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Retail's big shift: Real-time 3D and the metaverse
Oct 30, 2023
An AR tablet showing a tent in virtual space

About the authors

Sara Oberst
As Global Head of Retail for Unity’s Accelerate Solutions, Sara partners with brands to help them close the gap between their current capabilities and where they want to evolve by harnessing Unity technology to fuel transformational results. Previously, Sara led software and system integrator partnerships in Unity’s Strategic Partnerships group. Prior to joining Unity, Sara led IBM’s Extended Reality practice, leveraging a unique combination of design, user experience, and emerging technologies to help the world’s largest enterprises with their digital transformation journeys.

Jordan McPhee

As a Senior Program Manager within Unity’s Accelerate Solutions group, Jordan’s passion is to drive digital transformation across retail. Leveraging Unity, Jordan helps clients bridge the physical and digital divide, from digital twins and scalable asset creation pipelines to forward-facing customer experiences and everything in between. Prior to joining Unity, Jordan was a director of strategic partnerships and innovation with Finger Food Advanced Technology Group.

Accelerate Solutions

Unity Accelerate Solutions is made up of world-class software development teams. Specializing in ingesting your data into Unity, integrating with your systems, accelerating real-time 3D use cases for digital twins and much more, Accelerate Solutions offers custom development solutions to translate your business goals from concept to reality.

Digital lines of light

Metaverse retail in action

The metaverse awaits
It was only in 2021 that brands started asking themselves if they should plan to build in the metaverse. Now in 2022 it seems if you aren’t fine-tuning your metaverse strategy you are already too late. Could this be true?

As the technology matures and consumer interest grows, brands are feeling major fear of missing out (FOMO) about the metaverse. Now is the time to create thoughtful strategies, nimble enough to withstand the ebb and flow of shifting consumer expectations and a dynamic device ecosystem, and implement with a “test and learn at scale” mentality. It’s more than an opportunity to extend your commerce reach, it’s the future of storytelling, community, culture, work, and sustainability.

“The global metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $800 billion in 2024 vs about $500 billion in 2020.”

Bloomberg Intelligence

A globe with icons of a person repeated in a pattern

Seek Invitations, not leads

We see a metaverse with unprecedented growth and a dizzying range of opportunities for brands. It demands courage, community, and authenticity. Beyond that it is, by its very nature, untethered from the confines of the physical world. Perceived limitations around digital experiences that brands have previously followed no longer apply.

More than anything, the metaverse is about community. As we shift into the decentralized internet run by self-made cohorts and communities, brands must likewise transition from driving consumers to digital properties they own to accessing existing communities of potential consumers who must invite them in. How brands “show up” will be critical to them gaining entry. Missteps or a lack of authenticity or permission to engage can lead to brands being asked to leave in very public forums.

While community is at the center of today’s metaverse, the interaction and interconnectivity create a conduit between brands and their customers that is more direct than ever before. Customer relationships are becoming more personal and personalized.

A virtual tennis shoe

Embracing the retail metaverse era

After embracing unprecedented consumer shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail industry has barely had a chance to catch its breath before being flung into the metaverse era. The good news is, the upgraded technology infrastructure many brands pushed forward to keep up with the digital demands of the pandemic has paved the way for metaverse use cases.

Processes, workflows, and consumer experiences that once relied on in-person collaboration or physical occasions have already been overhauled into remote work and digital platforms. This next phase will be about how to synchronize the digital and physical into a consistent and meaningful brand experience.

Trying on tennis shoes virtually using a phone

Virtual try-on

Take virtual try-on as an example. Consumers shifted to online purchases and there’s no sign they want to go back into the stores to try on garments. With only images of products to guide them, consumers purchase online and return what doesn’t work. But there is a huge environmental price to pay for that consumer behavior. Digital buying is bloating the supply chain and as it does, so grows the environmental footprint of the brands.

With a 3D virtual try-on experience, consumers use an accurately sized digital human avatar based on their measurements and body type, making it possible to get a better sense of how a garment will fit and which size to purchase. More accurate sizing leads to fewer returns and a better purchase experience.

Brands that began investing in 3D asset infrastructure during the pandemic to support experiential digital commerce already have much of the tech required for the virtual try-on use case, which could be worth millions in revenue and decreased return rates.

A computer screen being used to create luggage

Virtual retail spaces

Digital twins of retail spaces and showrooms are changing how customers interact with brands. Brands are experimenting with recreating the in-store experience on mobile phones and in virtual reality (VR), providing a more engaging way to shop in 3D and leveraging the different interaction models and production value offered by immersive technology.

Metaverse experiences give consumers an all-access pass to the brand. They can participate in runway shows from their game consoles, get the latest season’s drop delivered directly to their smart mirror and even participate in product design and R&D.

What’s more, in a virtual retail space, visitor behavior data can be fed back to a customer relationship management (CRM) system – an invaluable tool for marketing and sales teams.

3D scan of a tennis shoe

3D scanning tech for realistic materials

For metaverse shoppers, it’s essential that the online product experience is accurate to the physical properties of the product. The metaverse experience must be as close as possible to the real life product, otherwise valuable customer confidence is easily destroyed.

Here’s where metaverse tech offers several easy-access solutions to marketers. From mobile-friendly photogrammetry, such as the tools used by Deckers for their global shoe products, to digital photography input that can easily be incorporated into a 3D model to accurately represent materials, such as luxury yacht manufacturer Arksen uses in their real-time 3D marketing workflow.

Get customer by-in with product configurators

Taking luxury shopping to new heights

Globe-Trotter has delivered high-end luggage to clients like Daniel Craig, Eddie Redmayne, and Kate Moss for more than a century. Established in 1897, the luxury travel lifestyle brand produces handcrafted luggage and leather collections for in-store and online purchases.

Knowing that traditional ways of selling products like photographs or rendered images wouldn’t be enough to turn shoppers into buyers, Globe-Trotter delivered a 3D web configurator that would build customer confidence in purchasing sight unseen, custom luggage valued at upwards of $2,700 USD.

“Unity’s rendering technology allows [us] to deliver hyperrealistic 3D visuals, which is essential for our clients in the luxury industry, such as Globe-Trotter,” says Marie Guilloton, Marketing Manager at SmartPixels. “Unity’s platform fits perfectly into SmartPixels’ production pipeline as it has proven to be easy and intuitive to use.”

“3D has led to better decisions, more accurate predictions, and faster time to market.”
“Previously, creating a static render of our vessels would take a couple of weeks to coordinate. Now, the model feels alive as clients can interact with the Arksen 85 in real-time, viewing it from any angle while customizing options with Unity.”

Rethinking marketing workflows

Regain control of content creation

Beyond the next-gen customer experiences, the tech that powers the metaverse – real-time 3D – also powers innovation in retail workflows. The crushing demand for content, specifically 3D content, is only going to accelerate as metaverse experiences become the norm.

Brands are moving to a virtual photography infrastructure to automate the production of photorealistic 3D assets to support marketing and sales needs. With this workflow, Unity develops an automated asset ingestion pipeline to transform computer-aided design (CAD) models into 3D models.

The Unity platform makes it easy for marketing or content resources to create 3D assets in multiple configurations, with lighting scenes and camera angles applied. This easy-access tool allows nontechnical resources to generate 3D assets at scale for use in marketing and sales content, no developer or technical artist required. The output of the 3D asset can be anything from a model to support augmented reality (AR) product exploration to high-resolution images for print and social media campaigns.

Easy-access workflows such as this are key to a brand’s success in the metaverse. Making it possible for marketing teams to own 3D content creation workflows means they can feed the ever-hungry content beast without the need to scale up large teams of developers and 3D artists – a very compelling proposition in a time of major 3D technology skill scarcity.

A library of various 3D images

Unleash creativity with digital asset libraries

Digital asset libraries are where the power of metaverse tech can truly liberate marketing teams and allow them to unleash their creativity. Once established, the workflow that facilitates import of CAD models and converts them into 3D product models provides marketers with 24/7 access to the latest digital product models in real-time 3D. While it takes time to build the initial asset library, the time and cost savings from creating marketing content are notable.

By building a digital asset library of product models, and an associated workflow that ensures the asset library is kept up to date with the latest product iterations, it’s possible to feed a marketing content pipeline with high-quality assets. This enables quick and easy creation of metaverse experiences such as interactive 3D configurators, digital media, videos, animations, and virtual showrooms.

And a digital asset library can also meet traditional marketing content requirements for up-to-date product imagery to be used in printed materials such as photorealistic renders, booth banners, and brochures. These can be created quickly and easily by drawing on the visual assets available in the digital asset library.

Some customer efficiencies gained by building a digital asset library:

  • €500,000+ savings in marketing content production costs
  • Videos created in 4–6 weeks vs 4–6 months
  • Hi-res 2D assets produced 7x faster

Read the case study

Real-time 3D and the metaverse

Gaming tech is the key

Unity’s legacy in mobile games places it in a unique position to help brands launch into the metaverse. Mobile games are among the most technically challenging forms of media to create from a technical and engineering standpoint.

Games are mostly 3D, they are real-time, and they are interactive. The content is dynamic and responsive. Unity is the leading platform for creating and operating this type of media. And this is the foundation of all metaverse experiences.

Our commitment to mobile game creators has always been grounded in the ethos of making real-time 3D technology accessible to all. The more accessible and easy-to-use the tech is, the more people will create with it. This concept now extends to brands as they embark on their journey into the metaverse.

Now’s the time to level up

Similar to the early days of mobile, if you don’t move now your brand will be trapped in a constant state of “catch up.” It’s time to stop talking about the metaverse. Start making use of this new consumer ecosystem by:

1. Creating a digital twin of every product.

Build your 3D asset library – this is the foundation of the metaverse.

2. Take ownership of the quality of product visuals and maintain control of the brand across the digital product lifecycle.

Use those assets to collapse the distance between your brand and your customers with interactive, personal experiences.

3. Become data rich.

Real-time 3D interactions and brand touchpoints generate more consumer data than ever before. Beyond the insights captured when consumers are engaging with your real-time 3D experiences, you can see how they are customizing products. You could engage a new generation of customers in the product design process, allowing them to influence product development, with nothing more than their iPhones or Quest 2s.

4. Unleash the brand from the confines of its physical stores and flat, 2D ecom experiences.

Immerse consumers in a fantastical brand story, educate them on how the products are designed and manufactured, let them personalize their products with help of a meta-stylist, spark excitement with immersive, personalized fashion shows on gaming consoles – there are literally no limits to what a metaverse brand experience can be.

Unity is working with clients to create multiple metaverse experiences that integrate into existing commerce platforms, making it possible to create product wishlists, share favorites, and drive purchases seamlessly. And, meet aggressive sustainability targets by increasing efficiencies in design, manufacturing, supply chain, and commerce.

Now’s the time. Make your move.


1. Get started with metaverse marketing

Create it yourself

Unity Industry – the exclusive path for industry customers – combines the power of Unity Enterprise, Pixyz’s CAD and 3D data ingestion pipelines, Unity Mars, and dedicated customer success resources. It provides developers with everything they need to ideate, build, and scale multiplatform industry applications.

Build it with our experts

Looking for expert assistance to get started? Check out our 3D Marketing Starter Package, and get the benefit of our expert Accelerate Solutions team of world-class designers, developers and industry experts, to help you start your metaverse marketing journey

Not sure where to start? Contact our team to find the solution that’s right for you.

2. Dive into additional resources

Webinar: Building successful B2C brands in the metaverse

Unity’s VP of professional services, Ryan Peterson, and Tim Dillon, SVP of Real-Time and Virtual Worlds at Media.Monks discuss:

1. Why consumer brands and creative agencies are pivoting to metaverse strategies

2. Leveraging real-time 3D technology to build powerful brands

3. B2C branding in the metaverse: what, why, and how

Video: Arksen creates effective marketing content using digital twins

Arksen, an innovative marine vessel company, optimized their marketing content creation workflows for custom-built explorer vessels with real-time 3D. In this short video get an insight into the processes they followed and the results they achieved.

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