Table of Contents

Augmented Reality

What Is Augmented Reality (AR)? How can Augmented Reality Enhance Shopping Experience?

Team Avataar
Team Avataar
November 22, 2022
minutes read

3d represantation of a project with the help of a tablet

In the spring of 2020, most of the world was forced into their homes. Retail stores across the globe closed their doors for months; some halted their services. Others took an innovative approach to making their retail space more COVID-19 amenable – and augmented reality an approach that enabled this.

As consumers flood to the online space, retail eCommerce sales are now projected to grow more than 11% worldwide between 2022 and 2025. Retailers are feeling the pressure to become technologically advanced, and thus, more stores are implementing AR and VR solutions.

Considering that 71% of shoppers say they would shop more often if they could do it through AR, it’s no surprise that AR ecommerce is becoming more commonplace. In fact,many of us may have already come across the technology unknowingly in-store or online.

But what is AR? And how is augmented reality in eCommerce improving the consumer experience? Let's dig into the history, evolution, and future of this fascinating technology.

What is AR?

Put simply, augmented reality (AR) is the overlay of computer-generated content on the real world. This can be in the form of sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.

It has been around in some form since the 1960s, but it was only in recent years that the technology advanced to the point where augmented reality in retail could become mainstream and be used by businesses and consumers daily.

The big shift was mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. With nascent AI technology that allowed for things like background filters, object detection, and more, AR started seamlessly integrating itself into general consumer consciousness.

From there, platforms like Google Maps began integrating AR to assist you with directions, and other tech companies such as Meta (previously Facebook) started promising to scale up their AR and VR operations so users could interact with each other in a virtual world.

3d placement of white sofa witht the help of mobile

These are just some of the ways that AR in the retail industry and elsewhere is being used today – but we’ve only scratched the surface.

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality

You may be wondering, “Isn’t the Metaverse virtual reality?” It is, at least in part. But augmented reality and virtual reality are two different things. Let's take a closer look at the AR vs VR comparison.

Virtual reality is a completely immersive experience where you are transported to a different world. This can be used for gaming, entertainment, or even training simulations.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, adds computer-generated content to the real world. It does not transport you to another place; instead, it enhances your current surroundings. For this reason, augmented reality and retail can sync better for delivering a contextually immersive shopping experience.

For example, you might use AR to view AR visuals of furniture products in your living room, or see directions overlaid on a real-world street. On the other hand, VR will transport you to a completely computer-generated street, which you could then explore.

History of AR

While it might seem like augmented reality is a brand-new technology, it is much older than many people think. However, it wasn’t always referred to in the same fashion.

photo of ml heilig

Source: ResearchGate

Humble beginnings

In 1962, American filmmaker Morton Heilig introduced the world to the Sensorama, which some have dubbed the first VR experience. Truly, it should be known more as the first AR experience; it used real-world effects like wind, smells, and noise to simulate riding a motorcycle down the streets of New York.

At this time, and for years afterward, there wouldn’t be a phrase for AR. Not until some aerospace engineers decided to throw their hat in the ring.

Coining the phrase

Tom Caudell and David Mizell, researchers at Boeing, coined the term in 1992 with their paper, “Augmented reality: An application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes.” 

Even three decades ago, the possibilities and potential of AR were already being explored – but the computing power to bring it to the masses was still years away.

A new generation

As the page turned on the 20th century, society began shifting toward smaller and smaller devices. The potential for AR started to grow. In 2003, Sony released the EyeToy: a webcam that tracked player movement and displayed it on the screen in real-time. This was a huge step in not only gaming, but also general computing. 

Soon after, companies like BMW started using AR for print advertising, leveraging the increased computing power of devices to place digital objects in the real world. This allowed people to see what a product would look like in their own home without ever having to leave their living room, also making augmented reality for retail more practical.

As it worked for print advertising, it soon worked for eCommerce, with companies like IKEA and Lowe’s following suit. These included some of the common AR in retail examples.

checking 3d placements of products on white table through mobile

How AR is used today

In the present day, AR technology in retail is nearly ubiquitous. Try-it-on and see-it-in-your-space features are now commonplace for many retailers.

With Avataar’s out of the box solution, companies can quickly convert their 2D product catalogs to 3D for use in AR. The AR experiences link to the e-commerce store’s product pages to provide an immersive experience for customers looking to buy products online.

This can be understood with an Augmented reality retail example.

Need a new couch? See how it would look in your living room with a few simple clicks! Wondering if a refrigerator will fit in your kitchen? Use your phone camera to place the refrigerator in your space and tap to see if it fits! 3D and interactive AR for e-commerce provides companies with endless benefits, including:

  • Increased conversion rates: An immersive experience means that customers are more likely to purchase items. Retailers using 3D AR have reported upto 94% increase in sales conversions.
  • Reduced returns: Customers can try before they buy, meaning that they are less likely to return items that don’t fit or look how they thought.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: By providing a realistic representation of products, customers can make informed decisions and are more satisfied with their purchases.

These are just a few of the many benefits that AR brings to eCommerce. And as technology continues to evolve, we can only imagine what new possibilities will be made available to businesses and consumers alike!

Where AR technology is going

AR's implementation is being helped along by SaaS companies providing turnkey solutions on platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, meaning it is quickly advancing through the eCommerce space to provide interactive experiences for customers online.

But the walls of your internet browser are not going to hold it for long. The increase of "Phygital" retail experiences will bring AR to the brick and mortar stores of old, allowing things like experience zones, infinite aisles, and even hologram sales assistants. This will help expand and elevate the overall AR retail experience.

Check some more examples of what that might look like here.

Roadblocks that stand in the way

This isn't going to happen all at once, as implementing AR will require significant investments in time and money for retailers – though those costs are coming down with new turnkey solutions.

The other potential roadblock is data privacy concerns. As we become more comfortable sharing our location and personal information, companies must be transparent about how they are using it and ensure that consumers' data is secure.

If these issues can be overcome, the future of AR in the retail market is looking bright. We've come a long way from a few exhaust fumes and a fan blowing in your face!

Frequently asked questions

How is AR used in ecommerce?

AR is used in the ecommerce to create immersive experiences by creating 3D catalogs and providing customers with real-time views of how products would appear in their environment. For instance, instead of displayning 2d static images of a wooden cabinet in the PDP, retailers can allow customers to use their phone camera to evaluate the look and feel of the cabinet in real time and in real size, allowing them to make more informed purchasing decisions. Stores with augmented reality see 94% higher sales conversion.

Are there advantages to using augmented reality?

Augmented reality allows buyers to make informed purchasing decisions by allowing them to evaluate products in real size in their own environment using their phone camera. According to reports, stores with augmented reality see 94% higher conversion and 40% lower returns.

Why add AR on ecommerce stores?

AR or Augmented Reality is transforming the shopping experience on ecommerce stores. Augmented reality, when implemented correctly, can help improve conversion rates and increase sales. That’s because it gives potential buyers a life-like experience of having the product in their home. For instance, when buying a piece of furniture or appliance, buyers can use their phone camera to get a full 360 degree view of the product placed virtually anywhere in their space. This unique experience adds confidence to the buying journey, improving conversion rates.

How is AR used in shopping?

AR is being implemented across ecommerce stores worldwide, and it has caused a paradigm shift in how buyers shop. Augmented reality puts buyers in complete control. Without relying on their imagination, shoppers can sift through the catalog and place each product in their home or office setting using just their phone’s rear camera without requiring any external device. As a result, they can try out hundreds of products on the go and make a buying decision if they like what they see, without ever leaving the comfort of their home. Such immersive online shopping experience improves the customer's understanding of their purchase and leads to more sales and fewer returns.

How does augmented reality work?

Augmented reality allows the user to place the product in their space using their smartphone camera. The user can point the camera wherever they want to place the product. This ensures an immersive shopping experience and inspires confidence in buyers. AR takes convenience and ease to the next level, and it’s a game-changer for sellers and shoppers alike.

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