The Snap36 Blog

Improve the Customer’s Shopping Experience with 360-Degree Photography and 3D Models

When considering how to enhance your product content, 360 degree photography and 3D models are two formats becoming widely used by top brands and retailers. Oftentimes people ask us, “Why I should use one over the other? Or, do I need both?” Our answer is, it depends, but there are many reasons you should consider creating both. To help us explain why, we’ve enlisted the help of Mike Festa, Founder and CEO of 3XR, a company building a selfservice platform that provides 3D content for the masses and enables innovation leaders, marketers and brand creatives to transform their online storefront into an immersive, engaging 3D experience. 3XR helps digitize product catalogs by creating augmented reality enabled 3D models that can be used for AR and VR experiences, interactive web viewing, and photorealistic product renderings. 

Snap36 has been working with 3XR to determine how 360 degree imagery can accelerate the creation of augmented reality enabled 3D models, reducing the costs to produce a 3D model, and making the 3D model creation process more scalable. Both rich media types serve an important purpose — 360 degree photography allows people to virtually ‘spin’ a product in front of their eyes and inspect all of its details, while 3D models allow a customer to visualize and interact with a product in their own environment.  In this blog postwe’ll share our findings and outline how both enhanced content types can prepare you for the future of digital product experiences. 

What is 360 Degree Photography?

As a quick refresher, a 360 degree interactive “spin” is a sequence of 24 or more high-resolution still images of a product from all angles. This process provides companies with a content repository of digital assets that can be used for an array of needs such as in-store displays, email campaigns, e-commerce websites, and AR/VR applications, without having to reshoot an individual product. Online, buyers can use a mouse or touchscreen to “spin” the product, interactively rotating and zooming in on multiple angles to see specific details. 


Showing the workmanship that goes into a product, such as the detail down to the stitching, is incredibly important for online buyers today. With handbags or apparel, 360 degree photography will show you the true photographic version with the ability to zoom in on certain aspects of the product. In B2B for example, it’s critical to see the exact details of a part being ordered. This helps to ensure that what arrives in a shipment is exactly what was anticipated the first time.

What You See Is What You Get 

According to a 2019 study by the Marketing Science Institute, product returns cost manufacturers and retailers as much as $100 billion annually or 3.8% of revenue to their bottom line. The study further concluded, “In-store purchases, where the consumer has more opportunity to examine the product and get more information about quality, have a much lower probability of being returned compared to online shopping.” 360 degree photography replicates the in-store experience by letting consumers virtually see and inspect a product thanks to a comprehensive set of photos. In fact, Snap36’s customer Klein Tools reports an 18% lower return rate for its products on that include a 360-degree spin versus those with only static images.

Browser & Mobile Friendly 

360 degree spin consists of stitching together multiple jpg or png files into an interactive experience and serving them up on the web using a 360 degree viewer. This viewer technology is not only flexible and affordable, but it’s also accessible. 360 degree imagery works seamlessly on all mobile devices, allowing the customer to drive the experience at the touch of their fingertips. 

Cost-Effective and Scalable 

360 degree photography is accessible and affordable; providing manufacturers, distributors, and retailers a one-stop-shop for all desired and required product image assets. The Snap36 Chicago studio, for example, has capacity to photograph thousands of products per day, which increases the throughput and speed at which our customers can deploy visual product experiences online.

What are 3D Models?  

3D models have traditionally been widely used for creating special effects in films and video games. However, with new 3D formats supporting high resolution and significantly reduced file sizes, we’re now seeing more and more online retailers adopt 3D in their e-commerce strategy. Popular products for digital placement are in the considered purchase category, such as home goods and furniture. 3D product models give the customer a unique view of an object which simulates the experience of viewing the product anywhere in your environment with mobile AR technology. 

Benefits of Using 3D Models

3D models Can be Created Without Shipping a Physical Product

A full 3D view can be created virtually without a physical product on-site by using available input data such as images, specs, and CAD models. Since access to inventory is not a requirement, companies don’t have to deal with removing products “off the shelf” saving on logistics costs.  Field sales can also see reduced costs, reducing the need to ship large physical samples to tradeshows, or bring an entire product catalog to a meeting. A digital product catalog experienced through augmented reality allows for significant flexibility of product viewing choices.

Improved Customer Experience 

3D models of products can be “placed” in an environment using the camera from a mobile device or head mounted display (HMD) enabling customers to see how the product may look or fit in their own home or business. Take, for example, furniture and home goods. Prior to making a purchase, consumers want to know if a couch will fit in their room, and if the color or fabric will look good with the surrounding paint color. The use of 3D and AR technology allows consumers to virtually place products in their living room and test out potential designs. A customer’s ability to interact and build trust with a high value product before purchase is critical to driving an improved customer experience 

High-Quality 360-Degree Images Fuel 3D Models  

Avoid “Garbage In, Garbage Out” 

If you don’t have high-quality product imagery available, the resulting 3D asset will suffer due to poor input. Creating 3D models from scratch can be time-consuming but starting with high-quality product images allows you to develop a model that is truer to the original item while also reducing your ‘time to web.

More Images Mean Better Models

The more high-quality images you can provide at different angles, the better. The benefits of the 360-degree photography process is that it automatically produces dozens – even hundreds – of images incredibly quickly. For certain product types, these images can then be used in a process called photogrammetry, that uses software to stitch multiple image angles together to create a 3D.

Increase Time-to-Web 

Gaining access to product inventory can be painful and expensive, so if you’re going to take your products off the shelf for a photograph, why wouldn’t you want to get the most out of that effort as possible? You can use the same 360-degree photography process to capture extensive visual information about your products – including measurements and dimensions – and reuse those images to help create 3D models for your AR/VR product experience.

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360-degree photography and 3D models are both proven, effective ways to enhance the product visualization experience and increase consumer purchasing confidence. Depending on your goals, there are multiple uses and benefits when considering the powerful combination of 360 degree photography and 3D models. Snap36 and 3XR are here to provide a valuable and scalable solution that addresses all your product content needs. 

Get in touch with us today to discuss the best options for incorporating 360 images + 3D models into your product catalog! 

Need help increasing your e-commerce conversion rate? Websites that are using 360 product photography increase conversions by up to 47%.