How often do you order an item of clothing or piece of furniture online, only to realize you hate it once it arrives? It’s one of the many frustrations that come with online shopping – but thanks to new technology, you won’t have to be frustrated for much longer.
Augmented reality (AR) is already being used by some of the biggest brands in e-commerce as a way to give customers a more immersive experience with products before they purchase them. L'Oréal has made it possible to see makeup products on your face via smartphone camera; IKEA lets you virtually place items in your house.
More brands are catching onto the trend – and for good reason. A joint study from Snap and Deloitte Digital suggested that by 2025, 75% of the world's population, including almost everyone with a smartphone, will be frequent AR users.
But what will we be using it for? Will it remain a predominant try-before-you-buy tool, or are there other exciting use cases to expect? Let’s explore a little further.
What is AR?
This year's holiday season is sure to be stuffed full of AR marketing, given the success of recent examples like Vogue's Cannes experience. The exhibition, which featured pieces from Dior, Gucci, and many other iconic fashion names, used an AR lens from Snap to let visitors see how each of the garments would look on them.
But before we get into where the world of AR for e-commerce is going next, it’s useful to understand the basics. Allow us to backtrack for a moment.
AR is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images on top of your view of the real world, thus providing you with information that would otherwise not be available.
Snapchat’s facial filters are a great example of this, and their app was certainly a front-runner in AR tech. Apps like WAM (World Around Me) act as a virtual tour guide, overlaying information and digital signs onto your camera to guide you through travel destinations with ease.
In each case, information is being added to your view of reality to help you make a decision or learn something new. With smartphones in the pockets of 80% of the world's population, the application of this added data and experience is endless.
Benefits of AR
Brands have quickly begun to understand how AR can give potential customers a new way to engage with their products.
These kinds of integrations can provide benefits like:
- Allowing potential customers to engage with your product in a new way
- Helping to increase conversion rates by giving customers more confidence in their purchases
- Reducing returns by giving people a better idea of what they're buying
- Generating buzz and excitement around a new product launch
Nearly every big e-commerce brand in the world is using or developing some sort of AR solution, as they try to reach the next generation of tech-savvy consumers.
How AR changed the ecommerce experience
The thing is, not every business will be able to develop and implement an AR commerce product like L'Oreal and IKEA.
Thousands of small businesses needed to find a way to quickly adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic by ramping up their online platforms and finding an AR tool for e-commerce that was both affordable and easy to use.
Fortunately, the market has come a long way since they launched, and there are now many AR platforms that have been designed with smaller businesses in mind. These e-commerce tools allow you to quickly create product try-ons, view-in-space experiences, and other AR features without a large upfront investment.
And while it may seem like a novel way to sell products, using augmented reality in e-commerce is quite effective. Let’s take a look at some of the ways it can enhance your online experience.
Have you ever wished you could bring that chair home just to see what it would look like beside the couch? Now you can, with augmented reality solutions.
Augmented reality allows customers to see how products would look and fit in their own homes before making a purchase. Customers can view an accurate 3D representation of the product, change the color or material, and even see how it would fit in with the rest of their décor.
This is an incredibly powerful tool for selling furniture, home décor, and even clothing. It gives customers the confidence they need to make a purchase, by taking away any doubt they have about how it will look in their space.
In days past, a lot of homeowners had to just trust that a contractor was making the right decisions when it came to big projects. They could see the cabinetry in a showroom and hold up a few tiles to see if they think it will match, but it was all based on guesswork.
With AR, you can take the guesswork out of home projects and have complete confidence that you’re making the right choices.
For example, planning a kitchen renovation can be stressful. You need to make sure that the cabinets you choose will fit in the space, that the countertops will go well with the backsplash, and so on.
But with AR, you can simply use your phone camera to see how everything will look before you commit to anything. You can even change the colors and materials of each element to see what looks best. This is a huge time-saver, and it can help you avoid costly mistakes.
Product out of stock, or the floor doesn’t have the model you were hoping for? Just hold up your phone and check out the entire catalog right in front of your eyes. This is the opposite of the buy online, pick-up in-store method, which has become so prevalent at places like electronics retailers.
Instead, you can place your order and pay from in the store while the out-of-stock product is shipped directly to your home. Never run out of shelf space again, thanks to the help of augmented reality.
The teenager working the register might not know that much about the product you are after. But with a quick scan, all the detailed information can be at your fingertips, allowing customers to build confidence in their purchase while browsing the aisles.
The advent of hologram-based sales assistants is another advantage as well, offering retailers the chance to have an endless amount of staff on hand to help customers immediately.
It's not just when you're at home swiping around on your phone, though. Augmented reality can help brick-and-mortar retailers help convert sales by offering improved in-store experiences, which leverage the e-commerce inventory chain.
Walk into a space and start grabbing items from the online store to populate all around you. A showroom no longer has to have a book of wallpaper patterns, you can see everything the merchant has to offer with just a few taps.
In terms of augmented reality, the future has already arrived; it’s just not exactly like the movies predicted.
Currently, we have sleek, unobtrusive smartphone apps that use your camera to show you what products would look like in your home before you buy them. Wearables will take the consumer experience to the next level breaking away from 2D screens.
With Avataar’s out-of-the-box solution, retailers can quickly convert their 2D product catalog to 3D for use in AR. The 3D AR experience will link to the e-commerce store’s product pages to provide an immersive experience for customers looking to buy online, leading to greater engagement, bigger cart sizes, and more revenue.