Shopping online has totally been redefined post the influx of big e-commerce giants. This has presented many ancillary sectors such as real estate, education, entertainment, print, automobile, etc. to partner with these e-commerce platforms to sell their products and services, making it a much easier reach for their target audience.
Customer needs today are directing e-commerce bigwigs to implement innovative technologies. The idea to access something better through superior solutions for the business.
Enter Augmented Reality in Ecommerce
By definition, augmented reality is “a technology which provides a direct or indirect view of the computer generated images scanned through users on their mobile or tablet to gather complete information about the tracking objects.”
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But only a couple of decades back, a large multi-national conglomerate failed to see the potential of internet marketing. As a result, their competition claimed a significant market share of their customer base.
The Augmented Reality boom, too many ecommerce giants may not be as transformational as they are viewed to be but to ignore the trend completely may just not be a great business move.
A challenge that many online customers frequently encounter is to determine if the product that they wish to purchase is right for them. And augmented reality offers this added dose of confidence that helps to motivate their purchase decisions towards closure in ecommerce.
A number of apparel brands in the UK such as Timberland and Topshop are using augmented reality enabled mirrors which allows their clients to try on products with more convenience.
For example, Timberland’s ‘Virtual Fitting Room’ converted the fitting room into a window display thus increasing more traffic. Seeing a virtual version of themselves through the front camera, customers were able to select a variety of products to try on without even having to step in-store.
Topshop, too, created something similar. Dressing Room by Gap and the Sampler by Converse are in the pipeline to bring the virtual experience to their customers allowing them to try shoes on at home, easily sharing the pictures to get purchase validation from friends.
Lowe’s, on the other hand, has used Google’s Tango AR technology by developing an in-house product innovation lab. This basically makes the actual physical shopping experience quick and easy.
The app allows customers to create shopping lists in advance. Once they are in-store, the geolocation technology helps them navigate to the aisles through the quickest possible route.
In fact, their in-store navigation application is claimed to be “the first retail application of indoor mapping using augmented reality.”
However, Lowe’s did not stop here. Their Measured Application for their home and lifestyle brand Magnolia Market allows clients to instantaneously measure basis images taken from their smartphone or tablet camera.
The at-home Augmented Reality technology is definitely a strategic approach in terms of increasing sales for home-related SKUs as customers would rarely go for home improvements if they are not able to imagine what these products are going to look like in their homes.
2016-17 saw a massive investment of $1.7 billion in augmented reality by investors who are enthusiastic about supporting new age technologies. But how is augmented reality impacting the e-commerce environment?
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Reshaping the Ecommerce Sector with Augmented Reality
From what it was a few years ago, augmented reality today has evolved from its long-lost cousin, virtual reality, a dream of the tech wizards, to a platform where even your not so techy mum can buy a product using an online shopping channel.
With consumer demands soaring really high, devices that are of really of high-quality are being aligned to AR technologies that are a stepping stone to newer progressions in the tech world.
By offering a close match to in-store shopping experiences, AR technologies are providing customers with the opportunity to digitally interact with products renditions through devices in the comfort of their homes.
Users are hungry for digital customization where AR allows them to test their choices. Personalization is the name of the game.
Recently, Amazon circulated a patent on AR presentation that suggested what can be expected in the near future from the ecommerce sector in terms of Augmented Reality applications.
Take the example of a prospective buyer wanting to try a different style shirt. Now imagine scanning the shirt and viewing himself with the product that he is trying to purchase.
The amount of time saved to make a purchase decision is undoubtedly fast tracked. Subsequently, AR also minimises possibilities of returns and exchanges, significantly.
Every e-commerce business will want a share of this new pie. However, it requires creative implementation as there is a need to prep their line of products and services to fall in line with the AR apps.
The concept plays on the buyer’s emotions. By showcasing products and services to prospective buyers in an environment that they are comfortable with, how it fits in with their routine lives will make their decision to finally swipe the card a much simpler process.
Therefore, AR is no longer confined as an add-on feature for gaming. Augmented Reality has made its presence felt very strongly in the ecommerce domain that as upgraded the online shopping experience to entirely new heights. While the cost of entry is still relatively low, the potential advantages are commendably very high.
Impact of AR on Online Shopping
With more and more consumers opting for an enhanced yet authentic online shopping experience, e-commerce businesses too will have to change the way they reach their sales goals.
1) Spin The “Augmented” Into Reality:
Do not trivialise the usage of AR in any way. E-commerce platforms must incorporate this technology as a key component of their sales and marketing. At the end of the day, technology should resonate with its customers.
Blindly throwing darts at the Augmented Reality wall approach will not work for ecommerce businesses. Customer and organizational goals will have to be taken into account to achieve their overall objectives.
Here is how this can be done.
- Offering a Useful Experience: Initially, AR will be treated as a novelty that everyone will want to try out at some point in time. It will also allow the e-commerce platform to offer value addition to shoppers who are undecided about their purchase. A lot of companies may feel the need to develop their own unique AR. However, before getting fully immersed, it is best to test the waters by outsourcing to experts in the field to execute the work for them.
- Adding a Freshness to Retail: There is tremendous competition waging between the online and the physical marketplaces. Application of AR is an immediate way for online retailers to make their mark among-st their counterparts. As a matter of fact, research conducted by Walker Sands in 2015 found that 35% of customers would purchase through e-commerce websites if they were able to virtually interact with the products.
- Enable Customers to Personalize: A personalized shopping experience is what customers desire today. Several of the large players in the ecommerce segment has delved into Augmented reality that has allowed to custom-design buyer experiences. Directed by a well-informed curator who is aware of customer preferences, ecommerce platforms have developed Augmented reality solutions that are offering CX in a whole new level.
2) “Try Before Buy” Fuelled by AR:
The ‘try before buy’ concept has been largely appreciated by online customers. Augmented reality solutions have advanced to give them exactly that.
Different sectors have adopted the technology to suit their buyer requirements.
- Trying Out Clothes: With everyone carrying a smartphone or having access to a tablet, digitally trying out outfits before you purchase them online is no longer a far-fetched dream. Customers can actually visualize themselves in various styles, sizes and colours prior to paying for the order.
- Check Out Home Décor Products Also: Viewing furniture, curtain and other household products through AR technology allows the customer to picture the exact space it will occupy in their homes, how will it look, etc. Large online retailers have incorporated AR with home décor products that allow a more 360 degree product experience for the customer.
3) Transparent Delivery:
Online purchases until AR came along always carried a quotient of doubt and ambiguity until the product actually reached the customer. With new innovations, e-commerce players have not added a new layer of product transparency and delivery.
By being able to view the product through their colour, size, space criteria, it presents true information of the product to the customer. Consequently, AR technology allows companies to deliver the same product to the end customer, thus adhering to a system of transparency for all concerned.
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The Future is Here
With so much progress already being made, only those e-commerce retails will be able to reap the benefits if they have been early investors and are fully committed to this technology.
By removing the element of uncertainty with from the buying process, customers are keen to close their purchases quickly. AR has the potential to do just that, but only if retailers work to bring the technology into the real world.