Tips and Tricks to Optimize 3D Ecommerce Experiences Using SOLIDWORKS Sell
People do judge a book by its cover. Value only matters when it is perceived by your audience. How can you improve the customer experience, especially the first impression for your 3D Ecommerce configurators, to grow web traffic and increase conversion rate? This article will share practical yet simple tips and tricks such as materials, views, environment settings and web page layouts.
Let’s start with a cool 3D configurator first. Figure 1 shows an example of an OMAX waterjet machine with hundreds of configurations. Please feel free to click on the link and play with various material and component options.
Figure 1. An OMAX Waterjet 3D configurator, powered by SOLIDWORKS Sell.
Now, if you’re wondering how you can build your online 3D configurator in a similar fashion in order to grow web traffic and increase your conversion rate, let’s dive into several practical, yet easy and instant tips and tricks.
At a high level, you can polish up online presentations in four areas: materials, views, environment settings and web page layouts. This article focuses on polishes after you have published CAD models online. If you are interested in how to publish your CAD models for online 3D configurators, this YouTube video list can walk you through the detailed steps.
Polish Your Materials
The first topic is materials. A simple comparison between Figures 2 and 3 illustrates the differences right away.
Figure 2. Waterjet nozzle holder with a realistic black material.
Figure 3. Waterjet nozzle holder with a plain, unrealistic material.
As you can see, the black material in Figure 2 blends better into the waterjet chamber and surrounding components. Furthermore, the sandblast surface finish in Figure 2 gives the holder a much sturdier more industrial feel than the polished white texture in Figure 3. So remember to pay attention to your material selections and their contexts.
In SOLIDWORKS Sell, it’s easy to apply materials. As shown in Figure 4, there are hundreds of materials to choose from out of the box with the software. The library also includes 269 standard SOLIDWORKS CAD materials, which will be respected and carried over automatically when you publish your components from SOLIDWORKS to the online design editor.
Figure 4. SOLIDWORKS Sell material library.
To apply your own realistic textures, you can upload texture images. Figure 5 shows the material editor, with a preview on the top after a texture image in Figure 6 has been added.
Figure 5. Add a texture image to a customized material.
Figure 6. A material texture example.
Now, you may feel the preview in Figure 5 looks too smooth and shiny. To make it look even more realistic as shown in Figure 2, let’s add a normal map (shown in Figure 7) to create the bumpy and sturdy appearance as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 7. A bumpy normal map image.
Figure 8. Add a normal map image to a customized material.
There you go! After several quick clicks, the material brings life to your 3D model right away and helps your product stand out in the marketplace.
Customize Your Views
The next sweet tip is customized views for selected components. For example, the waterjet nozzle is a small but vital part. If you configure the nozzle in the big machine overview as shown in Figure 1, the nozzle changes would become almost unnoticeable. Or you may want to switch alternative geometries of a structure in the back of a product. In this instance, a front view would hide the instant results and confuse your online visitors.
To solve these problems, you can set up customized views for selected components. All you need to do is to zoom into a target—the nozzle in this case—and click on the button “Save Custom View” on the Views fly-out menu, as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9. Add a customized view to the target nozzle.
Refreshing your browser will reflect the latest change. From now on, every time you or your online visitors click on the nozzle group, the 3D viewport will smoothly transition to your customized view by automatically zooming in, zooming out or rotating the model. Of course, you can also adjust or delete a customized view for a component group.
As simple as it is, this technique renders a thoughtful user experience by automatically positioning a specific configuration target to be front and center according to the online visitor’s selection. Customized views make the instant results more visible and appreciable to your audience, which is a much more effective and efficient way to articulate and present your product values. As we all know, value only matters when it is perceived by your audience.
In a similar light, you can also capture a default view for your entire product, as shown in Figure 10. This view essentially depicts a book cover for your configurator, because it delivers the first impression as the default configuration, orientation and zoom, among thousands or even millions of possibilities. When a new user visits your 3D webpage for the first time, they will be greeted with this result. This means it’s essential to remember to manage your audience’s first impression by saving a default view.
Figure 10. Save a default view for the entire product.
Fine-Tune Your Environment Settings
By the way, you may have noticed the floor shadow in Figure 10, which makes the visual very attractive. This type of environment setting can help your models pop out even further. Figure 11 lists the settings to the left and the 3D appearance to the right. in this case, the floor shadow has been intentionally turned off as a comparison.
Clearly, the 3D model in Figure 11 appears dull and unreal. It is amazing to see how much these tiny tweaks can affect the visual appeal. So have fun with the dozens of settings and fine tune your own presentations.
Figure 11. Environment settings to the left and the 3D appearance to the right without the floor shadow.
To make the fine-tuning easier and less overwhelming, SOLIDWORKS Sell provides eight polished presets out of the box per major product categories, such as Accessories, Appliances, Fixtures, Furniture, Jewelry, Structure and Vehicles. You can study these and make copies to optimize your own settings.
Showcase Your Creation with a Polished Webpage Layout
The last topic is about webpage layouts as containers of your 3D configurators. After all the cool polishes, it is time to show off your creation. Of course, you can code html webpages and embed the SOLIDWORKS Sell 3D widgets according your marketing guidelines. The software provides rich APIs for your code to call. To see some examples, this SOLIDWORKS Sell sample page lists several nice webpages.
On the other hand, sometimes you may want to compose a quick proof-of-concept before committing to sophisticated web development. As explained in a previous post, you can build a webpage layout similar to playing Lego blocks, with zero coding. Figure 12 captures the layout tool. Particularly, I would like to call your attention to the QR code widget, as indicated by the green arrows.
Figure 12. A quick webpage layout tool.
As the name indicates, a designer can embed a QR code widget in a webpage. This way, you can show off your proud creations on your phones, tablets or computers, and then let your audience quickly scan the code with their phone cameras, load the configurator onto their phones instantly and start playing on their own.
This is a great digital accelerator for your teams, dealers, customers, followers or friends to share your products in fun personal conversations or via social media channels because your audience would not have to type the link address letter by letter. Figure 13 shows the page result on a smart phone screen—you can even scan it right now as you’re reading.
Figure 13. A QR code pops up on a smart phone screen for easier sharing.
To recap: impressions and perception significantly drive web traffic and online sales. Fortunately, there are simple techniques to perfect your online presentations. Please take full advantage of them and share your comments or proud creations.
To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS Sell can help promote your ideas and products with interactive 3D online content, please visit its product page. The best way to learn is to play with live examples featured on a demo site, which includes actual client webpages.
Learn more about SOLIDWORKS with the whitepaper Gain Competitive Advantage with Product Data Management.
About the Author
Oboe Wu is a product management professional with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of 3D technologies and practical applications.