Images instead of photos – how CGI is revolutionising e-commerce

Images instead of photos – how CGI is revolutionising e-commerce

7/31/2018 Editor Anne Remy Reading time: 3 Minutes

It´s pretty simple: there are photos – and then there are images that look like photos, no doubt about that. Not only at first glance but also when you look at them more closely. For instance:

Fake? No. Magic? Neither. CGI – Computer Generated Imagery – is behind all of this. This involves images that are created with special data on a computer and not, as it was common for decades, by means of conventional photography.

CGI is one of the hot topics in e-commerce and is becoming increasingly important today and for the future – and for good reason: if we consider that an e-commerce company such as OTTO currently offers around 2.8 million items in its online shop we realise how much effort is required to make professional photos of these products in order to present expressive product images to customers browsing the online shop. You´d have to lug these 2.8 million items into a studio or to picturesque locations around the world, set up a backdrop, hire a photographer with good equipment, take at least 25 pictures of each product from various different angles, edit them and select the best ones. And afterwards you´d have to dismantle, pack and cart everything away 2.8 million times. CGI makes this procedure just a little easier.

“If we offer a sofa in three sizes and eight colours, for example, and half a year later perhaps add four more colour shades, by means of CGI we can enable the customer, quickly and without much effort, to view all variations in the exact shade and any conceivable surface with a wide variety of backgrounds”, says Tobias Nientiedt, Head of OTTO´s CGI Content Lab. “CGI provides boundless flexibility which helps us overcome the limits of photography, also because we can edit product images at any time and modify them in terms of colour and size. This saves time and above all money.”

This may sound like a cross between miracle and revolution, but in fact it’s essentially based on so-called CAD data. As soon as these data are available, Tobias and his team work more or less like a traditional manufacturer. “We build an armchair, for example, in the same way – just digitally,” explains Tobias.
To achieve this, the team first creates a digital twin based on the article’s construction data. This twin is an exact replica of the original product and can be visualised and edited in 3D at any time. Colour and pattern, size, surface, structure and background – CGI you can do things which were simply not possible until just recently. Augmented Reality is, incidentally, among them.

This is the exact reason why this topic will play an even more important role in e-commerce in future: OTTO is currently significantly expanding its CGI expertise, investing €2.6 million in an internal CGI database and has created seven additional jobs in this area. Medium-term, the team will continue to grow. Its goal is to display at least 70 percent of the entire furniture assortment and 35 percent of all items in Houseware & Home Textiles through CGI by the end of the fiscal year 2022, and also to continue to drive the Augmented Reality project forward. “In collaboration with Apple and Google, we have just conceived an app which enables our customers to test the effect of a piece of furniture within their own four walls even before purchasing it,” explains Tobias. What most people don´t know is that CGI provides the data foundation for Augmented Reality, and this doubles the potential to drive e-commerce forward. “That´s exactly what we´re banking on”, says Tobias.

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