We continue to see a trend toward shoppability in eCommerce and social media, also known as social commerce. Once limited to upper-funnel marketing and brand exposure, these channels and apps are moving down-funnel to offer transactional functions around product placement.

This takes shape in buy buttons on everything from YouTube videos to Snapchat Stories. Social commerce beacons like Instagram also offer things like product tags. Brands and influencers are incentivized to add these tags which builds towards a structured shopping taxonomy.

Elsewhere – and for similar reasons – we see a separate trend: AR shopping, also known as “camera commerce.” This involves 3D product visualization to virtually try on everything from cosmetics to couches. It also includes visual search to identify and buy physical objects.

Panning back, these two trends – shoppability and camera commerce – are on a collision course. Point your phone at a jacket a friend is wearing using Snap Scan, then buy it right on the spot. This process compresses the purchase funnel through a visually-informed shopping flow.

The Immersive Commerce Era: AR & Shopping Collide

Visually-Rich Shopping

After examining Pinterest in the last installment, we move on to another eCommerce powerhouse: Shopify. In fact, it’s one of the original innovators in the shoppability movement. It has democratized eCommerce by making it easier for anyone to have an online store.

Beyond just a “destination,” Shopify has struck deals with everyone from Walmart to TikTok. This offers additional value to its merchants by letting them amplify their storefronts in well-traveled environments and feeds – a hook for Shopify to get and keep those merchants on the platform.

As the next step in its evolutionary path, Shopify is now betting that visually-rich shopping will be the next standard in eCommerce. Inspired by the IRL-deprived Covid era, it wants its merchants to use tools like AR to offer their shoppers more product dimension and confidence.

Specifically, it lets merchants offer 3D and AR versions of their products. To define those terms, 3D involves zooming and spinning products on your desktop, while AR activates the camera to do the same in your physical space – ideal for furniture and home goods.

What’s Pinterest’s Role in the Immersive Shopping Era?

Dimension & Confidence

The goal of these visual shopping integrations is to engender IRL dimension and buyer confidence. In fact, Shopify reports that merchants who have integrated 3D shopping have experienced 94 percent greater conversions. AR is also known to reduce product returns.

But though these benefits are evident, it’s challenging to execute 3D and AR shopping, especially for tech-illiterate and time-starved merchants. For example, one major bottleneck is the moving parts required for them to create 3D product models, including color and size variants.

This is where Shopify’s DNA and its aforementioned penchant for democratization come in. To that end, it has begun working with Poplar Studio (via its third-party app marketplace) to offer an easy way for merchants to capture and process 3D scans using only a smartphone.

As background, Shopify in the past has offered 3D model generation using the USDZ file format that’s output to Apple’s QuickLook AR feature. But this required a fragmented set of capture and processing tools. For smaller merchants, it needs to be mobile, app-based, and simple.

Can AR Really Reduce eCommerce Returns?

Foresight and Future-Proofing

Backing up, AR shopping isn’t a silver bullet, but it is aligned with products that can benefit from IRL perspective. That’s the case with bulky items like couches and TVs (see if they fit in your room). It also shines in style items as examined earlier in light of Snap’s AR efforts.

There are also demographic factors at play. Generation Z is particularly camera-forward and AR-comfortable. As this generation phases into the adult population, it will continue gaining spending power. This makes 3D shopping a future-proofing play, among other things.

Shopify is on board with all of this, as seen in its latest 3D integrations and acquisitions such as Primer. As we wrote at the time, this was to test product visualization in a specific category: paint colors. Expect more vertical-specific moves in other high-value product categories.

And if foresight and future-proofing aren’t heavy enough motivators, competitive pressure may be. As shown in previous installations of this series, Snap, Google, Pinterest, and several others are blitzing visual shopping. This provides motivation and urgency to continue innovating.

More from AR Insider…