A Buyer’s Guide For Footwear Brands



A Buyer’s Guide For Footwear Brands

In this in-depth Buyer’s Guide for Footwear Brands, Mattias Österberg, Head of Customer Success, shares his extensive expertise from having assisted over 50 footwear brands go live with 3D in less than 18 months. Discover key recommendations to facilitate your brand’s transition into the realm of 3D smoothly.

When adopting 3D for your brand and e-commerce, planning and foresight are crucial. While there are many factors to consider beforehand, it’s important not to get carried away by the challenge. This is what I’ve learned from helping over 50 footwear brands go live with 3D in less than 18 months.

Setting the scene – it all starts here.

The leap into 3D technology marks a transformative step for brands aiming to innovate and captivate their fans in the digital age. As we venture beyond traditional 2D imagery, into the immersive realm of 3D, the potential to revolutionize online shopping and brand storytelling is immense. After having onboarded +50 brands into using 3D/AR for their e-commerce and marketing, my experience tells me the best way to start adopting 3D is to know what you want to get out of it. Obviously, it’s not rocket science. Still, many brands find it challenging enough to define an answer.

Many brands find it equally challenging to find a supplier that supports their needs after they have initially figured out what job needs to be done. For instance, some suppliers require you to ship your products to them, assemble a specific style guide (which can be difficult if you don’t have one), or make decisions on final design iterations, technical implementation, and more. Quality is another consideration. In the 3D space, some suppliers offer high-quality models, while others provide lower quality. You must decide how you want your products to be displayed and used. If unsure, consult a supplier for guidance.

One last thing – a friendly piece of advice.

I have found that conducting this planning work before the actual 3D implementation begins greatly enhances efficiency. However, it’s easy to forget that despite having answers to all the above, the human factor still plays a role. Internal stakeholders who aren’t involved in the transition work are more likely to slow down the process because they need to get up to speed with accurate information. My best advice is to involve all key stakeholders as early as possible in the process.

The stage is set – how to proceed.

These questions and inquiries coming from actual customers that I’ve helped go live with 3D, made me realize the need to put together this Buyer’s Guide for Footwear Brands. It thoroughly lists what you need to know to navigate this exciting 3D-landscape effectively. It is my hope that by reading this guide, you will become a more knowledgeable buyer who’s asking your supplier the right questions.

Buyer’s Guide for Footwear Brands: Navigating the 3D world

Understanding the features you need

The first step is identifying the value 3D will bring to your brand. Whether it’s creating high-quality product visuals, engaging customers with interactive 3D viewers, or offering life-like augmented reality (AR) experiences – understanding your objectives is key. 3D technology not only offers cost and time efficiencies, as seen in the use case of legacy brand GANT, but has also been shown to significantly boost conversion rates and reduce returns. Tailor your 3D strategy to specific use cases that align with your brand’s goals to maximize its impact.

Choosing your 3D content provider

The choice between agencies, SaaS platforms, and freelancers hinges on your project’s scope and long-term vision. Agencies and freelancers may suit one-off projects, whereas SaaS solutions cater to ongoing needs and tend to be more cost-effective over time. Ownership of the 3D files and the flexibility of usage rights could also influence your decision. Evaluate your brand’s requirements to select a partner that complements your strategy.

Considering product categories

While 3D visualization holds promise across various sectors, its application might resonate more with certain product categories. The key lies in choosing a partner versatile enough to adapt to your expanding needs, ensuring consistency across different product lines, and enhancing the customer experience universally. Another important consideration is the production type used by the supplier. Here’s a great advice from my colleague and Head of Production at Fibbl, Joakim Tennfors, that I always find very useful:

“Different suppliers use different production processes. When you’re choosing a supplier, consider what production type that suits your products. If you’re working with hard surfaced machined objects such as furniture, electronics and jewelry, manual 3D modeling is a good fit. If you work with organic material such as footwear, hats, bags and clothes, photogrammetry is preferable since you need high quality to make the 3D model look good, and photogrammetry excels in capturing organic materials better than any other technique.”

Assessing quality

The allure of 3D lies in its realism and detail. Brands must weigh the investment in high-quality 3D models against the desired outcome. High-fidelity 3D assets can replace traditional photography and offer customers an unparalleled online viewing experience, thereby elevating brand perception and engagement.

Cost-to-quality ratio

Assessing the quality of a 3D model can be tricky. I always consider the cost-to-quality ratio and ask the question: How much are you willing to invest? Think of 3D production as a broad spectrum with premium one-off models on one side, and mass-produced models on the other. Here’s a breakdown of the two:

Premium one-offs

These models are tailored, exclusive, and highly specialized. They are custom-crafted for specific, high-end projects. Their accessibility is limited due to their bespoke nature, targeted primarily towards large top-tier brands or events with substantial budgets. However, these models cannot be used outside the specific project, making them unsuitable or even impractical for e-commerce implementations requiring a large quantity, such as deploying 20,000 different 3D models across an equal number of product detail pages (PDPs).

A classic one-off. Nike Air Max 1 coming to life outside Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

Mass-produced 3D models

These models offer broad accessibility, affordability, and versatility. They are designed for widespread adoption and are available in larger quantities, such as the above example of 20,000 3D models for e-commerce. This accessibility enables smaller businesses and brands to benefit from implementing 3D technology.

The versatility of a 3D model

This is important to consider. A mass-produced 3D model has far more applications than just enhancing your e-commerce. In fact, you can utilize these models to create stunning CGI marketing, similar to Nike, but for a fraction of the cost. You can also use the same model for your in-house content production, completely replacing the need for traditional product photography, or pushing it in your email marketing or socials.

However, if you opt for a premium one-off you are less likely to have the same versatility as with a mass-produced 3D model. Premium one-offs simply don’t scale.
BUT (yes, it’s a capital letter kind of ‘but‘) – few suppliers in the world have the scalable capability to actually help you benefit from this versatility.

The 3D model used in this CGI ad from Zach Footwear is also used on the product detail page (PDP) for the product release spring/summer 24. The same model also serves as a product images, 3D viewer, virtual try-on, and video in email marketing.

Pricing structures

Adopting 3D technology involves navigating through diverse pricing models. From one-time projects demanding upfront investment to subscription-based SaaS offerings. Understanding the pricing landscape is crucial. Reflect on your brand’s needs, whether it’s project-based collaboration or a comprehensive solution, to make an informed decision.

Integration and implementation

Seamlessly incorporating 3D models into your digital platforms requires careful planning. Consider the technological framework needed to support various 3D experiences and ensure compatibility across devices and browsers. Uniformity in the customer experience, regardless of the product category, enhances usability and engagement.

The importance of customer success and support

Partnering with a provider that offers robust support can be pivotal, especially for brands new to 3D and AR technologies. Guidance through creative, technical, and operational processes ensures that you leverage 3D technology to its fullest potential. Effective support translates into successful adoption and utilization.

Learn from other brands – the 3D-First approach

The concept of 3D-First has evolved over time and originates from our experiences in onboarding new brands. Simply put, 3D-First means leading with a 3D experience on your e-commerce platform instead of traditional 2D imagery. Its impact has been profound, and many benefits have come from this unique approach. Among the most notable is the case of the London-based footwear brand Zach, which managed to reduce their returns by a stunning 29%.


Embracing 3D technology opens a new chapter in how brands interact with their audience online. By carefully considering the features, partnership model, product categories, quality, pricing, integration, and support, your brand can embark on this journey with confidence. The goal is not just to adopt 3D but to weave it into the fabric of your digital presence, enriching customer experiences and setting new benchmarks in e-commerce and beyond.

Want to explore the possibilities?