Augmented reality has been visible in gaming and social media use with PokemonGo and Snapchat being perfect examples of its applications in these sectors. Retail and digital marketing have been among the other industries that are starting to adopt AR tech. Retailers can now use AR to create digital experiences that are immersive and leave an unforgettable impression on their customers, which results in driving more sales and brand engagement.
One of the drivers of this adoption has been the current pandemic, which has retailers and entertainers embracing augmented reality at a high rate. The coronavirus pandemic, or “unexpected catalyst” as described by Nielsen, has created a surge for AR and VR applications in retail for the purpose of enhancing the shopping experience.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is one of the biggest current trends fueled by technology to facilitate the real-world via digital visual elements, sound, and other sensory elements. It does not necessarily replace the real environments with virtual ones, rather it uses 3D models to create an overlay of sound, graphics, and videos, into the existing environment.
Retailers use this technology to enable an augmented shopping experience where customers gain a greater advantage over standard online shopping. Presently, there are four major divisions of augmented reality namely; superimposition-based AR, markerless AR, marker-based AR, and projection-based AR.
History of AR
From being a science-fiction concept to slowly morphing into a science-based reality, augmented reality has come a long way and is still growing. The following is an infographic representation of a brief history of augmented reality.
The Integration of AR Into the Retail World
Augmented reality has over the years been integrated into the retail world among other industries. As technology advances, UX professionals use it to their advantage in enhancing how retail works.
With an overlooking worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which was a huge blow to businesses on its onset, there has been a significant steady transition into digital. Digital buyers have increased exponentially thanks to the spiraling use of both mobile phones and the internet.
Inevitably, augmented reality has been integrated into the retail world to enable brands to provide the best to customers while forging strong connections.
Marketers that are open to the bottomless opportunities associated with augmented reality have the chance to grow their businesses. Through AR software, they can customize content to fit user needs and to facilitate long term customer satisfaction.
The use of AR in retail has significantly impacted how everything works, from improving customers’ shopping experience to creating and boosting brand awareness for retailers and more.
Challenges of AR in Retail?
Like every other technological innovation, AR has its challenges when it comes to retail. For brands to swiftly integrate AR experiences, it is important to understand the common hurdles of that mighty transition.
Implementing AR experiences is costly, and most retailers resort to sourcing unskilled creators who can’t deliver high-quality work. While it is important to find expert creators to get the job done, they are expensive. So, brands should not only focus on setting the right standards but also establish methods of utilizing product 3D models in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible.
Retailers also struggle with developing photo-realistic models because of the complexity of displaying lighting, textures, and colors in that context. This is usually expensive and can cost anything between $100 and $800 in most cases or more for intricate models.
Unclear Use/Business Cases
Deciding what is best for a business can be puzzling. When entering the AR world, it is important for retailers to have clarity on what they need to implement. For instance, augmented shopping helps achieve digital experiences with in-depth and intuitive information about products when compared to normal web experiences. This allows customers to virtually execute
different tasks like product personalization, try ons, tryouts, and interactions.
WebAR refers to augmented reality experiences accessed through the web browser instead of apps. Although this delivers fewer features than through apps, users will only need an internet connection and a smartphone.
Retailers can also represent physical products using 3D digital models through a process known as 3D pipeline to enable customers to interact with AR/VR experiences.
Exposure to the use of augmented reality in retail leaves brands with expectations of what the tech should deliver if implemented in their strategies. When they have high expectations of the deliverables, then they end up disregarding its use out of disappointment. On the other hand, low expectations may result in low-quality production of AR products.
Interpreting AR hardware components is also a major cause of confusion among AR users. Some people expect that all AR products have hardware features, which might not be the case. Other users have had gimmicky AR experiences which they have used as a basis to surmise the general functionality of AR.
There is a bright side, however, companies like CSConnect have recently entered, and disrupted, the retail space by providing an easy way for brands to implement AR into their retail stores.
Adding Value to the Customer Shopping Experience
Augmented Reality is paramount in the customer relationship value chain and plays a vital role in delivering an outstanding shopping experience for customers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is leaning more towards contactless transactions, and AR is, without a doubt, going to completely flip around how e-commerce and retail works. From enabling an all-inclusive online shopping experience to creating impressive consumer satisfaction.
It is evident that AR technology is not a simple forward thrust for brands, it contributes significantly to the end-goal. The customer shopping experience has taken a different turn online and consumers do more than just buying.
By accordingly rendering each of the single attributes of a product, AR has the ability to deliver value besides anchoring steady customer relationships through a realistic and interactive shopping experience.
Eliminating Indecisiveness During Decision Making
Plenty of items have had a slow transition into the online shopping space, majorly because customers can’t test or simply interact with the product to ascertain whether it was what they were looking for. This slackens the decision-making process as customers are doubtful of the product fitting their needs.
The eCommerce market value amounted to $3.53 trillion in 2019, an amount that has skyrocketed by the day, especially fueled by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. While retail is gradually shifting from offline to online, AR has been used to boost online interactions with products for consumers.
Retailers can sell without prototypes by using 2D and 3D technologies to create realistic images that are both adjustable and manipulatable.
For instance, customers can virtually place items inside their house, e.g. furniture to see how it fits before buying it. This speeds up the buying decision as consumers can confidently purchase these products.
Retailers can also use this technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience.
Employing “Try Before You Buy” Experiences
Brands can easily incorporate try before you buy through augmented reality. Customers don’t have to visit the businesses’ physical address to try out items before buying them. Nike uses augmented reality to help customers find the right fit for sneakers in the comfort of their homes.
L’Oreal, on the other hand, has implemented AR technology on its “style my hair” app which allows customers to choose the hair design and color they want before buying.
And Mac now allows you to do a “virtual try-on” to help you see which lipstick will look better on you.
Interactive Packaging Technology for Value Addition
AR-enabled interactive packaging has improved the visual experience for customers. With different applications of AR for interactive packaging, consumers can gain a more valuable and engaging shopping experience.
In 2015, Bemis North America used augmented reality to enable interactive packaging for their products. This was to grant their customers special deals or recipes in return for interacting with their packaging. Other brands that have used AR for interactive packaging in distinct ways to boost customer experience include Heinz, Absolut, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Lucozade, etc.
Smooth Location of Items
In-store shopping can be frustrating for customers who need to find a specific item in a short time span. Through AR technology, customers can seamlessly navigate massive stores and easily find the item they are looking for. This counters the awful experience where customers waste a lot of time trying to find what they need.
Stores can use AR technology that allows customers to virtually maneuver aisles and find what they need then have it delivered to their doorstep.
Service Agent Coaching
Brands can use AR to painlessly train their service agents into experts within a fraction of the time they would initially need. Coaching through augmented reality makes product duplicates available so as to eliminate the need for physically handling these items.
Well-trained and experienced staff are an integral part of great customer experience and satisfaction.
An AR overlay can be created to enable customers to access manuals, FAQs, and training material for the related products. With an increased need for limiting human contact, customers don’t need to queue for one-on-one meetings in order to access customer support services. Such self-service support is important in boosting customer satisfaction while reducing customer queries as individuals can easily work out issues unaided.
Leveraging Augmented Reality to Increase Online Conversions
Online shopping has been escalating incredibly, but the greatest stumbling block is customer satisfaction, which directly translates to online conversions. Shopping online limits proper interaction with the product. Potential customers cannot test what they are buying, there is no absolute assurance that the products meet exactly what they are looking for.
Augmented shopping provides a solution to this predicament by improving dwell times and in turn increasing online conversions. Through augmented reality, shoppers get an in-store experience, try out items before buying, and exclusively interact with different commodities before making a buying decision.
Exactly how is augmented reality being used in retail to increase online conversions?
AR Strategically Conveys Vital Information to Customers
Numbers don’t lie, and through smartphones and the internet, 58% of buyers research products before buying them while in the store. This begs a lot of questions like why they just can’t get their questions answered by the store attendants or why they can’t get all answers from directly interacting with these products.
They might not get the most accurate answers they are looking for. But augmented reality is designed to relay pinpoint details about a given product. Through implementing augmented reality in online shopping, customers can easily learn about a product, exactly what is available and what is not before choosing what they prefer best.
Driving and Holding Traffic in Your Store
Augmented reality is the ultimate avenue for propelling traffic to your website. The kind of customer experience derived from augmented reality is downright unique, which is one of the major reasons for its growing popularity. Powerful brands such as L’Oreal and Sephora have used AR to digitally give their customers a realistic experience of how makeup will look when they actually wear it.
Similar product promotion is a productive way of driving more traffic to your online store.
The more time business leads spend on a website browsing products, the more chances of converting into buying customers. AR does more than just boost website traffic, but also creatively engage customers.
It can also help you convert sales of physical products in-store. It can allow customers to “peek” inside the box and get a feel for the product without having to take it home and purchase it. This can eliminate uncertainty and allow customers to feel ownership of a product, during the shopping process.
Creating a Profound Ownership Feeling for Customers
Augmented reality is a surefire way of influencing online and physical retail sales by igniting deep ownership feelings for the customers. It is easy for an individual to purchase an item they feel they already know. AR creates a space where customers can test products and customize them to their liking before buying them.
It aids the visualization and interaction with products hence initiating a form of sensitivity towards buying that particular product. Augmented shopping encourages purchase because of the connection a customer feels towards a product after they interact with it.
Social Media Marketing Reinforcement
Every business strives to maintain a brand image and effectively promote business, but there is a need to distinguish among other counterparts. Combining augmented reality with social media campaigns will go a long way to deliver the utmost customer experience while ensuring that a business stands out.
AR takes social media campaigns a notch higher and consequently, the conversion rate snowballs. The immersive experience that it creates significantly improves social media campaigns while multiplying the attention span of consumers.
Buying decisions are influenced by both logic and emotions of the buyer. Augmented reality creates an exceptional experience for customers which tremendously impacts their decision to buy the product. Through this technology, customers are left with positive emotions that they associate with the product and would equally want to experience again.
The use of AR in marketing sparks bright emotions that customers tie to that product, hence influencing their decision to make a purchase.
Augmented reality stands to be one of the driving forces behind retail in the coming years. It is evolving from a novelty to a tech bigwig that is becoming an integral part of retail businesses. What’s more, it is not just changing how advertising is done but also helping retailers to boost sales while improving customer experience. For brands looking to adopt augmented reality, CSCONNECT offers a simple and low cost way for brands to implement augmented reality into their consumer goods business, in order to help provide seamless shopping experiences for their customers.