Three years ago, Augmented Reality was a big deal because of Pokémon Go—just like Cinderella riding to the ball in a magnificent carriage. But time moved on and the hype declined quickly. The carriage turned into a pumpkin.
Now, times are changing again: the Kingdom is looking for its digital Cinderella. According to HubSpot, 75% of customers expect to use Augmented Reality in retail. The spotlight is again on AR’s exceptional visualization power.
Even if your audience consists only of in-store shoppers and you think there is time to wait until your plain pumpkin turns into a magnificent carriage, you might be reading the wrong fairy tale.
Digital technologies keep transforming people’s buying habits, and savvy shoppers become increasingly aware that using Augmented Reality in retail environments improves their shopping experience.
How does retail benefit from Augmented Reality? Engaging AR-savvy shoppers
Augmented Reality retail apps provide users an engaging mix of brick-and-mortar and online store experience.
Either AR users can visit the brick-and-mortar store, see the offered items in their true colors and dimensions, quickly try them on virtually without waiting for a free fitting room, check price and availability in stock, read customer reviews, and much more.
Or, they can visit stores through an AR mobile app from anywhere, read descriptions, configure their own stylish items, and take a snapshot to ask friends’ advice via social networks or personal messages.
Hence, the Augmented Reality benefits for retail customers lie in AR’s assistance at every step of the purchase process, helping buyers shorten decision time through visualization.
How do Augmented Reality apps help retail?
Augmented Reality helps connect brands with their customers, going from thinking of a problem, then doing a product search and finally choosing a product and configuration.
First and foremost, AR apps improve sales. AR solutions create a bridge between online and offline sales channels; they can be also used as an autonomous channel. For example, AR catalogs are absolutely crucial during Black Friday sales. The 3D models prove to be far more appealing than conventional web configurators—plus all the information customers need for decision making. Customers enjoy the “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” approach, going through details that make a difference and save time they might have had to spend waiting in a queue or talking to an assistant.
Second, application of Augmented Reality in retail can provide additional, valuable insights. Through analytics system, AR apps provide retailers with reports on customers’ activities. This helps managers fine tune their recommendation system and sales funnel.
Third, AR helps retailers aim for brand awareness improvement and/or promotion of new products. This is straightforward: AR is an engaging interactive technology. People retain previously dry and boring facts about brands and current offers in a playful, fun manner. Also, many brands have used AR for promotional campaigns—from Adidas to Zara.
Examples of successful Augmented Reality apps in retail
When you do not know where to start, have a look at currently available apps.
Many too-cautious businesses remain unsure whether Augmented Reality is the perfect fit for them. However, many more have already taken action to expand their retail environments with AR and transform the customer journey into an addictive adventure.
Check out these successful examples of AR Apps for retail business.
Amazon’s Augmented Reality app makes it possible to try out thousands of its products. Users tap on AR view in the Amazon app, select an item, and see whether it fits in with the home interior, where best to put it, or if it is the right fit.
Shopify successfully aims at standing out from its competitors by offering an AR toolkit for retail businesses. Such brands as Bethesda, BioLite, Instant Pot, and others use Shopify AR to help online visitors browse offered products in their online stores. This new feature creates a little showroom in front of the user to increase his or her confidence.
Timberland launched a spectacular AR activation to present its new shoe collection. At one of Madrid’s central squares, the brand installed a big TV screen that worked as an interactive AR mirror. The unsuspecting crowd was encouraged to play with a giant boot that fell out of the sky and try to bat it back up again while the boot reacted to their movements in real time.
This is not Timberland’s first AR app. In 2014, Lemon&Orange made a virtual fitting room in Moktow Gallery, a large, Warsaw-based shopping center. They installed an interactive screen in the shopping window so that passers-by could try on the new Timberland collection without entering the shop and waiting for an unoccupied dressing room.
This project is a collaboration between three different industries:
HoloMe is a London-based startup focusing on AR and computer vision.
Fashion Innovation Agency is part of London College of Fashion focused on bringing emerging technologies to the fashion industry.
RIXO is a new womenswear brand.
Together, they concentrate on using AR in fashion. They have created holograms of models dressed up in RIXO’s new collection. Users can organize their own fashion show on their smartphones.
Project participants plan to further use their innovation to reinforce online fashion retail with AR.
Wayfair is another example of how quickly AR goes mainstream in retail. Wayfair offers a “View in Room 3D” feature, so shoppers can view items from their smartphone screen. The key app benefits for customers include an improved recommendation system, visual search through catalog—and more—using computer vision.
Challenges of Augmented Reality application in retail: how do you choose which AR app?
As with development of any apps, Augmented Reality shopping app development might be challenging. This can be eliminated through preliminary study and Agile development workflow.
It is crucial to have user scenarios clear in your mind before starting development of Augmented Reality software for retail. Ask yourself: Is this a promotional app of an AR catalog? If it is a promotional app, users do not need rich functionality, so it can be reduced to a feature list of the demo app. That is money saved.
Conversely, an AR catalog requires both thorough design and development of its features and testing on real-life users in order to eliminate flaws before the app goes live to the broad public. The menu must be intuitive, and models must appear directly at the places where users put them. Freezes or any other technical issues are unacceptable.
This is why a team’s expertise and ability to communicate effectively with a non-tech team is key to the focus on technical solutions of business tasks thus, to success on an AR retail project.