14 Sep How Retailers Can Use Augmented Reality to their Advantage
The Future of E-commerce
As a consumer we have all experienced the process of buying online. Let’s say you just moved into a new apartment and are looking for some cool bits and pieces to decorate it. How do you approach this project?
One common thing that happens to me on my virtual shopping tour is that I find tons of beautiful and useful objects to store items in my kitchen and bathroom and others that I choose for the look of it (it’s an impulse that forces me to click!). So, I go ahead and order (since nearly every online merchant has a convenient return/exchange policy). Pieces arrive, get unpacked and put into places. Job done. But wait, there is a problem here…
Let’s say I ordered a frame. Here, it’s appropriate to ask me if I checked the product description beforehand. Yes, I did! I definitely put some thought into that. I browsed customer reviews, I chose the color and the size, I measured twice. I imagined it hanging there. The reality, however, looks different. It doesn’t exactly fit the colors of the picture… It also looks quite massive on the wall.
The same thing happens to your customers, no matter what types of products you offer them. Fashion items depend on size, color, shape and material. Lifestyle objects get picked for their design and form and their usability factor. Even if those factors are all “approved” by purchaser, it still can happen that he decides against buying, simply because it doesn’t feel right.
There are different ways to improve your customer’s journey, get even better reviews and build a solid base of fans for your shop. One of the trends we’re going to cover today is augmented reality, that can help your customer visualize a potential purchase in the room before buying it.
So, What Exactly is Augmented Reality?
In a nutshell, augmented reality (AR) is a mix of virtual world and real life, as it combines real time elements with those created by computer. These elements augmented “by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”.
Augmented reality uses mobile or wearable technology to interpose a layer of rich audiovisual data between users and their environment,providing them with useful, context-specific information. Augmented reality applications will increasingly be used in retail environments to give consumers product information and help them interact with brands.
By 2020, Augmented Reality (AR) as well as Virtual Reality (VR) markets are expected to hit the $ 150 billion mark. Especially with companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook investing into projects that use this technology, the trend gets more and more attention and can revolutionize the shopping behavior of people. Granted, it’s still in development. Once set, however, retailers must keep up if they want to stay competitive.
AR is not a new phenomenon. There are quite a few examples of big brands that have been experimenting with virtual and real world tool in recent years. Ikea used AR for its online catalog, allowing its visitors to browse through items, then drag and assemble them in the room.
Another great example and a current trend that is about to be tried out soon is Yihaodian, China’s largest food e-retailer that implemented the strategy so well that it even set a record into the Guinness book, when selling over two million cartons of milk in under an hour.
The innovators are currently planning to open over 1000 virtual shops throughout China. The concept is almost hard to believe. Can you imagine a virtual shop right in the Forbidden City?
So, why does e-commerce need Augmented Reality? How can you use it to your advantage? And, most importantly, does this trend have a serious future on the market and shouldn’t be ignored? Let’s look into some amazing examples of businesses successfully using AR as well as some current developments in this field.
We definitely need to mention this retailer first, since these guys are really investing into a great customer experience.
Online furniture retailer WayfairView created its own augmented reality application for a better shopping experience. By using Google’s technology, the app enables shoppers to visualize objects like furniture and lifestyle items for home decoration by placing them inside the room.
Consumers will be able to shop with WayfairView on the upcoming Tango-enabled smartphone by Lenovo, the PHAB2 Pro, available this September.
While there are plenty of paint and home décor companies that offer the option of uploading a picture of the rooms and matching the walls with colors and furniture, Wayfair Inc. takes buyer experience to a new level and creates a competitive environment for the future of retail.
In the video below you can get a better understanding of why this idea has potential. Not only does it enable you to choose from the variety of Wayfair products, but you can easily drag them across the room, making sure to find the right spot.
“Tango is fun and intuitive without requiring complex equipment or skills,” says Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs division.
Nel thinks contractors, architects, and designers will buy the phone to help their clients conceptualize projects and he hopes that consumers will buy it, too.
This technology is an important step forward in our vision for how AR and VR will shape the way our customers design, build, and enjoy their homes.
Since AR is still in its early stages of development, it is unclear whether it is going to increase sales and change buying habits. Once the smartphone, the Phab2 Pro, comes out on the market, it will be easier to predict the future of Augmented Reality in e-commerce. The experts, however, see potential future for the app.
“By testing and rolling out different AR and VR technologies and applications, we have the opportunity to learn how customers engage with these solutions and stay ahead of their rapidly changing expectations and differing needs,“ so Nel.
Even though AR trend hasn’t become a necessity for every online retail shop yet, it is expected to bring new potential and ideas into the world of e-commerce and set apart the ones who use them.
If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go yet.. Well, the question here should be – Where have you been for the last couple weeks? It’s nearly impossible to ignore! Pokémon Go is a game created and designed by Nintendo using augmented reality to create a real world environment with the combination of virtual objects like Pokemon.
Although the game appeared on the market this summer, it became an over-night-success and quickly spread around the world with more and more users registered hourly around the globe. According to SurveyMonkey, it is already the biggest US mobile game in history. Find out more about the game.
The owners of this Lounge quickly recognized the potential of increasing the number of their guests at night by joining the Pokemon Go community and offering them discount. Long-planned strategy, research and analysis of the market? Wrong! They just put out a sign!
According to the owner, the sign proved to be a great idea. Just imagine, this small business increased their traffic without spending any money on actual marketing tools.
So, what can we learn from this?
Well, first of all, we should take away that trends are important and shouldn’t be ignored. It can and will effect your business, regardless of its type. It is about the timing. Trends are interesting NOW, so it’s essential to be prepared. React accordingly.
Secondly, Pokémon Go became a brand that doesn’t need any marketing since the word has been spread. Calling it out there means extra traffic and inevitably extra profit.
Spreading the word can happen in a number of different ways. You can post the deal on your Facebook page and twitter it out. Most likely, your fans will like and share your post with their friends, as people are naturally attracted to good deals and drop in prices.
Word of mouth is powerful. If positive, it can mean a big deal to your business, bring you closer to your goals of success, take your products overseas and your content go viral. Just think how your friends‘ and colleagues‘ are the reason you tried that restaurant the other night. Similarly, negative WOM can damage your image. Remember, reputation is everything.
Trends like Pokémon Go can “spice up” every story, can take your business further in terms of marketing and advertising. People like to share their experiences and spread the word. Give them something to chew on, then spread the word. You get the idea.
BUT IMPLEMENTED POKEMON GO STRATEGY ACROSS 200 SHOPS IN FRANCE
Another beautiful example of a great “Pokemon strategy” is this French retail chain.
One of the coolest recent marketing campaigns is the story of the French retailer But, IKEA’s competitor that drew a lot of attention to their business by giving out vouchers as high as 200 euro in exchange for a picture of people catching Pokemon inside their store.
The campaign turned out to be a success, not to mention at which speed BUT got a free promotion on a global scale. Or have you heard of BUT before? That’s what we thought.
AUGMENTED REALITY AND FASHION
Chucks are epic shoes and simply MUST HAVE for every wardrobe. Debut in 2010, The Sampler app allows you to browse through the online store and choose your favorite model, then focus your camera on your foot and get a perfect shot of your foot. Afterwards you can send the picture to a friend or share it on your social media to get your friend’s opinion. Isn’t it a cool way to shop? Watch this video for a better understanding of what it’s all about.
While it is easy to choose accessories online, buying clothes can be more complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re purchasing online or in-store. The difference is only in the time and nerves you invest into the decision.
Everyone at some point experienced the same scenario: It’s your favorite brand and the t-shirts are on sale, and oh miracle, your size and color is available! Yet still, for reasons unknown, the garments don’t make you look amazing in the mirror. Oh, if only there would be the possibility to check the outfit before purchasing it…
Topshop made it possible indeed! By introducing the Kinect Fitting Room, Topshop allows customers to try on clothes virtually without actually trying them on. However, the virtual mirror doesn’t seem to have taken off. The idea was introduced and implemented in one of the Topshops in Moscow and seems to have more entertainment factor rather than actual contribution to the business side of the story.
One thing Converse and Topshop have in common? The innovation factor that attracts people.
TO TAKE AWAY
So, what can we learn from these stories?
Augmented Reality is certainly not a new trend, however, it’s been gaining a lot on attention recently, especially with Pokemon Go that went viral within hours of release.
Companies like Ikea, Converse and Topshop have already utilized the AR in the past with controversial success. It is clear that the trend has potential and needs significant more time to grow, develop and be established on the market.
According to Google Trends, the popularity of Augmented Reality goes up if anything with no sign of decrease in the interest in the next time
At the end it all boils down to this one question: Does your business actually need AR?
It is worth to keep up with the developments in Augmented Reality as competition clearly doesn’t sleep (just remember the example of Wayfair). There used to be critics who argued the future of smartphones.
What for do I need a phone that goes beyond the standard functions? That used to be the argument. It’s not even worth answering today, since the question changed to be more like: What can I do WITHOUT my smartphone?
Augmented Reality is such a hit because consumers today are looking for more than simply purchasing. It’s about giving them an experience. It’s about entertainment. It’s about keeping up with the competition. Your brand needs constant development and market analysis. There is never the one right answer. However, when a game like Pokemon Go goes viral within hours it creates opportunities and room for discussion. The future of AR and VR is coming.
“Sitting around and waiting for someone else to get it right and then trying to duplicate the effort is going to be the retailer’s temptation, but it’s a mistake.”, said Beck Besecker, CEO and co-founder of the VR/AR tech company Marxent.
Are you using Augmented Reality for your business? Do you agree with the trend’s potential? Shoot us a text and let us know what you think!