The contribution of e-commerce to ever-more-frequent and necessary digital interactions between customers and brands has been growing exponentially in recent years, especially with the impact of the pandemic.

Presenting your products the right way is key to boosting online shopping experiences and transactions. But with the multiplication of digital interactions and e-commerce platforms, the need for visuals in terms of formats has never been as demanding. The advent of interactive shopping experiences such as web 3D viewers, product configurations, and AR experiences, has only added to this paradigm.

How can brands scale their output of product visuals without spending impossible amounts of time and effort?

The answer lies within the realm of 3D visualization.

Advancements in technology take advantage of 3D visualization, which can greatly reduce production costs and time while generating unlimited visuals to attract customers and convert sales.

Several trends have been identified by various surveys and studies to indicate where the e-commerce industry has been heading for a while now: influencers, visual marketing, visual search, social marketing, virtual assistance, hyper-personalization, etc.

It is not a coincidence that visual content is a key element within some of the trends just mentioned.

Today’s shoppers jump between the vendor’s website, social media pages, online retailers and compare similar items.

Retailers who use 3D content on Shopify see a 94% conversion lift on average.

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The way to really connect with the audience is through a consistent story. There needs to be variations in visual creativity over the lifetime of a particular product. In other words, potential customers will see the same products on different platforms and occasions, and there should be visual consistency in order to generate interest in your products.

Customers can experience the product in different ways, such as the traditional still image, but also online product configurators, AR try-ons, etc. and they can connect with different variations of the same product.

This results in an infinite demand for creative product visuals that need to adapt to different platforms and send the same message.

Digital shoppers are expecting up to 8 images per product.


How can brands rationalize this ever-growing need for product visuals?

We’re going to show you how we can create a range of visuals and adapt it to retail storytelling by creating a digital twin of a real-life product.

Here you will see a step-by-step breakdown of how the Substance 3D tools and resources provide everything you need to make your product ready for e-commerce pipelines.

Step 1: The 3D model

Step 1: The 3D model

3D models are the base to start our narrative. The Substance 3D Assets platform provides tons of ready-to-use 3D models. It lets us find the props we need to create the layout of our website.

You can of course import your own 3D models, whether they be CAD or polygon-based, and import a variety of formats into the Substance 3D tools.

Textured Model

A model before and after materials are applied

Drag And Drop

3D models are basically a canvas to play with: they are ready to be textured. You can find thousands of ready-to-use materials on our Substance 3D Assets platform.
We can drag and drop materials straight on the model thanks to Substance 3D Painter.

Virtual photography – product shots made entirely in 3D

Tweaking Materials and changing parameters

Each material from the Substance 3D Assets platform comes with built-in parameters making them visually customizable. This allows for endless unique variations.
Thanks to these parametric materials, you will find the right look and feel for your product. Parametric materials are just waiting to be mixed, customized and improved according to your creativity and needs.

Patina Tweaking
Low Patina High Patina

With parametric materials, all you need to do is tweak sliders and change values for optimal customization,

Substance 3D Painter allows you to texture your model and add details

Example of a label customized and applied in Substance 3D Painter. You can import any 2D design from Photoshop or Illustrator for example.

Virtual photography covers all creative and digital practices aiming to generate visual content for product display. Compared to tradition photography, virtual photography saves time, money, is highly customizable and more sustainable.

Step 2: Product variations

Step 2: Product variations

Thanks to the Substance 3D Assets Library, you have thousands of materials, meshes and lighting that can make the processing of images easier for the creation of visuals for both desktop and mobile.
Integrating Substance 3D means retailers can customize and modify images to improve the design.

Automatic Material Scale

The physical size feature in Substance 3D Sampler allows you to display accurately scaled materials

Adjust Patterns

With 3D visualization, brands can update, refresh and adapt product photos for infinitely personalized and dynamic customer experiences. Substance 3D allows you to output different visuals to engage customers, easily adapting color, style, and products.

Color Design

Color #1 Color #2

Traditional photography can be quite challenging for retailers because it can take up to a few weeks to organize a quality photoshoot, it involves more logistics and is less forgiving with retakes, which can be valuable time and money lost.

Integrating Substance 3D into the project means using the power and flexibility of the whole toolset and taking advantage of the 3D Assets library to speed up the workflow.

Step 3: Scene composition

Step 3: Scene composition

Traditionally, the realization of this kind of visual requires the production of prototypes, the organization of a photo shoot, and the acquisition of accessories to furnish the scene.

It works virtually the same in 3D. However, modeling all the secondary objects for a scene requires time.

As time is allocated to the main elements of the scene, the Substance 3D Assets library gives you access to thousands of ready-to-use models. It offers the services of a digital props self-service, so that you only have to pick what you need for the composition.

The Substance 3D Assets platform also comes with dozens of IBLs (Image Based Lighting), which are pre-made lighting setups you can easily use for rendering your scene.

Easily drag and drop models and materials from the Substance 3D Assets library to create your scene in Unreal Engine.

As the Substance materials are parametric, you can keep tweaking them in Unreal Engine.

Step 4: Be future-proof

Step 4: Be future-proof

Online shopping is a rapidly evolving market, and the pandemic has only accelerated existing trends. Online retailers can make themselves ready for the future of e-commerce, in which consumers will not only engage with products thanks to product shots and videos, but also interactive experiences.

AR visualization, virtual try-ons, 3D web viewers, product configurators, VR experiences, and more are making their way into consumers’ purchase habits. By adopting a 3D-first approach, retailers can make sure their 3D assets are ready to be used in these interactive experiences.

Companies such as Amazon, Ikea, Google, and Meta have already developed technologies and pipelines aiming at making these interactive experiences accessible to consumers. The Metaverse will also see consumers purchase fully digital products in a 3D virtual universe.

To succeed now and in the future, it is critical for retailers to replace traditional product photography with 3D-rendering technology. This is how brands and retailers can start to create high-quality 3D product visuals that are infinitely changeable, useable for any format and platform, and always shoppable.