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Augmented Reality in eCommerce And The Future of Retail

Have you ever seen a Shetland Pony in your bedroom before?

I know it sounds like a ridiculous question, and your answer is almost certainly a “no,”—but with Google's 3D and augmented Reality search functionality, you can come close to experiencing it.

See how this works in action: https://youtu.be/UVT3l7dpTRs

Here's the premise: you search for an animal or an object, and the search engine provides you with information about that query and offers you a ‘View in 3D' option. 

You press this button, and voila, that item appears on your screen as a 3D model as if it's standing before you! It's perfectly life-size, has realistic animations, and opens up a new way of viewing the world.

This, at a basic level, is what Augmented Reality is. Beyond simply being a cool new feature of Google search, it's also touted by some as ‘revolutionizing' the eCommerce industry.

Want to learn more?

You've come to the right place—this article will explain what Augmented Reality is, how it is disrupting the retail industry as we know it, and several use cases that you may want to check out. Let's dive in!

Understanding augmented Reality in ecommerce

Augmented Reality Definition: Augmented Reality, or AR for short, is a technology that blends the digital world with real life. It works by using your device's camera to record what's in front of you and then overlaying digital images onto it right there in real-time.  

Imagine seeing how that new sofa would look in your living room before buying it or trying different makeup shades without stepping into a store. That's the magic of Augmented Reality in e-commerce!

And it's not just magic for customers, but brands too, with research by Shopify and Rebecca Minkoff suggesting many benefits of using 3D models in retail, such as:

  • There is a 44% higher likelihood of a customer adding an item to a cart.
  • A 27% higher probability of an order being placed.

Why? From a technological standpoint, letting customers interact with 3D representations of items reduces the “fear of the unknown” that often hinders a customer's purchase decision. So, bridging this gap between real life and the virtual world could spur a purchase that would not have previously been made.

But that's not the only benefit of AR in ecommerce, and we'll explore several unique advantages of the tech in the following section.

Augmented Reality's Impact on ecommerce

Using platforms like Apple's RealityKit or Google's ARCore, eCommerce retailers can integrate AR functionality into their websites or apps more efficiently than ever. Let's explore what these sorts of tools are truly capable of:

Enhanced product visualization

Traditional eCommerce relies on images and descriptions to convey a product's appearance. This is helpful as a rough guide but leaves much to be desired.

With AR, customers can now interact with the virtual product, rotate it, zoom in, and examine every detail up close. You can see how that dress would look on your body, how those sunglasses would suit your face shape, or even how that new chair would fit your existing decor. No more guessing or imagining; Augmented Reality brings products to life right before you.

Bridged the gap between online and in-store shopping

Online shopping is great for convenience but lacks the authenticity of going to a store in person.

Augmented Reality gives you the best of both worlds—enabling real-time interaction with products without leaving the comfort of your home. This model works particularly well for catalog retailers, where you may not be able to get a good look at the product in person anyway.

For instance, British catalog retailer Argos launched a specific AR shopping app for this purpose—with customizable options to see how products look in different colors/patterns.

And let's not forget the power of AR in attracting new clients, especially those who may have limitations that prevent them from physically shopping. For instance, the tech could readily help people in wheelchairs or those staying home due to health conditions. 

Reduces returns and improves customer satisfaction

Augmented Reality offers customers a remote form of “try before you buy.”

In theory, this should reduce the chance of an ill-fitting or unsuitable purchase, thus reducing the rate at which products are returned. Not only does this save on your eCommerce business's overheads, but it'll also boost your customers' confidence that they won't experience buyer's remorse when the product arrives.

Boosts conversion rates and sales with AR integration

These factors combined present AR as an exciting technology that creates an engaging shopping experience for customers from the comfort of their couch.

By increasing consumer confidence, retailers can enjoy a range of benefits:

  • Boosted sales conversion rates
  • Increased time spent on your site/app
  • Reduced cart abandonment
  • Standout brand differentiation
  • Positive reviews and customer loyalty

It would be best to track these key performance indicators with robust retail ERP software to get the most out of your AR integrations. Keeping all your critical data in one integrated system makes it easy to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns, which will help you decide if AR is worth expanding into other sales or marketing areas.

Augmented reality use cases in ecommerce

By now, you should have a good idea of the benefits of Augmented Reality tech, but let's explore some exciting use cases that eCommerce businesses are adopting by the day:

Virtual try-on for fashion and accessories

Fashion websites are adding AR functionality to their mobile app or site to allow customers to visualize the sizing and appearance of clothing, eyewear, and accessories.

Further, with “personalized try-on” features, the item can appear on your body, such as seeing a watch on your wrist, ensuring a perfect fit and style match before making a purchase.

Ar-enabled furniture and home decor visualization

Shoppers could also use AR apps to see how furniture and home decor items will look in their living spaces.

For instance, imagine a furniture store that lets users virtually place sofas, tables, and lamps in their rooms to visualize how they fit and complement the existing decor. Forget measuring your room before shopping for a perfectly sized new desk—Augmented Reality does the hard part for you! 

AR-driven beauty and makeup experiences

Some beauty brands offer AR-powered makeup try-ons, enabling customers to apply cosmetic products on their faces virtually.

Users can experiment with various lipsticks, eyeshadows, and foundations before purchasing. These tools make sharing a new look with friends much more accessible, increasing the effectiveness of social media and awareness campaigns. 

Interactive product demonstrations and tutorials

E-commerce platforms also leverage AR to present product demonstrations and tutorials in a more immersive format. For example, a DIY retailer could offer AR-guided instructions on assembling furniture or installing home appliances, enhancing customer understanding and confidence in their products.

AR for customized and personalized products

Brands offer AR-based customization options for commonly customizable products, such as fashion or gifts.

Customers can use AR interfaces to personalize colors, patterns, and engravings, resulting in unique and tailor-made items. For instance, a shoe retailer allows users to design custom sneakers through an AR application.

Of course, building these sorts of advanced tools from scratch can be a big undertaking. Online retailers may want to check out tools such as Shopify Analytics, Sage eCommerce ERP, or Salesforce Commerce Cloud for cost-effective access to customer data and product and sales analytics—a necessity for creating customizable products. 

The Future of Virtual Shopping

The future of shopping is not confined to the tangible; it's an immersive journey where Augmented Reality (AR) plays the role of a guide, navigating through the realms of possibility and imagination. Imagine walking through a virtual store where every product can be visualized in your space, every color can be tested on your skin, and every size can be tried on your body without stepping out of your home. AR doesn't just offer a glimpse into the future; it crafts a narrative where every product tells a story, every visualization builds a connection, and every purchase is a step into the future of retail.

The Psychological Impact of AR in E-commerce

Have you ever pondered the psychological threads that weave through the tapestry of AR in e-commerce? It's a digital embrace that alleviates the fear of the unknown, providing a comforting assurance through visual certainty. When customers can interact with products in a virtual space, it diminishes the barriers of doubt and apprehension, crafting a narrative where trust is built not on assumptions but interactive experiences. The psychological impact of AR is profound, intertwining the threads of confidence, clarity, and assurance into the customer journey, crafting a story where every interaction is a step towards confident purchasing.

AR: A Symphony of Technology and Customer Experience

AR in e-commerce is like a symphony, where technology and customer experience harmonize to create a melody that resonates with the evolving needs of the digital consumer. It's a melody that sings the tales of enhanced product visualization, bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping and reducing the echoes of uncertainty often accompanying online purchases. AR orchestrates a customer journey where every note is an interactive experience, every chord is a visual assurance, and every symphony is a story of a brand's commitment to delivering products and experiences that linger in the customer's memory.

Crafting Personalized Experiences with AR

In the canvas of e-commerce, AR paints a picture where personalization and customization are not just features but essential threads that weave through the customer journey. It's a picture where customers can tailor their experiences, from customizing products to visualizing them in their own space, crafting a narrative that is uniquely their own. AR doesn't just offer personalization; it provides a palette where customers can paint their own stories, creating experiences that are not just personalized but are also reflections of their desires, needs, and aspirations.

AR: The New Horizon in E-commerce

As we sail through the digital waves of e-commerce, AR emerges as the new horizon, promising uncharted territories of customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty. It's a horizon where the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds blur, crafting a space where customers can seamlessly navigate through the aisles of virtual and tangible experiences. AR is not just a technology; it's a compass, guiding brands and customers toward a future where shopping is not just a transaction but an immersive journey that transcends the boundaries of Reality and virtuality.

Augmented Reality: The right choice for you?

To wrap up, more and more brands are using AR to let customers “try before they buy,” making shopping a more exciting and interactive experience. While Augmented Reality tech won't be the right solution for every business, some may argue that brands that fail to adopt the tech will be left behind compared to competitors that embrace it.

So, what do you think? Will you be using AR technology or other new trends in eCommerce to drive growth in your ecommerce business? In any case, AR is an exciting new tech that's worth monitoring in the coming months to see how it develops.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is AR shopping?
AR shopping lets customers view an object wherever in the world they are. They can see what it would look like in the palm of their hand without paying for it or even traveling to their closest shop. They could swap the product for different colors or materials at the click of a button or compare it with an alternative.

How is AR helping retailers?
Augmented Reality is known as a “disruptive tech” in the retail space. AR in retail offers customers new ways to interact with products, increasing the likelihood of a purchase decision and, ultimately, increasing sales.

What is AR versus VR?
AR uses your device's camera to record your surroundings. From here, 3D digital objects are superimposed, allowing your customers to see those items on their devices as if they were in front of them.

On the other hand, VR intends to immerse your customers in an entirely virtual world (or, as some would call it, shopping in the metaverse). Typically, this is achieved by wearing a VR headset with a wide field-of-view screen inside.

While AR and VR shopping apps can be compatible with the same devices, it's important to note that VR is less accessible to the average consumer due to the cost of VR headsets.

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