• AR
  • Augmented Reality
  • Fashion
  • Jewelry
  • Retail

Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail

Konstantin Mirin
4 Dec 2020
8 min
Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail

The global Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have stimulated the retail industry to make a shift towards digital shopping. To remain competitive and drive traffic to the stores, retailers need to switch to the omnichannel business model with multiple touchpoints for consumers and improve their engagement. Yet, offering good old online shopping or BOPIS (buy online and pick up in-store) options may not be enough. 

The last-year Neilsen global survey states that consumers are seeking augmented and virtual reality as the top technologies to assist them in their daily routine. And more than half of the respondents (51%)  indicated they want to use AR/VR to assess products. This desire of consumers leads to the new era in retail – the era of active AR technology usage, both outdoors and indoors.

How to implement AR, and what benefits can it offer to retailers? Let’s answer these questions, moving from the technical aspects of AR to the use cases and benefits it brings

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    Augmented Reality Shopping: Why and How to Do It

    Only a while ago, augmented and virtual reality was only seen from the entertaining perspective, but today, this tech made inroads in many business spheres. The retail sector is not an exception, which is proved by the statistics: nearly 75% of consumers already expect retailers to offer an AR experience. No surprise: today, we live in a highly gamified environment, and the consumers expect to see virtual components like digital images, visuals, or even sensations as a new layer of interaction. 

    To keep up with these trends and maintain customer engagement and satisfaction rates high, retailers need to take the challenge and embrace AR technology. Thankfully, market demands forced Apple and Google to build out their own AR developer platforms – ARKit and ARCore respectively. They are supposed to simplify the AR experience implementation and expand its usage in the retail sector exponentially. So what exactly do they offer?

    Apple ARKit and RealityKit

    ARKit and RealityKit offer advanced and creative tools to build augmented reality experiences. The software relies on data taken from the camera sensor, gyroscope, and accelerometer to detect and interpret users’ surroundings for AR visualization. Being announced at 2020 WWDC, the latest ARKit 4 can boast of having location anchors, face tracking, video materials, and improved object placement. All these new features can do a good deed in retail applications.

    Android ARCore

    ARCore can offer not only simple features like motion tracking, surface detection, light estimation, but also augmented images (custom responses to specific types of 2D shapes and objects) and multiplayer (simultaneous rendering of the same 3D objects on different devices). Unlike ARKit, which works on its own, ARCore is also compatible with Vuforia and offers ARcore Unity pairing. 

    Having reliable technology aboard means a lot, but, together with it, you need to know how to use it and what to use it for. Keep on reading to find it out. 

    Augmented Reality in Retail: How to Unlock Its Full Potential 

    With the advent of the smart shopping concept, which takes customer experience and satisfaction as the most important aspect, the need for AR integration has even grown. No wonder, since it has all prerequisites to make shopping engaging, personalized, and comfortable.

    Here are a few AR examples that can transform your retail brand engagement.

    Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 1

    In-store navigation

    Augmented reality in retail stores can be a good helper in improving navigation, especially when there is a huge space with many inventory items involved. Utilizing the AR-markers method allows locating users within a few inches of accuracy. As the name says, the method involves visual AR markers (wall posters or floor decals) which are usually seamlessly integrated into a store or mall interior. Customers only need to scan a poster at the entrance or elsewhere at the store to start a navigation session and choose the product or place they want to find. Once set, you’ll need to use your device camera and see directional prompts that will guide you to the chosen place, aisle, or even a product.

    Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 2

    AR product information

    Statistics show that nearly 60% of shoppers check product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores. To ease their decision-making process, you can offer an augmented reality app where shoppers would simply point their camera at the particular product and see all the required information overlayed on their device display. This feature can also be used to grow customers’ loyalty by offering additional rebates, coupons, or retail gamification features (gather stars and exchange them for discounts or some branding goods, etc).

    Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 3

    Virtual fitting room and try-before-buy 

    Before the pandemic times, about 30% of what has been bought online was returned. And today, for known reasons, a lot of buyers fancy online shopping to avoid crowded stores and malls. The growth of online purchases might be the reason for even the bigger number of returns for the items that might not fit or look as expected. 

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      Utilizing AR technology can help retailers to increase engagement with product pages and subsequent online sales. Great examples here are Sephora Virtual Makeup Try-on. Released back in 2016, it allowed users to try on different shades of eye shadow and lipstick using their device front-facing camera. The same technology can be also applied to clothes.

      For example, virtual fitting rooms or AR mirrors in stores can give shoppers a chance to try on clothes without actually doing it physically. All they need to do is to come to an AR-embedded mirror, which will scan the shopper’s posture and overlay their mirror reflection with a digital representation of their body in a certain outfit. This technology has already been successfully used by Timberland, Converse, and Shiseido brands. 

      Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 4www.converse.com

      Augmented reality furniture fitting

      Buying new furniture can become a headache since you need to think of so many details like size, color, style, and imagine how the new piece will fit into the interior. IKEA pioneered in this sector by introducing their AR retail app. It allowed users to scan a selected furniture item from a printed catalog and virtually place true-to-scale 3D models anywhere they want. The app automatically scales products, based on room dimensions, with 98 percent accuracy.

      Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 5
      Source: Courtesy Inter IKEA Systems

      Virtual Goods and commodities

      What if AR could not only help to buy physical goods but virtual objects, such as jewelry or art objects which do not have a physical counterpart? Retailers like Louis Vuitton have already opened the era of virtual merchandising by offering digital skins and other digital assets in the esports game League of Legends. One more luxury brand Gucci does not stay behind and offers high-end digital accessories and clothing to dress game avatars in an app called Genies Inc. Given that, this trend may soon become a new normal part of our daily lives. 

      Augmented Reality is The New Era In Retail - photo 6vogue.com

      What Benefits AR Can Offer

      Embedding augmented reality technology can bring advantages not only for consumers offering engaging experiences, but also for retailers by reducing operating costs, and the number of returns. The global market for VR and AR in retail is expected to reach 1.6 billion USD by 2025. Quite promising numbers, right? All of these make the implementation of AR a juicy contract to grow and increase financial prospects. 

      Here are major benefits augmented reality can offer to retailers:

      • Improve customer engagement

      Augmented reality shopping can enhance the way customers interact with a brand. It can help your brand to stand out from the crowd, attract users, and increase brand awareness.  Options to virtually try the product, personalized recommendations, retail gamification elements, new ways to explore the product  – these are just a few ways of how the AR application can help you grow customer engagement.

      • Offer new marketing methods

      Augmented reality can offer more engaging marketing and advertising methods compared to traditional ones. Virtual advertisements, especially personalized ones, can evoke user interest and so, have more chances that the ad will be opened and checked. For example, using consumers’ preferences to adapt marketing campaigns and product suggestions accordingly.

      • Grow customer satisfaction and increase conversion rates

      Happy customers always return. Introducing AR experience allows companies to significantly increase online conversion rates and, at the same time, reduce the shipping costs and return rates. Providing additional product information and personal customization options help to ensure customers will like the item they buy.

      Are You Ready to Change the Reality?

      Providing immense possibilities, augmented reality introduces a new era in the retail industry and changes the way brands interact with consumers. Acknowledging the benefits AR can offer to both consumers and retailers, the use of this technology will only grow. 

      To make it work right and be happy with results, you need to understand the value you’ll bring to your customers and the business goals you want to achieve. There is one more important aspect – the performance of your AR solution. It should be well-shaped and work flawlessly to satisfy users and grow their willingness to buy. Hence, to make applying AR worth the cost, choose a reliable, experienced partner, who can transform your business goals and ideas into your brand augmented reality application. 

      Enforce The Power Of AR Tech
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