Revolution in Retail: How AR Is Changing The Way Customers Shop

Rebekah Carter

The impact of augmented reality on the retail marketplace

Revolution in Retail: How AR Is Changing The Way Customers Shop

Augmented Reality or “AR” is quickly emerging as a crucial feature of the modern retail world. During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, companies started to search for immersive ways to connect with their customers outside of the standard high street. Extended reality could be the solution to our increasingly digital consumer journey.

Unlike VR, augmented reality expands on the features of the existing world, by adding computer-generated information and images to a live view of the real-world environment. Already, some retailers are beginning to explore what this technology might mean to the future of the way that consumers experience and discover products.

Trying Before You Buy with AR

One of the biggest benefits of AR in the retail environment, is that it gives consumers a unique opportunity to try products on, without visiting a store in person.

The Lacoste AR app, for instance, allows users to try on shoes virtually, reducing hygiene issues and making purchasing decisions easier online. Sephora created an AR app to show customers how certain makeup products might look on their faces. As consumers become more comfortable with the idea of shopping via mobile, we’ll likely see a rise in mobile tools that enable AR-enhanced shopping.

Customers can even step into virtual fitting rooms if they don’t have the time to try something on in the store. For instance, Topshop partnered with the AR Door and Kinect companies to create a virtual fitting room for Moscow customers. Solutions like this could become increasingly compelling in an environment where customer hygiene is more crucial than ever.

Improving Buyer Decision Making

The concept of being able to try solutions before you buy them is an appealing one to customers that might otherwise struggle to make confident decisions in the digital world. However, it also appeals to us on the high-street too. For instance, have you ever wondered if a piece of furniture you see in a showroom would really go with your furniture back home?

With an AR app, you can try that furniture out in your home environment and see exactly what it might look like, without running the risk of a clash. There’s even the opportunity for AR to reduce the number of returns that consumers make on a regular basis. Studies suggest that around 30% of all products ordered online are ultimately returned.

In the retail landscaper, digital or otherwise, returns can be a serious source of stress. However, with AR solutions, your customers can better visualize products in real-time, and make informed decisions that reduce their risk of returning something. Studies show that 76% of customers would probably purchase more items if they had a “try before you buy” option available. This shows how valuable the promise of informed decision making really is.

Going Beyond the Shopping Experience

It’s fair to say that AR’s biggest impact in the retail environment centres around the customer experience. However, companies are also beginning to see the benefits of extended realities for marketing and branding purposes too. For instance, the Airwalk company used a combination of AR technology and geolocation signals to create a special experience recently.

The company created a “pop up shop” that would promote the limited-edition relaunch of one of their shoes. To purchase the shoe, the consumers needed to download an Airwalk app and visit a virtual pop-up shop location, which they could interact with through AR. This might sound like just a novelty at first, but it actually led to $5 million in earned media. What’s more, the Airwalk eCommerce store celebrated its busiest weekend ever as a result.

AR opens the door for companies to think more carefully about the way they’re interacting with their audience, and the unique experiences they can deliver in retail.

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