Augmented reality (AR) has gained a lot of traction in the past few years. According to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), money spent on augmented reality along with virtual reality (VR) will reach $17.8 billion in 2018.
“Phone-based AR is likely to garner most of the excitement for the near term and many companies are already experimenting with AR apps and services”
- says Tom Mainelli, Program Vice President of Devices and AR/VR at IDC.
Investing in AR
Some prominent IT giants are investing millions of dollars into AR projects, demonstrating a strong belief in AR’s immersive capabilities. Google has already introduced ARCore, a platform for building augmented reality apps on Android. Apple has introduced ARKit, a platform to develop AR for iOS devices. ARKit blends digital objects with real scenes. Other software companies like Microsoft, for example, are developing their own solutions like Hololens. Startups in this sector have reached more than $650 million in funding Augment 1.8M, VividWorks 1.7M, Sayduck 1M. Facebook has paid $2 billion for Oculus.
All these companies mentioned above see the great prospects that AR can bring, and if intelligently applied, AR can also have a huge impact on the retail industry.
The retail industry is probably the industry best able to leverage the immersive experiences that AR offers.
According to Retail Perceptions, a report that measures the influence of AR on the retail sector, 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer AR.
The surveyed people say that the most popular items to shop for with augmented reality are:
- 60% Furniture
- 55% Clothing
- 39% Groceries
- 35% Shoes
- 25% Makeup
- 25% Jewelry
- 22% Toys
With augmented reality apps:
- 77% of shoppers want to see product features such as color or style
- 65% want to learn about product information
- 55% say augmented reality makes shopping fun
With these statistics in mind, AR seems desirable for retailers to investment in an attempt to increase sales, retain existing customers, and acquire new ones.
Benefits that AR brings to retailers
Augmented reality enhances the shopping experience and offers a totally new take on how retailers engage with customers. Let’s see what benefits AR can bring if integrated into the retail landscape.
Benefit №1: With AR, retailers can create immersive product catalogs with preview options. Online retailers that don’t own brick-and-mortar stores can use AR product catalogs to overcome the disadvantage of not having a showroom. They can build AR apps that show all products on offer.
Benefit №2: AR provides customizable UX content that matches user needs. In apparel, accessories, and cosmetics, brands can allow customers to virtually try on their products. Contractors, architects, and designers can let clients preview a huge selection of designs before making their final choice. Using AR, clients can see all options and make decisions more easily after they’ve visualized products.
Benefit №3: AR can reduce product return rates, saving money on returns since customers can decide whether they like items before buying.
Benefit №4: AR can make in-store navigation easy and informative so that shoppers don’t get lost or confused. Immersive AR technology lets customers find what they need quickly, supplies customers with information about products, and increases the number of purchases made. AR mobile apps can help users create shopping lists, find the shortest route through the store to the things they want to buy, and guide customers to all products on their list.
Benefit №5: AR technology can be used to create powerful presentations for products, appealing to human emotions with sensational interactive experiences. Speakers can ask their audiences to view presentations through their devices and see realistic product renders on mobile screens. Also, AR product models can be presented to prospective customers through email and social media channels using basic mobile apps.
Benefit №6: As far as marketing is concerned, billboards or any simple picture with a product can create a story of its own if viewed through AR-powered apps. Many people, especially Millennials and Gen Xers, want to experience advertising with AR technology now that Apple and Google have introduced their AR tools.
Use cases for augmented reality
The famous LEGO company lets customers visualize what their products will look like when they assemble them through the Lego Digital Box kiosk, which shows a pseudo-3D image. Users only need to take a Lego box and hold it in front of the kiosk to instantly see the product displayed on the kiosk monitor. This increases engagement with products and moves visitors to buy. What’s more, the Lego AR-Studio lets games like Pokemon Go come to life. The AR-Studio app offers a number of in-app purchases and is likely to revolutionize how children play with LEGO.
Home furnishing provider IKEA made an AR catalog that lets customers use a smartphone or tablet to see how a piece of furniture will look in their home before buying. With its online and regular catalogs, IKEA is a wonderful example of how AR apps can integrate with marketing strategies.
Customers can check out products with IKEA Place, the first app to use Apple’s ARKit. In IKEA Place, customers can view 3D renderings of over 2,000 products including sofas, armchairs, and storage units before ordering the ones they want in the app. Michael Valdsgaard, Leader of Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems B.V., is expecting a significant uplift in sales from AR, and is hoping for $5.9 billion in online sales by 2020. In 2016, online sales amounted to $1.6 billion.
AR is already changing how car dealers sell vehicles. Mobile apps with AR experiences allow shoppers to get 3D views of cars that aren’t on the lot or have a look at the latest models while sitting on their couch. 72% of dealers in the UK will use AR technology to help them sell vehicles by 2021.
Let’s take Volkswagen as an example. This popular German car brand has used AR features in their print marketing, namely on billboards. Customers can point the VW AR app at a billboard and see how the new Beetle bursts onto their phone screens.
Volkswagen Group Research along with Metaio Gmbh has developed the MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) system to show real and virtual parts in three-dimensional relation to one another. MARTA is a new display system for service information, especially for the XL1, and provides information on tablets for service technicians, including labels of individual parts and clear work instructions.
The Edmunds iOS app lets users see whether the vehicle they want to buy will fit in their garage. A touch of AR makes shopping useful and fun at the same time. Now that ARCore exists, Edmunds would also like to make their Can it fit? app for the Android platform. However, they’re still keeping their focus on refining the iOS experience before moving to Android.
Bringing augmented reality to retail
The demand for immersive AR experiences is growing. Businesses should be on their toes and take advantage of the capabilities that augmented reality offers to better their product-focused campaigns. AR can drive customers to purchase products. It adds convenience and helps customers make more informed decisions while providing the modern retailer with a powerful tool that can allow people to see realistic representations of actual products on their screens wherever they are.
If you have an idea for an app with AR features, get in touch with us and we’ll allocate a skilled development team that will incorporate immersive AR experiences into your retail business.
Meanwhile, read how we create projects from scratch.