With the holiday season fast approaching, online retailers are scrambling to make the most of this special time of year. As little children everywhere are making their wishlists, retailers - and the broader ecosystem that supports them - have some wishes too. Among them is a better way to make their products come to life for shoppers - and 3D modeling and augmented reality (AR) is what every good online seller is hoping to get their hands on.
To learn about how 3D modeling is impacting the holiday shopping season, we turned to an expert on the subject - Dottie Dash Dazzle, the Vice President of Product Demand at the North Pole. While everyone is familiar with Santa’s famed workshop, fewer are aware of the work that goes into making all of those holiday wishes magically appear in holiday catalogs.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Please tell us about yourself and your work.
Thank you. I’m Dottie Dash Dazzle - you can call me 3D - and I run 3D model-making at the North Pole. Didn’t start there, of course, but that’s where things have ended up. I can’t complain.
We all know about Santa’s toy-making elves, but 3D model-making?
Look, let me clear up a few things. First, there are several kinds of elves. Sure, the popular media makes us out to be free spirits flitting around in the forest casting spells, shooting arrows, yadda yadda yadda. Sure, that stuff happens, but then there are elves like the team up north. We’re an industrious bunch, more like dwarves in some respects.
Even among that group, my team is especially hard-working, and we have to be to keep up with the demand.
The demand for 3D models? I’m not sure I understand?
What don’t you understand about 3D models? Let me lay it out for you. My team is all about demand gen. What are the best ways to present all of those wonderful holiday wishes in a way that’s going to get the kids excited, that kind of thing, you know?
Back in the old days, it was easy. Create a few images, get them over to the Sears catalogs, and the kids would hound their parents relentlessly. One hundred fifty years ago, I had a team of probably 400 illustrators working 24/7 to do this. Times change. When photography became the rage, no one wanted line drawings anymore. They wanted to see the real thing.
No problem, I brought on a few teams of photographers - snap snap snap - and we were all good. A feature in the Toy R Us catalog made our holiday. Next thing you know, people are glomming onto this new internet thing. I realize that for most of you, the internet has been around forever, but for us elves, it’s only been the blink of an eye.
Like I was saying, the internet comes along, and the volume goes through the roof. Suddenly, there’s a million web pages out there, and they all need product shots. I’m not saying we’re the only ones doing this work, but we do a lot of it, that’s for sure. Still, static images are static images.
Right, but how did you get into 3D and AR?
A few years ago, we started getting requests for a lot of images - but not just one image of a product, a ton of them. People wanted to see the same product in every imaginable color. Snap, snap, snap, we’d take more pictures. Then more. Then more and more and more! You humans can see about a million colors (we elves can see a lot more), and it seemed people wanted to see every product in every one of them. Exhausting!
The demand was, frankly, overwhelming. We could do the work, sure, but it was not fun. Having to ask the workshop team to keep cranking out the same version of a product in a million different colors was just untenable. We might have a little holiday magic on our side, but even that’s not going to help you when you need billions and billions of images!
There had to be a better way. That’s when I found out about Nextech AR Solutions. Now, one photograph is all we need, and we can offer all one million colors. We used to try to guess what colors people were going to want. Sometimes we got it right, sometimes, we ended up with thousands of puce bikes because someone in product management got their research wrong—what a headache. Now, people can configure exactly what they want, and the workshop team can make exactly what is needed. Way less waste and a lot fewer returns!
So, can you model anything?
Pretty much. What’s cool about it is that the models can be made so quickly and easily. ARitize 3D Configurator wasn’t the first method we tried. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but when the whole 3D thing started taking off, we really didn’t understand the implications. For a while, we had elves hand-making customized models for everything. Just not scalable, given our volume and tight deadlines.
3D models are one thing, but what about augmented reality?
Once people got it in their heads that they could pick and choose whatever color or texture or size or materials they wanted, it was only a matter of time until they wanted to make sure things were going to look good in their homes. Again, a little embarrassing, but our first attempt was to use magic. So much work! If someone turned their head, even a little, we’d need to recast the charm over and over and over.
ARitize 3D Configurator was a real help here. Now, when someone wants to see what a chair or mirror or skateboard is going to look like, they can just hold up their phone and - presto! - there’s the product right in front of them! Total game changer. Don’t have to take a million photos, create individual models, or deplete our supply of magic.
What advice would you give to others responsible for ecommerce sales?
Sales? Are you kidding? We’re talking Santa here, the guy has a heart as big as a whale but he doesn’t have a business bone in his body. I don’t even want to tell you how much is spent every year on raw materials, but it’s a lot. I’m just thankful that my department is so much more efficient now that we’re turning over all of the model-making to Nextech AR.
I say to anyone who’ll listen - and I’ll say it here now - if you are feeling the pressure to deliver an amazing digital experience, trust Nextech AR. They have been a game changer for my team and me and can do the same for you. You don’t want to get sucked into all the hard work of making 3D models and doing AR all by your lonesome. And you really don’t want to skip doing it all together, that’s for sure. Trust me, Nextech AR will make your holidays brighter, happier, and a whole lot more successful.