Whether we like it or not, the evolution and use of consumer technology continues to impact how consumers engage with brands and make purchases. Think about your smartphone, for example, who would have thought 15 years ago that we’d be using it to make both online and in-store purchases? While much of the technology consumers use every day was destined for the retail world eventually, the COVID-19 pandemic played a critical role in catalyzing the use of many technologies.
One technology that I think is particularly interesting is augmented reality. While virtual reality focuses on immersing you in a completely digital world, augmented reality is designed to bring digital elements into your physical world. This creates opportunities for in-store and online customer experiences alike, enabling customers to better engage with brands. And in fact, according to Shopify, brands that use augmented reality have experienced close to a 200% increase in retail conversion rates. Here are just a few examples of how augmented reality can benefit retailers and their customers:
Augmented Reality in eCommerce
When it comes to augmented reality in the home, Ikea has been one of the biggest innovators for their eCommerce experience. As you can see in the video below, using their app, customers can browse the Ikea catalogue, then using the camera on your mobile device, use augmented reality to show you what your room would look like with that piece of furniture in it. While this is especially impactful for virtual furniture sales, it could be used for any product set. For example, it could be used to show you what watch looked like on your wrist or shoes on your feet, like you’d see in Kohl’s AR Virtual Closet. This has even been used by cosmetic companies to help customers find the right product shades and even suggest other products that might go with what customers already planned on purchasing. In fact, Ulta saw engagement increase seven-fold with their GLAMLab app.
The true value of this is part of what makes in-store shopping so great – it allows you to experience and inspect products and how they impact you without needing to leave the home.
Augmented Reality in the Store
This is where I find the technology gets particularly interesting. While the in-store customer experience is already centered around customers being able to look, feel and try on products, augmented reality creates the opportunity to blend the digital and physical worlds for a more complete experience. One great use case in particular is to allow customers to use their smartphone or a display camera and screen to learn more details about a product or suggest complementary items to buy with it. A great example of this LEGO’s digital box augmented reality solution that allows kids to view a 3D model of a completed set. Rather than just relying on static, 2D images on the box, they’re able to see the set they’re interested in come to life.
Another example I liked was with digital smart mirrors. Rather than changing the customer’s experience, smart mirrors can be used to provide additional product options, availability and accessories that help a customer build a complete outfit. In certain instances, they can even use the mirrors to complete an eCommerce purchase and have the additional items shipped to their home.
As consumers get more comfortable with advancing technology, merchants across every industry should be looking to see how these solutions can benefit their business and create a more impactful customer experience. Augmented reality provides opportunities for brands to better engage with their customers in a more meaningful way, regardless of whether they’re online or in store. I’ll be curious to see how merchants continue to leverage augmented reality to create these customer experiences.
Interested in learning more about how you can provide a more seamless customer experience? I would be happy to chat!
Ryan Ahern is Head of Retail Solutions & Support at Ingenico, North America