Augmented Reality (AR) is set to become bigger and better than its more hyped cousin, Virtual Reality, as it does not rely on specialist equipment. Instead using tools that we use all day, every day – the smartphone and the tablet.
Augmented Reality will allow internet shopper to buy with confidence, creating less returns and a better customer experience. Set to be the biggest development in retail since the development of online shopping itself, make sure that you’re in-the-know about Augmented Reality and the changes that are coming in the world of online retail…
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is a technology that combines real life imagery with digital information. It shows the user’s real-life, present environment with integrated digital images and animations overlaid on top.
The term ‘Augmented Reality’ was coined in 1990 by Boeing researcher, Thomas Caudell, and one of the first commercial applications of AR was the yellow ‘first down’ line that started to appear on televised football games in 1998. Google glass and Pokemon Go are some of the current, popular AR products, and the technology is being introduced into many other industries such as healthcare, public safety, gas and oil, tourism and marketing.
The future of Augmented Reality in our everyday lives is a certainty, so how can businesses successfully create Augmented Reality online retail opportunities as well as using Augmented Reality in retail environments?
Augmented Reality and eCommerce
One of the biggest hurdles for an eCommerce agency is to overcome customer’s uncertainty about making a purchase. Online shopping has many pros, such as its convenience, however this comes with a lack of confidence that can greatly affects sales. AR presents some exciting new opportunities to combat the ‘unknown’ in eCommerce by allowing customers to interact with and view the product in a much more in depth way than in traditional eCommerce. AR could provide users with the ‘touch-and-feel’ experience of in-store shopping – with the reassurance of knowing that it suits the user or the user’s home – all from the comfort and convenience of their own home.
Online shopping has a surprisingly low conversion rate at just 2-4%, which is paltry when compared to in-store conversion rates between 20% and 40%. However, with AR-based shopping, eCommerce might just outperform in-store shopping, as users can access the detailed information about the product, such as dimensions, reviews, related products and the price, whilst simultaneously looking at the 3D rendering of the actual product in situ – and all via their smartphone.
For retailers, augmented commerce should become a real priority in their business strategy, as it will allow them to offer their customers a more personal and interactive – and therefore valuable – experience. Retailers should also focus on providing geo-relevant information and content, such as offers, easy purchase solutions, customer service and targeted rewards to work alongside the AR.
Apple’s ARKit software – part of the iOS 11 upgrade – now allows third-party developers more access to creating and adding AR functionality to their mobile apps. As more and more iPhone users upgrade to iOS 11 or purchase the new iPhone X, it means that by the end of 2018 there will be over 600 million Apple devices will have access to advanced AR.
Android is also launching their version, called ARCore, seeing another 100 million users will have access to AR come the end of this year. In addition to this, Facebook’s Camera Effects platform will see the total user base for AR rise to one billion people at the end of 2018.
Facebook and Snap are going head to head to be the most dominant mobile AR brand advertising platform. Snapchat’s offering – 3D World Lenses – offers advertisers the ability to add 3D objects and 3D emojis into an image, which can then be distributed to their target audience – segmented by age, gender, interest etc. The recent release of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ used Snapchat’s new 3D World Lens to create lenses that featured Blade Runner’s ‘Spinner’ car as part of their social media ad campaign.
But What Does This Mean?
All of this goes to prove that AR is not just a fun feature for gamers. With some of the planet’s biggest tech companies investing, it’s going to become more and more part of our lives.
The cost of entry is still relatively low, and the potential benefits of including AR in your business are plentiful, making it a must in your forward-thinking strategies. Augmented reality has already been seen to add more value in getting shoppers to engage on retailer’s mobile platforms, as well as driving in-store traffic, and so as eCommerce evolves, so do the consumers expectations of the online experience.
Full and detailed product descriptions, reviews and 360-degree photographs will no longer suffice in the AR landscape, as shoppers will want to test and visualise products before committing to a purchase. Additionally, a survey by Retail Perceptions found that 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer AR over stores that don’t, a number which will only increase as AR becomes more commonplace.
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Decorating a home will be made easier with AR allowing users to see large items in the room, checking the dimensions as well as the look and feel, before purchasing. AR is also set to make waves in the clothing and makeup sectors, where it will be possible to see how items fit or how a colour works on you before deciding to buy it, reducing the number of returns and increasing the consumer’s enjoyment of the purchase. AR could even be used to allow customers to see how complex products function.
Augmented Reality and Online Shopping
It is important to make augmented reality based shopping tools useful, relevant and value-adding to your brand and product. It may not be useful to see every type of object in an AR room setting, however in the search for a sofa, bed, wardrobe or even lamp then seeing it in its environment is extremely beneficial to the consumer. Examples of AR show different models of a lamp or other room decor superimposed atop a real-world dresser, with the digital objects shown to scale, to help the user determine how those items might look within the space, and to facilitate a potential purchase.
Augmented Reality eCommerce can also be a very useful tool to use for products that come in a range of colours, sizes and styles, as the AR allows consumers to properly assess each of these options within the environment of their home. This also works as a way for stores to reduce their costs as they don’t have to have one of each variant on display. AR will also allow consumers to feel that they have interacted with the product before purchasing, which overcomes an issue that is present in both in-store and online shopping. Audi has created a virtual manual using AR to provide the owner with detailed information about the workings of the car – from locating the coolant reservoir to the function of each individual button on the dashboard.
AR is a way to capitalise on our current obsession with the smartphone. As more and more of us turn to eCommerce it has become a vital part of the retail landscape, but studies have also shown that we continue to use our smartphones even when in-store. Retail consumers regularly turn to their mobile devices to support their in-store decisions – with two thirds of shoppers using their smartphone in this way. Nearly half of these respondents said that they use their phone to back up their in-store choices on a frequent basis, which was more prevalent in the younger generations, although not by a huge margin.
To capitalise on our reliance on the smartphone, grocery stores are introducing technologies that will transform the shopping experience; shoppers can scan the aisles with their smartphone cameras – or smart glasses – to quickly identify products that are on sale, or that fit their personal dietary requirements. Google’s Project Tango takes this further, offering customers a personalised 3D map of the store to help shoppers quickly find the specific items that they are looking for. In America, Walgreens is piloting Google’s technology to also offer product information and promotions that seem to pop out of the shelves as customers move around the store.
Augmented Reality in retail environments presents a wonderful opportunity to bring product labels, shop windows and catalog images to life in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago. Reaching customers in a meaningful, fun and on-brand way has become difficult by traditional means, so innovation in this field should see good returns.
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Augmented eCommerce Examples
At the start of November, Amazon introduced their new feature called AR View, which lets their customers visualise the online products in their own living space using their smartphone. AR View features on Amazon’s iOS shopping app, and is activated by clicking on the camera icon in the app, and then selecting from the thousands of products across each of their categories, such as furniture, kitchen ware and home decor.
Fashion retailers including Topshop, De Beers and Converse are also using AR to allow their customers to virtually try on their items. From clothes to shoes to fine jewellery, augmented eCommerce can work for every item, and in every price range – particularly as more and more people, especially in the younger generation, are willing to make large and expensive purchases online.
Make up brands, Shiseido, Burberry Beauty Box and Sephora have also implemented AR to help their shoppers purchase cosmetics online. Referred to as the ‘magic mirror’ this type of AR retail makes consumers feel that they have tried the product in detail before deciding to buy. Volvo, the car manufacturer has launched its AR X-ray app that lets customers view their range of cars on an iPad in order to choose the different finishes, to learn about each of the features and even to go for a test ride…
It seems that Augmented Reality will become part of our everyday lives when it comes to interiors, furniture and design…Amikasa, is an app that uses AR to design your dream interiors using real furniture from real brands. Users of the Amikasa app can choose items of furniture, personalise these items, changing the colour, shapes and size, and then to view it as if it is actually in the room.
Then it is also possible to purchase these items through the app, making designing a new home a quicker and easier process that can be completed in just one app. Tap Painter uses AR to allow you to see what a room will look like in different paint colours from a wide selection of brands, helping you to decide which colour to paint your walls. The app also lets you enter paint swatch colour codes to visualise your room in a colour you had previously seen.
Ikea Augmented Reality Case Study
Ikea launched their AR app in 2014 as a way to allow consumers to visualise items from the Ikea catalogue within their own home. App users simply had to place the Ikea catalogue in their space, activate the app and they could see a selection of 90 items including virtual sofas, bookcases, beds or another item in their real-life environment. Ikea explained that,
“many of [our] customers suffer from ‘square peg, round hole syndrome’. 14% of customers say they’ve bought the wrong-sized furniture for their rooms and over 70% say they don’t really know how big their own homes are.”
AR is the perfect solution for Ikea, as their store are often based outside of the town centre, many of their products come in a range of sizes, colours or configurations, and as they have suggested, many people have an impaired sense of spatial awareness when it comes to buying furniture. The app lets customers explore a room in 360-degrees or 180-degrees, as well as vertically and horizontally.
The app also features 3D models, image galleries and videos, and the AR app sits alongside Ikea’s separate shopping app, which allows customers to check stock availability, create shopping lists and access a store map.
Ms Marston, Product Public Relations Manager at Ikea explained that,
“We know that the idea of buying furniture can be daunting for some people, and sometimes it’s a barrier for them being able to make a decision…Some people are afraid that they’re going to make the wrong color choice or the style might not look good with the other styles that they’re trying to mix and match it with or just not look good in that space, so they may not buy it, and that’s unfortunate because maybe it’s exactly what they need. So we think that this augmented reality feature may be a solution for some people to really help them with that buying decision in the process.”
Augmented Reality eCommerce Solutions
There is a wide range of AR solutions currently on the market, so if you are considering adding Augmented Reality to your business strategy – and you should be! – then read on for a look into some of the available options…
Layar was established in 2009, quickly becoming a global leader in the world of AR. The BBC News , The New York Times and The Washington Post have recognised Layar’s brilliant features and achievements in its field. Layar has an open development platform which has attracted people from all over the world to create their AR content from all over the world, and many big brands use their services to improve their business.
Many of their most successful case studies are in bringing an interactive twist to print publications such as Kampioen (the 4th largest magazine in Europe), Nissan’s interactive print campaign in 12 Canadian newspapers and Glacier Media’s interactive improvements to 12 of their daily and weekly newspapers.
Blippar enables retailers to reach their consumers through outdoor ads, billboards, newspapers etc. via their mobile AR and image recognition platform. Blippar unlocks digital content to bring physical objects to life, and the company’s work has also been heavily featured in publications including The Telegraph, Business Insider and Forbes.
Shaping the way we connect with the world, Blippar has worked with Oreo to create an election to decide the next flavour of Oreo; collaborating with Shortlist Magazine, Blippar created a ‘blippable’ cover, that gave users instant access to trailers, competitions and more; Heineken used Blippar to create a scannable label that gave consumers access to information, stories and interactive opportunities.
Augment was established in 2011 as an enterprise AR platform that offers solutions across sales, marketing, design and eCommerce. Augment aims to merge the physical and virtual experiences, which it has done to much acclaim. The company, Captured Dimensions, used Augment’s technology to mix 3D scanning and AR for a music group, which resulted in fans being able to scan the album cover to see a 3D member of the band appear before them… Augment also worked with Turnstangen.de to enhance their online sales experience by allowing consumers to select items and to see them in their home environment through AR.
Total Immersion is the global leader in ‘try-on’ AR for eCommerce, mobile, retail and brand marketing. Working with clients such as Toyota, Lavazza, Milka, eBay, Paramount Pictures, Total Immersion is the go-to brand for this type of AR solution.
Finally, Marxent is a leader in VR and AR product visualisation for sales and marketing, with their VisualCommerce SaaS platform powering many of the leading retailers and manufacturers AR offerings. Working with ToysRUs, Simmons Bedding Company, Hammacher Schlemmer and AZEK Building Products, Marxent also worked with Lowe’s Home Improvement to bring about the Lowe’s Holoroom – an AR tool that allowed users to design their perfect interior, populated with real products, that the user could walk into and experience before making big decisions and large purchases…
Another product worth noting is AP12Cart, which provides a unified API that enables your system to interact with over 30 shopping carts simultaneously, as many B2B software services have simplified the integration process of receiving data from web stores, by retrieving it from the cart instead, and many only support a limited amount of shopping carts which means missing out on potential customers and sales.