Thanks to the various innovations in smartphones, laptops, and tablets, augmented reality or AR technology is more accessible nowadays compared to before. Sadly, only a few businesses recognise the benefits of augmented reality in retail. There is still that misconception that only certain industries, such as aviation, military, medical, and video gaming, can truly benefit from AR. As a result, not a lot of retailers are willing to invest in the technology.

Nonetheless, customers’ demands usually change alongside technology. With every innovation, consumers expect that you provide them with the best experience that technology would allow. In fact, 40% of industry leaders believe that immersive technologies such as augmented reality in businesses will become mainstream in the next two years. This is due to the increase in demands for such technology from the consumers.

 

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a type of immersive technology that allows people to overlay digital augmentation on real-life environments. A great example of this is the game Pokemon Go! where players can see 3D representations of different Pokemons intermingling with their real-life surroundings through their smartphone or tablet cameras. 

Some marketers also use this type of technology to advertise their brands. This is especially true in countries such as Japan and China who are pioneering consumer augmented reality. In fact, a survey by Worldpay showed that 95% of Chinese consumers have used AR and VR technology in the past months. 

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality. With AR, you can only have a live view of digital elements using your device’s camera. Whereas virtual reality or VR provides you with complete immersion into a digital space. In short, AR brings the digital into a real-life setting while VR brings you to a digital setting. An example of VR is the gaming device called Oculus Rift.

 

Why will Retailers need it?

The COVID-19 pandemic left a lasting impact on retail businesses around the globe. The various quarantine and lockdown protocols forced many stores to shut down temporarily—or even permanently. Others, on the other hand, turned to ecommerce to sustain their operations. As a result, many retail business owners are reevaluating the future of their bricks-and-mortar stores

As AR technology becomes more accessible, the retail sector started recognizing its usefulness. In fact, some big businesses in retail are gradually picking it up. IKEA, for example, has developed an app called The Place App which allows customers to use AR technology to visualize how the furniture would look in their home. Another big brand is Apple, which used augmented reality to bring their physical retail stores to their consumers’ home to showcase their products.

 

How can AR improve Shopping Experience?

 

1. Boosts Customer Engagement

Some think that digital shopping can never truly replace the experience of shopping in physical stores. It lacks the same dynamic and exciting atmosphere often found in brick-and-mortar shops. Instead, it subjects shoppers to just scroll through their screens and click on the items they want to purchase. This can get boring and tedious in the long run. Fortunately, this is where augmented reality in retail and its impact on sales come in.

AR technology can level up your customers’ digital shopping experience by providing them with more ways to interact with your products. This gives them more reason to stay longer on your platform and explore what your brand has to offer.

For example, instead of the usual monotonous scrolling and clicking, AR can add an option, allowing your customers to “try” the item before they buy it. This is especially useful for clothing and accessories retailers since it will allow their customers to see how a specific outfit or accessory would look like on them. 

Not only is it useful in digital shopping, but you can also incorporate augmented reality in your physical stores as well. This creates a unique experience for your shoppers which, in turn, can pipe their interest on your brand.

 

2. Showcases Products Better

Consumers tend to want to get a closer look on an item before they buy it. But with digital shopping, your customers can no longer do that. As a result, they tend to dither longer on their decision. Worse, they would eventually abandon the item in their cart instead. 

Remove any doubts from their minds by allowing them to get a closer look on the product even without needing to go to your physical store. Through AR, your customers can view the product in its actual dimensions, size, and specification. They can even use AR to manipulate the product, turning it sideways or around. 

This technology is also useful for retailers that sell fragile products. Instead of displaying the product itself, you can use augmented reality to allow your customers to interact with the product without the risk of breaking it.  

AR also allows you to think outside the box when it comes to advertising your product.

 

3. Gives Customers a Sense of Ownership

More than showcasing your product, AR can also give your customers a sense of ownership over your product—even if it is only temporarily. With augmented reality, they can “try on” an outfit and see how it would look on them. They can also place an augmentation of a furniture inside their house to see how it would fit into their interior design. Doing so gives your customers the illusion of actually possessing the product. 

This is something that shoppers cannot usually do with an actual product. There are often limits to how much a customer can handle or interact with an object for sale especially when it is something expensive or fragile. But with augmented reality, your customers can temporarily have the product inside their house or in their hands. Such momentary taste of ownership can encourage them to buy the product in the process. Hence, this is one way augmented reality increases sales.

 

4. Provides Convenient Alternative to Consumers

Traveling to a store just to check out a certain product can sometimes be a hassle. Some customers might even decide to push back their plans of purchasing the product just because of the distance between the retail store and their house. Fortunately, augmented reality can provide customers a convenient alternative to shop without having to get out of the house. It brings the store to them instead.

 

5. Improves Self-Service Support

Augmented reality is also a great way to improve self-service support especially when your product has malfunctions or faults. Instead of having to go through customer service staff, your customers can use AR to help them resolve the issue or understand how the product works.

For example, augmented reality can overlay the manual of the product while the customer tries to assemble it. You can also use AR as a virtual assistant, explaining to customers the different functionality of your products.

 

Retail in the future

With the rising popularity of online shopping, the future of AR in retail seems bright. It won’t be long before more retail businesses recognise its benefits and how it can revolutionise the shopping experience for their consumers.

Moreover, AR isn’t the only innovative technology you should look out for. New technologies are always around the corner. So it would be best that you always keep an eye out for what tools you can use to improve your services to your customers. This applies not only to technology but to innovative strategies, models, and principles of business management as well. So if you are thinking, “what degree should I do?”, consider keeping an open mind on taking up a business course.