physical Spaces from the Web

3D visualization also makes it possible to go on a journey through a physical space, like a city or a castle or a museum. Intel and The Economist created an annotated City of The Future that users can explore in 3D….

Chateau de Versailles and many other museums have replicated physical exhibitions online. My personal favorite is The Great Drawing Room at The Hallwyl Museum.

Other brands are collaborating on the development of retail spaces virtually, through private sharing of 3D designs on Sketchfab. How might you represent a physical space on the web?

Now what?!

So you know you need a 3D strategy, but may not be clear on where to start. These resources may help you take the first step…

Or contact us to talk to a 3D expert!

About the author

Jamison Tilsner

Jamison Tilsner

Jamison Tilsner leads sales and business development at Sketchfab. Prior to Sketchfab, Jamison worked for over a decade in the online video industry, most recently managing business development at VHX (acquired by Vimeo). He is also a founder of Tubefilter and The Streamy Awards.


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  • Web Design says:

    Thanks for the guides im a web designer but also content creator and have been using 3ds max for most of my career, ive started on my own now and am keen to get in front and 3D has such a big place in content creation for brands its great having tool like this!

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