Augmented reality (AR) – The future of eCommerce?

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Published on 30/07/19 by Polly Oakes.

It’s a known fact that users are wanting to have better experiences whilst online and especially on mobile devices. When looking at current eCommerce trends, you can see the shift towards delivering these great experiences. With more companies looking to develop Accelerated Mobile Pages and Progressive Web Apps, it was only a matter of time until they took that to the next level with more creative ways to deliver an ‘in-store’ experience.

According to Statista, the augmented reality market is valued at $11 billion and is set to increase to $198 billion by 2025 and since the release of Pokemon Go in 2016, there has been a buzz around the word Augmented Reality. 

Its amazing capabilities to transport people into different worlds and give them a realistic experience online poses great opportunities for retailers and should not go ignored. From product simulations to immersive virtual stores, augmented reality is turning up user experiences for online retailers. Could augmented reality be the future of eCommerce?

What is AR?

Before we start off, what actually is augmented reality (also referred to as AR)?

Augmented reality is an interactive form of technology commonly used on mobile and tablet devices. It uses computer-generated sound, text and visual effects in order to create an enhanced user experience whilst on an app or website. 

People frequently confuse augmented reality (AR) with virtual reality (VR) but there is a huge difference between the two. AR presents interactive effects via a handheld device whereas virtual reality (VR) is a more immersive form where you believe you’ve been transported. 

Imagine it this way… You can swim alongside sharks with V but you can make a shark pop out of a leaflet with AR. Take a look at this AR Card Concept made by Oscar Falmer:

As technology advances, retailers are discovering ways of how they can use augmented reality to improve customer experience and ultimately, boost their conversion rates and grow their brand. So let’s take a look at how some online retailers have integrated AR into customers’ online journeys.

The Future is Here (Examples of Augmented Reality for Retailers)

A handful of retailers have begun to jump on the augmented reality bandwagon, and have released amazing new features and apps to give the ultimate experience. Here are a few of my favourites.

Gabriel & Co

We all know that when buying jewellery online, it is difficult to visualise what it will look like in person – especially when you’re thinking about purchasing these them for a special occasion like an engagement, birthday or anniversary. 

Gabriel & Co, a fine jeweller based in New York, have begun to use augmented reality on their app, Gabriel Magic. The app gives you the ability to try on engagement rings in the comfort of your own home. This enables you to get an idea of any potential styles that you may like.

Though they are on their way to perfecting customer experiences, the user has to manually drag, move and position the ring to fit on the finger. This can make it look less realistic and admittedly, you have to take the way the ring looks on your finger with a pinch of salt as you have to scale the ring for yourself, but it gives you a general idea. 

Gabriel & Co are definitely on the way there with Augmented Reality, and perhaps we will end up seeing it automatically locating a finger and placing it on you with the size of the actual ring.

IKEA

Since 2017, IKEA has been making a huge push towards online shopping and have truly been investing in the ultimate online experience. They released an AR app which allowed customers to view how an item or piece of furniture would look in your room/empty space which gives off an extremely realistic look.

IKEA has recently updated their app and given people the ability to purchase directly from the app itself. This is likely to improve the customer journey as they no longer need to switch apps to convert, making the entire process quicker.

ASOS Virtual Catwalk

At the start of June, ASOS released an augmented reality feature called ‘Virtual Catwalk’ on their app. 

Though it is only available on the iOS ASOS app (versions 11.3+), it gives you the ability to see what the outfit looks like in your own surroundings. 

At the moment, ASOS are testing the use of augmented reality on a small selection of their products of ASOS DESIGN, but if you want to check out the app for yourself, you can see the womenswear here, and menswear here.

Trust me, it’s a pretty cool feature!

Benefits of Augmented Reality for eCommerce

An experiment by Hidden Creative, was conducted to see the effects of augmented reality on parents. They took a selection of 200 parents and they had to judge both a traditional advert and an advert with an interactive augmented reality experience for a child’s toy. 

The results were quite overwhelming showing that the advert containing augments reality strongly lead the way. With the more traditional ads, 45% of parents wanted to purchase the toy with most being ready to pay £5.99, whereas the adverts that contained AR, lead the way with 74% of parents wanting to make a purchase at £7.99.

Psychological Benefits of AR

When looking into the experiment, researches said that AR has a psychological effect on how people perceive the product and therefore, in the long run, it boosts sales. These reasons were:

  • Curiosity is spiked with the whole experience of AR as it something new and that is not extremely common between retailers.
  • Customers feel closer to the product as they have experienced it virtually. This can make customers feel like they need to own it as there is a sense of a connection there.
  • Trust is built with the customer as they feel that the product will be providing a good experience as you’ve already built that confidence.
  • Helps to eliminate product doubts by enabling the customer to visualise products in even more depth, therefore reducing return rates.

Other benefits of AR

The benefits of Augmented Reality technology stretches way beyond just how it makes the customer feel psychologically. Here are some other benefits that AR have:

  • Boosts engagement with your brand.
  • Enables brand growth as technology like this tends to be shared globally- especially when it is something innovative.
  • Gives customers a true in-store experience in the comfort of their own home.

Cons of Augmented Reality for eCommerce

As with everything, creating augmented reality apps for eCommerce has its downside:

  • Expensive when outsourced as this is the first impression of your product and possibly even of your company. This means that it must give a quality impression of your brand and product meaning a lot of time and money should go into it. 
  • Misleading customers can be easy. If the scale, colour and fit of a product or environment are not represented correctly, people may begin to question the reliability of the technology.

All in all, augmented reality should be embraced by retailers as it enables them to connect with the customer and creates unique shopping experiences that are sure to stick in people’s minds and hopefully, we will be seeing a lot more of this in the future.

If you’re looking to give the wow factor to your customers when they’re shopping with you, take a look at our FUSN eCommerce platform, a platform that is custom-built for your needs and provides your customers with the online experiences that truly resonate.

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