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A New Shopping Dimension: Ace Hardware Teams with Epigraph for glTF-based 3D WebAR Experiences

WebAR visualization drives a 400% increase in conversion rates, a 500% increase in customer engagement, and a major reduction in return rates.

Despite its convenience, online shopping for hardware products and home goods lacks many of the charms of the physical, in-person shopping experience. When you see a product with your own eyes, you can more readily imagine what it looks like in your living room, garage, backyard, or wherever you need it. This visualization process plays a highly influential role in consumer purchasing decisions.

In an effort to replicate that physical experience in the digital shopping world, Ace Hardware, the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the world, partnered with Epigraph, a software company specializing in augmented reality (AR), 3D configurators, and other interactive content for product marketing. After first working with a number of individual hardware brands on 3D AR product visualizations for their own brand websites, Epigraph then began building out a full WebAR visualization solution for all carried brands and applicable products for

Given the vast Ace catalog of disparate products, in all different shapes, sizes, and textures, from all different providers, as well as the importance of keeping the shopping experience simple, swift, and seamless, Epigraph faced a number of challenges in the development of their solution.

This case study details the role played by the Khronos® Group’s glTF™ open standard for 3D visualization in helping Epigraph meet those challenges and deliver Ace customers a WebAR shopping experience that has transformed the way the hardware giant does business.


Though online shopping has long been a popular option for many consumers, it had yet to really take hold in the hardware and home goods industry until recent years. Prompted in no small part by the pandemic closing retailers’ doors, consumers began to browse sellers’ online inventories more seriously, thereby creating an urgency for conglomerates like Ace to make that experience as productive as possible through tools like augmented reality.

That’s where Epigraph comes in. Ace previously lacked sophisticated 3D visualization solutions for customers on their website, but when retailers were forced to close their doors, AR was there to help give online shoppers an in-store experience.

Augmented reality (AR) lets users view, interact and test products in their own space, so users end up with an emotional connection to that object having seen it in their room in 3D. However, developing and integrating an AR solution into the Ace website presented a number of obstacles. Authentically representing products with a lot of detail requires high quality textures that can take up a lot of memory.

Another challenge was the inclusion of multiple assets in a single product offering, like a furniture set with multiple patio chairs. Many brands did not have 3D models of their products, so Epigraph frequently had to build those from scratch. Web security was another hurdle to overcome, as Epigraph had to make sure that content management infrastructure was robust and secure up to Ace information security team standards. A further challenge was the design of the user interface for the AR tool, as some of Ace’s audience might not be familiar with how to use this (relatively) novel technology.


Epigraph for glTF-based 3D WebAR Experiences
click to view larger image

Starting with its proprietary technology stack for production and content management, Epigraph attacked each of its primary engineering challenges using the glTF open standard 3D asset format established and managed by the Khronos Group.

Epigraph has relied on glTF since its founding. All major 3D Digital Content Creation (DCC) tools import and export glTF as it has emerged as the leading standard 3D asset format for the web. As well as being extremely well supported across the industry, glTF enables optimizations to match a wide variety of client devices without sacrificing visual fidelity. For example, glTF’s support for Draco geometry compression enabled glTF files to be reduced to half their original size or less, without compromising quality.

The flexibility of the glTF standard enabled Epigraph to be highly creative with optimizing asset files for optimal rendering and display of products. For larger products requiring more rendered pixels, glTF enabled Epigraph to use tiled-texture maps with scaled UVs to tile small patterns such as fabric across large surfaces to achieve visual detail without requiring high-resolution textures or additional memory.

In addition, the KHR Materials Sheen feature was crucial in achieving a high level of visual realism for textile products. For product SKUs with several variants, such as a patio furniture set, glTF’s object-instancing enabled significant savings on file size and memory by eliminating the need to load multiple copies of a product – by simply loading the first and referencing that original as many times as needed.

In a practical sense, the ability to view an item “in your space” gives users the ability to understand sizing for space planning and such, but there is more to it than that. Something about seeing an object in 3D seems to create an emotional attachment to ownership, which results in an increased propensity to purchase, post-AR engagement.


Epigraph began its partnership with Ace by setting up a pilot program with EGO lawn equipment and Weber grills. After only a six-month trial period, Ace opened up access to Epigraph's product to all brands and products on The platform now powers all of Ace Hardware’s 3D experiences, including WebAR, 3D viewers, 3D Product Tours, and 3D Configurators, with additional plans to launch in-store 3D experiences later this year and potential for creating AR rooms.

According to internal company metrics, these tools have led to outstanding results, including a 405% increase in conversion rate lift for those who engage with the Epigraph solutions, as well as over a 500% increase in session duration for those who use the tools.

Beyond the direct impact on revenues provided by these rises, longer site sessions lead to better SEO for Ace, which in turn reduces their overall media costs. Product return rates among those who use the Epigraph tools also plummeted dramatically, since consumers are more likely to be happy with their purchase when they’ve had the opportunity to visualize it in their space before buying.

“Epigraph’s technology has delivered a significant improvement in both engagement and performance for Ace vendors – our customers really love it,” said Brian Kritzberg, Ace Hardware’s Digital Merchandising Manager. “We look forward to onboarding new vendors to the program and growing our metaverse footprint in the process.”

Retailers looking to join the conversation about scaling 3D in their own eCommerce applications are invited to join the 3D Commerce Working Group at Khronos. Learn more at or email [email protected].