Augmented Reality is a technology that is continuing to shape the online shopping world. Here, we share common use-cases and insights into how to get started with AR for eCommerce.
Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information, such as images or text, onto the user’s view of the real world. The most common way to experience AR is by using your mobile phone’s camera and this makes it an approachable technology for most compared to VR which is another popular mixed reality medium but unlike AR requires an expensive specialized headset.
According to Shopify, brands using augmented reality saw retail conversion rates increase by around 250%. (2) eCommerce brands are leveraging augmented reality to enhance online shopping by allowing customers to see how a product would look in their own environment or closer to the experience they would get in a showroom.
Some examples are furniture retailers using AR to let customers see how a couch would look in their living room, or a beauty brand showing how a makeup product would look on a customer’s face. Where fashion retailers might set up a virtual fitting room to give buyers a better view of how the item looks on their body.
Companies like Meta and Google are trying to accelerate our use of this technology by investing more in AR and VR tools—for example, Google recently acquired Raxium, a startup that specializes in smart glasses with new technologies that could greatly improve the prospects of Google’s previous (and current) Google Glass attempts. Facebook rebranded as Meta and has placed a large amount of its future strategy and investment in VR and web 3.0.
eCommerce Augmented Reality will allow for the sort of personalized and live shopping options many buyers and retailers have dreamed about years ago, leading to more sales, lower return rates, and an overall better buying experience.
By the end of 2021, the US augmented, virtual, and mixed reality market was worth $28 billion (1) and continues to grow. As this technology develops we will see AR shopping also move to social media platforms and the much-talked-about web 3.0 where the future of virtual reality will continue to take shape.
One of the most common and best uses for AR is virtual try-on which allows users to virtually “try on” clothing or accessories using a device’s camera.
Virtual try-on typically uses the camera on a device, such as a smartphone or a tablet, to capture a live video of a person. The AR software then applies a virtual version of the clothing or accessory to the person in the video, allowing them to see how it would look on them in real time.
The technology behind virtual try-on relies on computer vision, which is the ability of a computer to interpret and understand visual information from the real world. This includes identifying the person’s body shape and facial features, as well as tracking their movements. The virtual clothing or accessory is then mapped onto the person’s body in the video, creating a realistic representation of how it would look if they were wearing it in real life.
Virtual try-on can be used to improve customer engagement in a variety of areas, such as online shopping, in-store kiosks, or social media platforms.
A virtual showroom is another type of augmented reality (AR) experience that allows customers to explore a store or a product display as if they were physically present in the showroom. Retailers can create a digital replica of a showroom or store and allow customers to navigate through it, view products from different angles, and even interact with them, such as by opening drawers, turning on lights, or changing colors and textures.
Virtual showrooms can be accessed through a website or mobile app, and customers can use their device’s camera or a VR headset to view the showroom. The use of AR in virtual showrooms allows customers to get a sense of the size, layout, and appearance of a showroom or store.
Virtual try-on is perhaps most applicable in the fashion and beauty verticals. Across generations, over half of the survey respondents were interested in using AR for trying on new makeup or hair colors and trying on new clothes, shoes, or accessories (from 57% of the silent generation all the way to 92% of Gen Z). (1)
In e-commerce, virtual showrooms can be a powerful tool for retailers to enhance the buyer experience, increase engagement, and drive sales. By providing customers with a more immersive and interactive shopping experience, retailers can increase the chances that a customer will make a purchase. Additionally, virtual showrooms also provide retailers with valuable data on customer behavior and preferences, which can be used to optimize the physical store layout, product displays, and overall customer journey.
The increasing use of computer vision, natural language processing, and machine learning capabilities should create even more personalized virtual showrooms for each customer based on their browsing history, preferences, and unified Omnichannel customer data.
Mobile and AR
Mobile devices are currently the most common and approachable way for most buyers to experience AR and simply use the built-in high-quality cameras most phones have.
As mobile devices continue to improve in terms of processing power and camera capabilities, it will become even easier to deliver high-quality AR experiences to customers on smartphones and tablets and make it easier for them to visualize products in their own environment. These being mobile devices means they are with us where we are likely to encounter AR scenarios and don’t require carrying a separate device which traditionally is what reduces uptake of these emerging technologies.
AR For Product Assembly Guides and Instructions
Another trend is the use of AR for product visualization and instructions. This would allow customers to see how a product works, or even how to assemble it. This could be particularly useful for products that are complex or difficult to understand from traditional 2D images and would help to reduce errors.
Customers could use their smartphones or tablets to scan QR codes or barcodes included in the instruction manual, which would then launch an AR-based instruction manual on their device. This allows customers to see 3D models of the product and its components, as well as animations and videos demonstrating the assembly process. They could also receive interactive feedback on their assembly progress, such as notifications when a component is not properly installed.
IKEA uses augmented reality to provide furniture assembly instructions.
In the future customers could even use AR glasses or headsets to see virtual instructions superimposed on the physical product while they are assembling it.
Social Media and Social Commerce
In the future, augmented reality (AR) technology is likely to be increasingly integrated into social media platforms, providing new opportunities for eCommerce. The use of AR in social media will allow users to experience products in the same immersive ways we have mentioned they could on brand.com sites, just without buyers having to leave their preferred social media platform. Social commerce itself is an emerging trend in eCommerce and AR will play a part in that continued growth.
A more unique use of AR in social media could be the ability for users to create and share their own AR experiences. This could include creating virtual showrooms, or even their own unique virtual storefronts, that users can explore and interact with. This would allow users to create unique and personalized shopping experiences, and it would also enable new forms of social interaction.
AR could also be used to enhance the social media shopping experience. For example, users could use AR to scan products in the real world and receive information about them, or to see how products would look in their own environment. This would allow users to make more informed purchasing decisions, and it would also enable new forms of social sharing.
AR Reduced Returns
Another big advantage of Augmented Reality (AR) it can reduce returns by providing customers with a more realistic and accurate representation of a product before making a purchase.
As we have already discussed augmented reality lets customers see how a product would look in their own environment but there is another big advantage of this as customers can ensure that they are happy with the product before they commit to buying it, reducing the likelihood that they will return it.
AR can also be used to provide customers with more detailed and accurate information about a product, such as its size, dimensions, and weight. This can help customers make more informed purchasing decisions and reduce the likelihood that they will be disappointed with the product when it arrives.
Additionally, AR can also be used to provide customers with product visualization and instruction improving the customer experience particularly when it comes to traditionally high return categories like flat-pack furniture.
AR could be used to create interactive and immersive marketing campaigns, allowing customers to interact with products in a more engaging way than a traditional marketing campaign.
Some forms of this could be email campaigns where buyers could use virtual try-on technology straight from the campaign itself or create a personalized campaign for each user based on data collected from previous AR onsite experience. An example of this could be displaying the item in their most purchased or favorite color leading to higher conversion.
Another huge benefit for marketers when implementing AR technology is the ability to collect more data about their customers and therefore be able to both deliver a more personalized experience and also more accurately targeted campaigns.
Being able to collect this level of first-party data is a boon for marketers at a time when getting this data is increasingly more difficult as third-party cookies can no longer be relied on as previously they were for these sorts of customer insights.
This information can even be used to design better products as things like in-depth sizing data can be collected as an example.
Marketplaces & AR
Marketplaces have always been at the forefront of eCommerce trends and large players such as Amazon, eBay and Lazada have already begun experimenting with AR technology and finding ways to give this technology to their sellers.
We predict virtual try-on and showroom functionality will become a feature of these marketplaces just as they are on direct websites and will offer the same benefits and improved experiences for retailers that offer a good experience.
As with anything else eCommerce related, approaching this in an Omnichannel way and making sure there is a consistent experience across channels will always be the best approach.
B2B & AR
B2B is another area augmented reality stands ready to improve the B2B customer/vendor experience in several ways:
Previously product demonstrations were done using PowerPoint presentations, brochures, and flyers and for complex products, this has always been particularly challenging.
Instead, a salesperson could be equipped with an AR-based application they can use to give an in-depth and 360-degree product demonstration, improving their prospects of converting the opportunity and providing a better overall experience for demonstrating the product.
These applications could allow customers to see and interact with products in as detailed a way as they desire, from a high-level overview to a very detailed view of individual components.
For complex products with a lot of customization options, AR presents an opportunity to see these products in a more detailed and accurate way and can drive personalization initiatives that are becoming increasingly common across eCommerce.
Product Design Choices
Augmented reality tools can facilitate customers taking an active part in the design of their products. Customers can provide real-time feedback improving overall satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of issues with the product.
Customer Service and Post-sales Support
Augmented reality solutions in the customer support arena are only in their infancy but this is an area where AR stands to take some of the frustration away from customer service interactions and improve the overall experience.
From AR manuals to the possibility of remote tech support via AR, augmented reality offers the possibility of making customer service more interactive and responsive.
Virtual Reality & Web 3.0
While AR is more approachable for most of us and something we can already use with our mobile devices, VR is another area that stands to transform how we do commerce.
Now, VR by itself is quite exciting but coupled with another emerging technology, web 3.0, these together present the likely future of how we will do commerce and use the web.
Web 3.0 in a nutshell is the next generation of the internet, which is being built on decentralized technologies such as blockchain and peer-to-peer networks. web 3.0 will enable new forms of e-commerce and business models that are more decentralized, transparent, and secure, which can help to increase trust, reduce fraud, and lower the costs of online transactions.
With both of these technologies, we will be able to enter accurate virtual worlds and storefronts where we can access the sort of experiences that were once only seen in SCI-FI-type movies, books, and television.
Imagine being able to enter a real storefront, being able to try on items but also you can save for easy access later. We will be able to get all of these advantages of in-store without having to leave the house.
In-store and Virtual Assistants
One area staff can utilize AR in-store is by acting as virtual assistants for online customers.
Retail sales staff can guide online AR customers through the store, show them specific products and answer their questions in real-time. They can facilitate virtual showroom experiences and improve the overall online experience.
The other advantage of this is retail store staff are being utilized across both channels, rather than just being used for the store which is a more efficient use of their time.
While eCommerce is on the ground floor of the implementation of this tech, the future of AR will see more use cases in fields such as healthcare, transportation, and education.
In healthcare, AR could be used to provide doctors and patients with real-time, interactive medical information.
In transportation, AR could be used to provide real-time information about traffic, weather, and other conditions to drivers and passengers.
And in education, AR could be used to create interactive and immersive learning experiences for students.
The future of AR is likely to involve more advanced and sophisticated uses of the technology, with an increasing focus on making it more accessible, personalized, and useful for consumers and businesses across different industries.
Tips for implementing AR
Once you have a clear idea of your AR strategy there are many ways to implement this on your site from a technology perspective:
1. Using Web AR: Web AR is a technology that allows AR content to be viewed in a web browser without the need for a dedicated app. This can be implemented using technologies such as WebXR, which is a web standard for creating AR and VR experiences.
2. Using AR SDKs: Software development kits (SDKs) can be used to create AR experiences that can be embedded in a website. There are several popular AR SDKs available, such as ARKit and ARCore, which are designed for iOS and Android respectively.
4. Using APIs: Some companies provide APIs for AR that can be integrated into a website, for example, Google’s ARCore has a JS API that developers can use to create AR experiences on the web.
This does require a certain level of development capacity and experience, so working with an experienced agency to achieve your goals is often a good strategy, particularly for smaller brands.
The future of augmented reality in eCommerce also includes the integration of AR into other technologies and devices such as IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G which will facilitate faster more efficient, and more accurate AR experiences.
As we see more industries and platforms making use of AR, more and more creative uses will be encountered.
For more information regarding Augmented Reality. Customer Experience or Ecommerce contact us.