Even before the onset of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, augmented reality has been changing the technological landscape across several industries, from digital content to beauty to gaming and online retail, for several years.
This onslaught of innovation has greatly changed how consumers and businesses interact. In a sense, the need for augmented reality has been accelerated by the presence of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Now, especially for eCommerce, augmented reality has become a necessary means of survival, particularly for retail businesses wishing to maintain or increase their sales.
It has also become a much-welcomed technology in terms of adhering to the many stringent guidelines and restrictions currently in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmissions, with one of the most prevalent being the need for social distancing.
There are multiple ways in which businesses and eCommerce websites use augmented reality.
One of the most prevalent is allowing customers to preview products, experiences and services in their environment and within their timeframe before choosing whether they’d like to follow through on purchasing it online or in the physical world.
This additional level of convenience increases efficiency while also serving as a means of protection that limits consumers’ necessity to travel to physical retail locations and interact in more extensive group settings.
But what is augmented reality, exactly, and how is it changing the world of eCommerce?
Today, we are here to answer these questions while providing real-world examples of businesses successfully rolling out AR applications.
This article will cover:
What is Augmented Reality?
The term ‘augmented reality,’ commonly abbreviated to simply ‘AR,’ is used to describe a real-time direct or indirect view of a real location in the physical world that has been supplemented or augmented by superimposing virtual computer-generated information or experiences to it.
In simpler terms, AR technology is an interactive mechanism presented in 3D that combines real-world and virtual objects. The purpose of AR is to enhance a user’s perception of and interaction with the real world.
Augmented reality and AR experiences are some of the most significant modern technology trends, extending their influence into a wide range of industries, businesses and platforms. With the consistent innovation of smartphones and other digital technologies, AR will only grow in popularity over time.
If you own a smartphone or smart device, chances are you already have augmented reality services readily available and accessible at your fingertips.
For example, if you’ve ever used one of the playful interactive filters on apps like Instagram or Snapchat, surprise! You’ve been using AR technology.
From enhanced navigation systems like the GPS in your car to educational and research tools for medical professionals, AR has seemingly made its way into nearly every aspect of the personal and professional worlds.
While these immersive technologies have been around for quite a while, what is relatively recent is their integration into the mass consumer market.
According to the German market and consumer data company, Statista, the AR technology market is steadily rising, with projections for 2023 valuing it at more than $18 billion US. It also posits that consumer spending on individual and embedded augmented reality mobile apps worldwide will reach $15.497 million US by 2022.
With such an influx in user interaction, many businesses across several markets are adapting their products and services to cash in on this booming industry.
What is the Difference Between Augmented & Virtual Reality?
The terms ‘augmented’ and ‘virtual’ reality have become somewhat buzzwords among the technological community in recent years. However, there are distinct differences between the two that are worth mentioning.
As we said before, augmented reality adds digital elements and images to a real-world image, often through smartphone and camera devices.
Differentially, virtual reality, or VR, provides a fully immersive experience that shuts out your real, physical environment and replaces it with an entirely digital one. However, these digital replacements can mimic real-world locations or imagined worlds.
How Augmented Reality is Changing eCommerce
In the context of eCommerce specifically, now that augmented reality AR technology is on the up and up, many businesses and organizations are quickly seeking out methods for applying it to their specific product or service.
That said, where some business owners are eager, others remain slightly distrustful and cautious. However, this suspicion and cynicism typically stem from a lack of knowledge of what AR is and how it can benefit their business and increase their online sales.
However, one person’s loss is another’s gain, and recent statistics show that 63% of customers say that AR would transform their overall shopping experience. 51% also claim that retailers aren’t realizing or taking full advantage of AR technologies’ potential.
Finally, 70% of consumers are expected to remain more loyal to brands that incorporate AR as part of their eCommerce website and overall shopping experience.
Ultimately, there is room for a healthy amount of skepticism in the world of business. However, one of the basic pillars of knowledge that every business owner should know is that statistics don’t lie.
The general consumer population thus shows that, nowadays, the stats are in favour of augmented reality!
How eCommerce Businesses Can Benefit from AR
If you’re still questioning the substance of AR and debating whether it’s an effective digital marketing tool or just a fad, we’ve got even more information for you.
Below, we’ll outline how AR can serve to benefit your eCommerce business.
AR Can Increase Customer Engagement
AR provides customers with an added element of choice during their shopping experience.
Whether they choose to make the purchase or not, this increase in engagement creates a more interactive relationship with your brand, service or product, which will increase the likelihood of them returning in the future.
For example, according to research into car manufacturer Audi’s 3D online car configurator in 2019, the pilot implementation of this augmented reality AR technology prompted a 66% increase in user engagement.
AR Can Attract New Customers
According to a study published by the experiential retail marketing company, Interactions, 40% of customers are willing to spend more money on a product if they can experience it through AR. That is significant!
The reasoning behind this is because augmented reality technology provides eCommerce customers with a more comprehensive understanding of the product and its quality before having to spend a single cent, making them feel more comfortable and confident with making a premium purchase.
It Can Increase Your Conversion Rates
On top of keeping existing and potential customers on your eCommerce site for longer, AR can also boost sales.
This longer stay is primarily due to AR technology’s ability to project 3D images, which provides crucially relevant and valuable information than fixed 2D images ever could.
In addition to providing a more robust conception of the specific product, AR technology can also demonstrate what that particular item will look like in an individual’s specific space.
This additional context makes customers feel far more at ease when deciding whether they want to make a purchase.
Examples of Augmented Reality in Business
Now that we’ve laid the necessary groundwork and background understanding, you may be wondering to yourself, “how does this translate to real-world scenarios?”
Well, we’re about to tell you! Below, we will outline 3 unique real-world examples of businesses successfully rolling out AR applications.
Arguably one of the most famous examples of augmented reality is the overnight gaming sensation Pokémon GO. This AR game was released back in 2016 by Niantic in collaboration with Nintendo and quickly became one of the most widely utilized mobile games worldwide.
In the game, users locate and capture Pokémon that “appear” in the real world via their screen. These characters were projected on real physical environments, including sidewalks, parks and even in users’ own homes!
This game proved insanely successfully just how fun and engaging AR could be, with the added benefit of getting users up and moving while exploring their own back yards or other parts of the world.
IKEA Place is a mobile AR app that allows users to virtually “place” various IKEA products and furniture in their home environments before purchase.
This app is tremendously helpful for avoiding those awkward and unpleasant situations in which you have purchased furniture and discovered upon bringing it home that it clashes or simply doesn’t blend or work with your space. The app itself was built using Apple’s ARKit technology.
It works by letting users scan their room and design the space how they see fit. This app utilizes AR technology to bring an extra level of convenience and practicality to the user’s shopping experience, further bolstering IKEA’s overall value proposition.
Customers are increasingly looking for memorable experiences, not just a trip to the store. Learn how marketing experiences can increase your brand power in “Experiential Marketing – How Experience Can Boost Brand Image & Loyalty.”
Sephora Virtual Artist
Purchasing makeup can be a tricky and more complex task than one might expect. With the various shades and sheer abundance of products available, it can be challenging to find items that work best for you.
However, the French multinational retailer of personal care and beauty products, Sephora, seeks to eliminate this confusion and uncertainty with their mobile app, “Sephora Virtual Artist.” This AR-driven app was developed in partnership with AR company ModiFace to help users find the best possible products for their specific needs.
The app scans users’ faces, locates their various features, such as lips and eyes, and allows them to try different products, looks and colours before the point of purchase to better understand what they might actually look like. Users can superimpose these various items onto their own digital face to get a better idea before pulling the purchase trigger whether it’s lip colours, eyeshadows or false lash styles.
This technology is a powerful tool that can help boost sales and give customers a fun and interactive resource to try out new looks.
Key Takeaways – AR is an Engaging & Entertaining Innovation
As technology continues to be increasingly interactive, consumers are starting to expect it in all realms of their lives, including eCommerce, through online shopping and retail purchases.
With this uptick in engagement comes a new driving force behind more informed buying behaviours. Augmented reality supplies customers with relevant context and essential background information to provide a comprehensive impression of a product or service before purchase.
Not only does this serve as a practical resource, but it also works to boost brand engagement and build customer loyalty and trust through demonstrating to your clientele that you are invested in bringing something of value to improve their lives.
While some may view its various utilizations as merely silly mobile games or virtual makeover tools, the potential of this kind of technology has seemingly endless applications that could further innovate a vast assortment of industries from eCommerce to medicine to education.
With the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for such state-of-the-art digital services is at an all-time high in nearly every realm of individuals’ personal and professional lives.
We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this technology can do, and it’ll be both intriguing and exciting to discover what the future of AR has in store.