How can companies use augmented reality in retail environments?

AR is a technology that is really taking off. With games like Pokémon Go and Harry Potter, developers are constantly pushing the boundaries. But can AR be used for a more practical use, and what will Augmented Reality in retail environments look like? We are already seeing other sectors like education leveraging immersive tech. It looks like retail is the next to jump onboard.

In today’s highly competitive retail environment, companies need to take advantage of new technologies. AR is one of those technologies that not only looks really good, it has practical applications. One of the main uses is to enable consumers to virtually try on products like watches, glasses and jewellery.

 

What is an example of AR?

There are several ways retailers can use AR to improve the customers experience. However, for the sake of this post, we will split it out into two categories:

  1. In-store AR
  2. Out of store (at home) AR

 

In-store

A great example of in-store AR would be Walmart creating an app that allows customers to navigate their stores easier. All the customer has to do is download the app and point their phones camera around the store. The screen will show arrows to each department and what can be found in those isles. Whilst this is a great practical use for AR, we think the possibilities for augmented reality in retail environments can be pushed even further.

In store AR apps can also be used to serve customers with more information about a product. Imaging showing YouTube tutorials to customers when they are looking at makeup or hair products. The possibilities are endless; however, the main goal is to enrich the customers experience.

 

Out of store AR

Using AR for retail at home is where it starts to get more exciting. Imagine sitting in your living room browsing for a new watch. You see a watch you like the look of but are unsure how it will look on you. Well, several retail giants have capitalised on this by creating AR apps that project these products on to your person. It gives the customer an experience of how that piece of jewellery will look on them. As well as increasing the customers satisfaction, these AR apps have been proven to increase sales and reduce items being returned.

 

What companies are using augmented reality?

Some major retailers are building apps that rely on Google’s depth sensing motion tracking Tango camera, like the one found in the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro.

One of the big brands that is using AR to good effect is Lacoste. They have created a really nice app that allows you to try on different shoes and see how they will look on you. The app is pretty basic compared to what is possible, but it is a good example of what can be done and how the customer experience can be improved. The main goal for this app was to increase brand awareness with a younger audience. The app had over 30,000 downloads and was marked a great success.

 

Another retailer that is setting themselves apart from the crowd is Amazon. Amazon’s product preview lets you visualise various products like different size and brands of TV sets in your home. We think this is a brilliant idea as it will allow users to visualise the product in their home and not just as a picture on a screen in front of them. This is bound to increase buyer’s intent and reduce customers sending back product because they purchased the wrong size or colour.

What if you have specific measurements in your kitchen and want to see if a fridge will fit? Well Lowes vision app lets you take measurements and virtually place new appliances in your kitchen. So, you can try that fridge before you buy.

The app with the best ‘use-at-home’ features would probably go to Gap. They have created an AR app that allows you to project a mannequin directly into your home. They will be outfitted with different clothing options to get an idea of the fit. You can change the size of the clothing model or even the size of the mannequin. The app also allows you to walk closer to the mannequin to see in greater detail buttons, embroidery and fabric. What makes this app so successful is that they have made it extremely easy to purchase the items you like directly from the app with one click of a button. Speed is everything these days, and it looks like Gap have recognised this.

There are still limitations with these apps, however, the technology is advancing every day. We see AR as the future of retail and will soon be a common feature we see most retailers adopting.

What are the benefits of augmented reality?

There are lots of advantages to investing in Augmented Reality.

  • Jump past your competition and do it first
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increase sales
  • Decrease items being sent back

The list goes on and on. However, retailers need to think about what problem an AR app will solve. We are advocates of creating immersive experiences that solve a problem or enhance the end users experience. Without a clear strategy, you run the risk of spending lots of money on a fancy new app that won’t be used or will be made obsolete.

 

What will the future of augmented reality in retail environments look like?

Shopify have already started to integrate AR within their platform. This will open even more doors for online retailers and ecommerce companies to leverage augmented reality. This shows that big name platforms recognise that AR will be essential in the very near future. It’s a technology that will continue to evolve and bring in new innovations.

 

Looking to offer your clients an AR experience? Get in touch to see what is possible.

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