The International Journal of Human-comuputer interaction published a research paper on product representation (issue 25(4), p. 243–281, 2009). The authors Ant Ozok and Komiodi conducted the research on 20 college-age online shoppers and determined their preferences and satisfaction concerning 2D, 3D low-interaction (basic: rotate, different angles) and 3D high-interaction (more advanced: rotate, different angles, zooming, animations) representations of the products in the webshop.
From the article:
Currently, e-commerce sites generally mimic the characteristics of a catalog by using 2D images along with some textual information. However, providing a list of features and a simple sketch of the custom product is often insufficient for the customer to make decisions based on aesthetic judgments (Segura, Arizkuren, Aranburu, & Telleria, 2005). There is a growing interest in utilizing the increased computing power to more accurately represent real-world shopping environments.
It can be argued that adding 3D and highly interactive displays can increase user satisfaction and engagement with the e-commerce site.
The results of this study indicate that participants found both forms of 3D representations (low and high) to carry more information, are more accurate, easier and more fun to use and have more detail compared to 2D presentations. Ozok and Komiodi conclude that 3D representations in general result in a higher satisfaction for online shoppers.
Although higher customer satisfaction is obviously a good thing, the study doesn't show whether adding 3D to a shop also leads to higher conversion rates. I think I would be nice to see an A/B study on what the effect of 3D product representation is on the conversion rate in webshops. Do you have (plans for) 3D product representations in your (clients) webshop?
P.S.: If you're interested in the article, send me a tweet with your e-mail address and I'll e-mail you a copy.