For years, augmented reality (AR) technology was limited to tech-forward professions (like the medical industry or design space) and sports enthusiasts and gamers interested in immersing themselves in a different kind of world. However, AR has evolved quickly and now boasts a strong presence in eCommerce. Consumers are supplementing their brick-and-mortar visits with online shopping – and using AR to interact with products to get a 360-degree view instead of a static photo on a screen. Whether shopping for basics – apparel, shoes, jewelry – or big-ticket items like automobiles or new living room furniture sets, AR has come a long way in a short time.
Some retail segments have leveraged AR for years, allowing consumers to customize and personalize T-shirts or shoes, and while this technology is easier for certain industries to adopt, others which have been notoriously brick-and-mortar (furniture showrooms, for example) are following suit and taking part in this next wave of shopping. One that’s easy for the consumer to navigate and that allows retailers to improve the online shopping experience as the decline of in-person shopping continues.
The need to interact with products: AR makes it possible
Shopping is personal, and consumers want their shopping experience to be unique to them, with nearly four out of 10 US adults reporting they want a personalized experience. Being able to interact with products is especially crucial when it comes to eCommerce. Afterall, it’s hard to replicate the in-store shopping experience from your home when you can’t physically touch merchandise or sit in a couch or try-on clothing to see what it will look like. Virtual-try on is one of the fastest growing ways retailers are incorporating AR into eCommerce and for good reason: 70% of Americans have made an online purchase in the last month alone.
This kind of technology, however, is still relatively new, and often times underutilized by the consumer (71% of US shoppers who have made a purchase in the last year online have never used virtual try-on/AR features). In order for more consumers to utilize AR, it’s important retailers themselves understand the technology behind so it can be seamlessly integrated into the consumer’s online shopping experience.
3D, AR and VR: What kind of technology should retailers invest in?
As eCommerce continues to be the go-to shopping method for most Americans, retailers need to understand what kind of technology is right for them, given their product offerings. Some are moving to a fully virtual world with the implementation of virtual reality technology, while others are just starting to dip into the power of AR and 3D and the effect they have.
AR and 3D technology have matured tremendously in the past two years and become more integrated with e-commerce solutions, so most retailers should consider exploring AR tools like customizers or AR viewers – so consumers can have the interaction we know they want, without having a cumbersome experience. It’s also important for retailers to understand the synergy between using 2D, 3D and AR together in order for their online store to thrive. Each offers a different benefit to the consumer, and when offered as a comprehensive solution, provide the retailer with a full suite of tools managed by one vendor.
Technology evolves quickly, but it’s important to remember that not all consumers are tech-savvy when it comes to online shopping. Therefore, retailers have to determine exactly what their customers are looking for from their shopping experience, and from there, determine how extensive the AR technology needs to be.
There is still a lot of trepidation and uneasiness when it comes to retailers using AR, despite the fact that leading companies have had success using it. As this technology continues to evolve and mature, it becomes easier and easier for retailers to implement. This, along with the fact that it’s quickly becoming an expected part of the consumer experience is driving more retailers to adopt it. With the help of technology, specifically AR, consumers are able to have the ‘in-store’ shopping experience without leaving their homes. This in turn leads to less returns (in some cases, merchants have noted a 40% reduction in the rate of returns) and larger profits for retailers.