Augmented Reality in e-commerce
How do you make retail better? How do you engage people and make the customer journey more interesting? How do you ease the customer's decision making and improve conversion rates? How do you reduce returns (the cost of which is a huge burden for retailers, especially online retailers)? These are the sorts of questions businesses grapple with constantly.
XR technologies can help to smooth out the wrinkles in the buying journey, thus providing some solutions to these critical questions. For one thing, augmented reality allows customers to see and even try things out before they buy – for example, digitally projecting a new shade of nail polish onto their nails via an AR app, or digitally manifesting the latest gadget on their desk so they can inspect it from all angles. Thus, AR provides a way for customers to personalize their shopping experience and visualize purchases in context. But XR can also help to provide more immersive, meaningful experiences for customers – such as using VR to tell a story about the brand's identity or the history of a product. XR is even providing opportunities for some cutting-edge B2C businesses to create new, digital-only products for customers to enjoy purely in a virtual sense – including digital-only clothes. All this, and more, is now possible thanks to XR.
When you think about it, retail is ripe for an overhaul. Particularly the online shopping experience. Take shopping for furniture online as an example. There's a reason so many people still shop for furniture in person rather than online – judging the size of something like a couch is really tricky online, and then there's the issue of visualizing how it'll look in the context of your home. And if, once the couch arrives, you discover it doesn't fit or doesn't blend with the rest of the room, returning it is a nightmare. Now, retailers are using AR to help customers digitally project furniture (or other home items, and even paint colors) into their homes, scaled to size, so customers can judge accurately whether an item is right for them. The same sort of thing is now possible with clothes, cosmetics, glasses, shoes, jewelry, tattoos … anything, really.
Research shows that the majority of customers are not only open to these tools – they may be more likely to purchase an item when they've experienced it through AR, even if they weren't originally intending to purchase that item.
- A 2019 study found that 57 percent of customers in the UK said they would definitely or probably use VR/AR applications that provided more information on products. For customers in the United States, that figure was 62 percent.
- One study from 2016 found that 72 percent of shoppers bought something they had not planned to because of AR, and that 55 percent of shoppers said AR makes shopping fun.
- In the wake of COVID-19, when physical stores in many locations were closed, retailers that used AR enjoyed a 19 percent spike in customer engagement. What's more, conversion rates increase by 90 percent among customers that engage with AR versus those that don't.
There are broad ways in which organizations are already using XR, namely:
- Giving customers interesting and immersive new experiences Allowing customers to see and experience products in more detail Enabling customers to virtually trial a product before they buy
- Providing new opportunities to customize products
- Creating innovative new and digital-only products
These sections represent the most common current XR uses, but as the technology evolves, we can expect to see different uses and experiences that are much more impressive. For example, for now, most AR clothes shopping experiences are limited to viewing items on models or avatars representing various sizes. But in the future, you'll be able to create a digital twin of yourself that accurately represents your own size and body shape; so, when you shop for clothes online, you'll be able to transport your digital avatar to a virtual changing room and see what the clothes will really look like on you. In other words, within the next few years, we'll see the retail experience transform in ways that we couldn't have imagined 20 or even 10 years ago. Let's delve into some current, real-world examples of AR in e-commerce with the examples blow: