Why Augmented Reality is Set to Transform Retail in 2021
February 17, 2021
While we’ve been barreling towards online shopping as the new standard for years now, it’s become exponentially essential during the ongoing pandemic. As more and more people look to the internet for a semblance of normalcy, ecommerce retail has come in to bridge the gap.
Online shopping becoming the norm has been expedited by the need for fast, contactless commerce – while making up for the closed brick-and-mortar stores across the country. As a result, the growth of augmented reality (AR) technology has helped the ecommerce industry to thrive in a major way.
By driving the increased dependency of online shopping, online retailers have been faced with a wide set of challenges – and advantages – as they rush to meet consumer demand.
Keep reading to learn more about the ways augmented reality is set to transform retail in 2021.
Marketing and Product Launches
If anything has been completely transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the way we’ve been able to meet and converge with each other. This means that live events, including product launches and grand openings, have been severely limited by social distancing regulations and accessibility issues.
Augmented reality in retail is helping to recreate this corner of the commercial sphere by allowing customers and brands to connect with each other digitally, with many of the features included in live, in-person events.
Using AR-enabled programs and immersive technology, brands can easily set up a virtual product launch, live video chat, or even holographically projected event regardless of anyone’s physical location. As long as there is an internet connection and the right compatibility between each user’s respective apps or programs of choice.
Allowing online users to take part in these major steps of the ecommerce life cycle also gives brands the ability to open their events to a wider audience. International users are no longer impacted by their proximity to their favorite pop-up shops or products.
With something as simple as an access code or shared URL, it’s possible to link up via mobile or desktop devices using capabilities like:
- Omnichannel interconnectivity
- Remote access
- Encrypted data via cloud-based access points
- Hybridization of online and in-person shopping
Launch events, client parties, and even new product lines can be unveiled to the cybersphere – which has the potential to change the ecommerce industry as we know it.
Personalized Shopping Experiences
Today, we’ve become so used to getting what we want when we want it. Augmented reality has revamped this special brand of instant gratification in a way that can make shopping easier, faster, and more streamlined in the long run.
AR apps allow shoppers to manipulate digital versions of their favorite products, and can give users the power to:
- Virtual try-on features
- Customize products instantly (specs, colors, and other details)
- View stock levels
- Connect with support and sales staff via live chat
- Utilize AI-enabled shopping features for heightened experience individualization
Rather than limiting support features and in-store assistance to the hours when there is someone “in the office,” augmented reality with AI capabilities can make up the deficit and give shoppers 24/7 support access.
Providing shoppers with more agency during the buying and research processes, while also giving them a higher level of support to simplify the process, can boost sales conversions and return customers significantly across multiple specializations and demographics.
Improved Customer Feedback for Product Development
While augmented reality isn’t a new concept, it has drastically changed consumer habits regarding shopping and researching new products and brands. More than 70% of consumers in a recent study stated that they would shop more often if AR apps were presented as an option.
Virtual showrooming solutions have opened doors for shoppers, retailers, and manufacturers alike. Not only can customers try on personal items like clothes, jewelry, and glasses, but they can also see what larger items can look like in their own spaces. Take a photo of your driveway to see how your new car will look in it’s prospective home, or test out a new furniture setup with similar technology.
Augmented reality isn’t only used to customize products based on customer selections and user-initiated content. Shopper data can also be collected by these systems and repurposed into personalization filters to bring the right products and services to their right set of eyes.
Instead of spending hours browsing through an online or in-person store, having only the most targeted recommendations on the screen can cut a lot of time from each individual shopping session.
Additionally, augmented reality can be applied to in-store experiences as well – which is ideal for businesses that plan to scale in a post-pandemic landscape. Mobile AR apps and in-store interactive displays can provide brick-and-mortar shoppers with the same level of personalization as ecommerce retailers.
Linking user profiles with proprietary apps and accounts is one easy way to connect shoppers with their personalized content. Additionally, QR codes, links, and even biometric software can be utilized in a similar way, while providing an added layer of data security.
Vivid Commercial Storytelling and Merchandising
From dish soap to apparel to even real estate, storytelling plays a major role in the customer acquisition and retention lifecycles. Augmented reality shopping has made it easier than ever before to express your brand’s vision, purpose, and offerings in an efficient and accessible way.
Just like mixed reality experience provides a more vivid and immersive way to consume media, it’s also helping merchandisers and advertisers reach target consumers on a granular level. This type of blending reality with constructed imagery can help online users to enjoy advertising content without necessarily processing that they’re being marketed to.
Creating a fun and immersive experience while integrating valuable informational and branding information has built a sweet spot for individuals who traditionally stray away from brands that rely on marketing and hard sales to generate conversions.
Favoriable online experiences, such as immersive social media posts and videos, change the way customers and prospective buyers interact with the products and services they’re seeking. Additionally, immersive marketing promotes critical thinking and curiosity among those who might not otherwise associate with the brand in question.
Some concrete benefits of using augmented reality to generate retail interest include:
- Reshaping brand narratives using customized media
- Hyper-specific targeting with AI-enabled data collection
- Emotional connection building
- Hybridization of in-store and online features
- Ability to siphon audience participation for research and development
From immersive videos to games and more, there are an endless amount of options brands can employ to utilize augmented reality technology for lead generation, increased adoption rates, and overall profitability.
Sustainability and Cost-Saving Benefits
One of the main reasons why augmented reality is reshaping the retail sphere is the reduction (or elimination) of physical resources in the sourcing, shopping, and merchandising processes. Rather than utilizing sample products, physical prototypes, and brick-and-mortar office locations – augmented reality has all but digitized the entire retail experience.
Typically, online shoppers are limited by their ability to try before they buy. This leads to double-purchasing becoming a norm in the ecommerce sphere, which leads to product waste and storage costs to accommodate the inevitable returns. For example, shoppers might purchase a product in two sizes or colors to decide which one they’d rather keep.
By utilizing virtual product testing, try-on features, and instant customization, shoppers are less inclined to double up on their purchases and retailers can expect online returns to drop to less than 2% (as shown by top brands in 2020).
For large products like cars and furniture, eliminating the need for physical product merchandising and try-before-you-buy options is a great way to reduce costs for brands AND customers. Additionally, the time saved by rebuilding this process instantly can be translated to saved wages and operational costs over time.
Eco-friendly shopping has taken over in recent years, and augmented reality is facilitating the trend exponentially. As more people search for sustainable ways to enjoy the commercial world from home, augmented reality is becoming a leader in the tech, ecommerce, and brick-and-mortar retail spheres.
From increasing product accessibility to disabled and affected populations to simply making shopping more fun for target consumers, retail brands have adopted augmented reality in a variety of ways. Even after the coronavirus comes to an end, experts in the industry expect this type of immersive technology to stick around long past the pandmeic.
Food delivery, clothing shopping, and even furniture delivery as we know it is being rebuilt by this form of mobile data management and media consumption. Receiving highly tailored marketing and advertising, as well as having tangible instant access to the brands they love, is solidifying augmented reality as the preferred method of ecommerce and in-store shopping across the world.
Keep an eye out for the growth of these systems next time you go to buy something, and watch how augmented reality is set to transform retail in 2021.