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AR, 3D and supply chain dynamics

By Retail Technology | Monday July 8 2024 | UPDATED 07.07.24

Gaia Vernaglione, director of Americas at Zakeke, looks at how AR and 3D modelling can transform supply chain dynamics

In the rapidly evolving landscape of e-commerce, augmented reality (AR) and 3D modelling are emerging as transformative technologies, revolutionising supply chain dynamics. Once confined to the realms of science fiction, these advanced tools are now enhancing both operational efficiency and customer experience for retailers. This article explores how AR and 3D modelling contribute to more sustainable and efficient supply chain practices, providing a competitive edge in an increasingly complex market.

Revolutionising Product Visualisation and Reducing Returns

One of the most significant impacts of AR and 3D modelling is their ability to offer interactive and highly realistic product visualisations. Traditional product photography often falls short in conveying the true look and feel of an item. In contrast, AR allows customers to virtually try on clothing and accessories or see how furniture would look in their homes. This immersive shopping experience leads to more informed purchasing decisions, as customers can accurately gauge the suitability of products before making a purchase.

This accurate representation of products helps reduce the incidence of returns, a major logistical challenge for e-commerce businesses. According to Shopify, the average return rate for e-commerce was 17.6% in 2023. High return rates not only impact customer satisfaction but also place a significant strain on supply chains, as returned items need to be processed, restocked, or disposed of. By providing a clearer understanding of what they are purchasing, AR and 3D modeling reduce customer dissatisfaction and returns, alleviating this logistical burden.

Sustainable Practices through Digital Catalogs

Sustainability is a growing concern for both consumers and businesses. AR and 3D modelling play a crucial role in promoting sustainable practices within the retail industry. Traditional physical catalogs and samples are resource-intensive and generate significant waste. Fashion companies, for example, often produce physical samples for hundreds of items, each with several variations. Unsold samples and excess inventory contribute to substantial waste.

By converting physical catalogs into 3D models, retailers can showcase all product variations digitally. This shift not only reduces the need for physical samples but also minimises waste from unsold samples. Customers can view and interact with realistic digital representations of products, making informed choices without the environmental cost associated with physical samples. This digital transformation aligns with the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly business practices and helps retailers build a more sustainable supply chain.

Enhancing Operational Efficiency

AR and 3D modelling also contribute to enhanced operational efficiency. In the product design and development phase, these technologies allow designers to create and modify 3D models quickly. Rapid prototyping of new products without the need for physical samples accelerates the time-to-market. This agility is particularly beneficial in fast-paced industries where staying ahead of trends is crucial.

Additionally, real-time product visualisation through AR and 3D modelling ensures that customers receive exactly what they envision. This accuracy boosts customer confidence and loyalty, as they are less likely to experience discrepancies between the digital representation and the actual product. By bridging the gap between physical and digital shopping experiences, these technologies create a more engaging and satisfying customer journey.

Future Implications

The ongoing adoption of AR and 3D modeling will continue to reshape supply chain dynamics, offering retailers a competitive edge. These technologies enable the creation of more resilient, efficient, and sustainable supply chains. By reducing returns and waste, and by streamlining the product design and development process, AR and 3D modeling help retailers minimize their environmental footprint while enhancing operational efficiency.

Additionally, the integration of AR and 3D modelling into supply chain practices fosters innovation and adaptability. Retailers can quickly respond to changing market demands and consumer preferences, ensuring they remain competitive in a dynamic marketplace. As these technologies evolve, their potential applications within supply chains will expand, further driving sustainability and efficiency.

AR and 3D modelling are not just enhancing the customer experience; they are fundamentally transforming the way supply chains operate. By offering accurate product visualisations, reducing returns, promoting sustainable practices, and enhancing operational efficiency, these technologies provide retailers with the tools needed to thrive in a complex and demanding market. The continued adoption and integration of AR and 3D modelling will lead to more resilient, efficient, and eco-friendly supply chains, ultimately delivering greater value to both customers and the environment.

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