In the past internet and computers tended to isolate the user from the environment. Typical internet user in our imagination is a lonely geek who’s sitting in front of the computer screen not paying attention to the surroundings.
He or she is hiding in the dark with the glowing rectangular surface in front of the face. It has always seemed as usual experience for us, and it’s going change very soon.
Now the content’s sprawling out of the screen frame and the whole world turns into an “interactive surface.”
Augmented Reality has a solution for constantly delivering additional data to navigate. The digital screen is our fantasy frame which helps to interact with the reality and virtual elements. Smartphone screen supports our desire to participate in “the game.”
Game concept pushes us to search for new elements in reality outside of the screen and even our home pad. It builds a magic effect where things continuously reveal the interpretation of themselves. Augmented Reality takes our vision of the real world and adjusts digital information for more detailed study: numerical information, text alerts, screen visualization or objects in 3D.
HOW CAN WE START USING AUGMENTED REALITY IN RETAIL?
For a long time users of e-commerce platforms always had that feeling of something’s missing in the representation of the physical products on 2D images. Something has to be changed in the 2D objects visualization and interaction with them in web browsers. So, physical goods can be adequately perceived and approved by the online-shoppers. The solutions were always tricky due to the web technology limitations. Even modern-day e-commerce products browsing options are still insufficient and lacking credibility. However, recently things are starting to change.
Thank you, Apple and Android for bringing up the ARkit and ARcore frameworks respectively. Those two had started the AR revolution that made it possible for developers to build some unimaginable tools for the mobile market.
AUGMENTED REALITY IN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Let’s think about the fields where those AR retail solutions can actually add incredible value to the customer experience and even trigger the reshaping of a business model and revamping of the technology under the hood.
The first that comes in mind is the assisted shopping where e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar shopping are getting married with AR and artificial intelligence-driven voice assistance bots.
The best example has Amazon augmented reality app which is living proof of the growing expansion of the new augmented reality solutions in the retail space. The AR view allows you to have a look at products in your house before you buy them. This virtual store experience is about adding 3D goods to your living space in the real-time while navigating the vast company stock. Amazon can easily afford experiments with an implementation of the AR software in retail, and it looks like that it’s paving the way for the virtual shopping for the rest of the industry.
AR FOR SMALL TO MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES
Using augmented reality for retail is an ongoing trend now, and many small-to-medium-size companies are launching their AR retail projects to grow their business and raise the involvement of the clients.
So yes, not only the large chain companies which are making millions per day can involve customers in AR. Small companies like a vintage flower shop are using augmented reality for retail. Plant Life Balance is a shopping app which helps to increase the amount of oxygen with choosing new plants for your home. This app has a concept of “try before you buy.”
It indicates how many rooms you have, how many plants, then use AR to drop in over 90 plants recommendations and get an analysis of their benefits from collated plant studies from RMIT University and the University of Melbourne. After you decided on the plants, you can easily purchase them in the same app.
Augmented Reality can also be used to reveal the past of the brand. 19 Crimes is a wine brand. They developed an app for the devices which operates IOS and Android. This app brings the story of criminals on the cover of each wine bottle to life by directly animating the photo cards of the real humans from the past. 19 crimes are the lowest number of crimes they committed.
Some other examples of engaging with the brand include the street view of the building in the past. Now that kind of experience is mostly used by big cities to attract tourists. A bookstore in Boston celebrated its 300th birthday with augmented reality overlays. Imagine a 3D image of the founders who are telling customers their way to success. AR apps can be developed to help customers in making decisions. Imagine that you choose a book in a bookstore, pointed your phone on the cover of the book and the reviews start immediately appearing.
IOT+AR = ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FUTURE
AR software is going to expend our communication potential. The user starts to communicate with the inanimate things. For example, the rose from your garden notifies you that it has to be watered or the bulb has to be replaced.
Wouldn’t it be great to hire a gardener in one click and to order a housekeeping box in another one? AR and IOT are the two technologies that are giving you that!
IMAGE AR FOR FASHION AND BEAUTY
Fashion and beauty industries are playing with augmented reality too. They’re promoting the idea of virtually trying on their products. AR-powered mirrors are used by brands like Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkoff, ZARA, Topshop, Timberland, and Uniqlo. So, the shopper doesn’t have to wait in the fitting rooms line. A customer can stand in front of the smart mirror to have a look at their image wearing a product captured by the camera.
Amazon introduced Echo Look camera which is currently being presented as a fashion “style assistant.” AR can provide detailed information about goods for the shopper. This may be the size, color, configurations, accessories. Some apps can show you product demos and how-to-use or how-to-build.
VIRTUAL REALITY STORES
It’s not a secret that the virtual store is not just a gimmick but a useful business tool which can cut many expenses. Commercial real estate in the US is crazy expensive, and the brick-and-mortar is in a steep decline. That is what stops many from opening a new retail business.
But can you believe in the store with no energy or rent costs?
Allo is one of the first ever developed virtual store, and it’s the biggest home appliances retailer in Ukraine. This AR app allows choosing virtual goods while viewing them from all around and in detail. For those who want to open a virtual store like this one, there is good news: you don’t even need to use consultants anymore and wasting time on those useless training.
The virtual store allows your customer to have a look at more items, look through different configurations and colors and have a better idea while using a voice assistant. You don’t expect any emotional contact with it (at least in the time while it not yet passed the Turing test), but it will provide you with the hard, cold and undoubtedly unbiased visual and technical information on chosen product while relying on the data it mined from myriad of customers reviews and in the real-time mode. Moreover, while you listen to the voice of the bot, your screen is showing you the volumetric 3d model of the product, and you can interact with it which is so much fun.
Do you know that many customers don’t pay attention to some models only because they’re invisible on shelves or there’s high traffic around them? In the virtual store, you can quickly display best-sellers with the 3D view. You can show how you appreciate your customers if you save their time by organizing your products. So, the buyer doesn’t have to go through the smartphones if he/she is looking for a toaster. Also, a customer can get all the product info immediately without looking for your consultant who’s 15 aisles apart.
Now let’s talk about delivery costs and product returns.
How many employers work in your logistic department to maintain what has to be delivered and where to pick up returning items? How much do you pay to delivery companies? UK retailers spend around £60 billion every year on returns, and it can account for up to 10% of your business. Wouldn’t it help your business to cut a part of these expends?
Customers would make more conscious decisions when looking at the products in virtual stores because they can answer “Will this color fit in my room?”, “Which other products can I try?” and that leads to minimization of returns. So, your customers would be more satisfied with their purchase and leave good feedback
about their experience, your store, and product. Your business would spend less on delivery and target more specific groups of customers.
Every day the world tends to be more international, open to different cultures and societies.
How many customers can you gain in your city? 10 thousand? 1 million?When your store is virtual, every internet user is your potential client.
Social Media Marketing will be the essential element to attract clients and compete with other companies. Retailers with the newest technology and better customer support would win this game. Many customers work till 6 p.m. Does your store have the same working hours? Then you’re losing dozens of clients. Also, what about Christmas Eve or Easter? Is it fair to pay your staff more on the “special day”? In the virtual store, there are no holidays or closing times, and your business operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Shopping at 3 a.m. would be accessible for everyone. Your employees would also be more satisfied with their flexibility. So you would get more opportunities of having a happy and resilient team next to you.
Can AR help us with collecting more valuable data?
In retail, it’s crucial to know more about your customers. Wouldn’t it be great to collect data with a little bit deeper non-irritating approach which could be more personalized? Like what’s the 1st thing they’re looking at, what is the most necessary detail in the product? How many items do they look at before trying? How high are the chances for them to buy the item if they can get it in different colors? AR app can be used to learn more about shopper’s behavior, predict the success of involvement, and build long-time relationships with consumers.
Today it’s the time to combine artificial intelligence with augmented reality because in one bundle they can provide what customers are looking for when dealing with buying mostly tangible goods.\
The AR experience with built-in analytics can soon become that cherry on the cake for every data-driven marketers and AR retail consulting departments. Knowing your consumers more than they know themselves is what makes your business successful. Development of AR software in retail and the embracing of new technologies in marketing departments leads us to know about our visitors buying behavior on a more deeper level.
The future seems bright. Augmented Reality & virtual reality market is supposed to grow up to $94 billion in 2023. That sounds so impressive because AR technology can be used in every sphere, not just in retail projects. It has many opportunities for science, real estate, traveling, the entertainment industry. So the sky is the only limit for the future of AR.
Will you buy a car without a real test drive? Will you take your potential investor to the unknown Asian restaurant in the middle of nowhere? Will you move together…
We are on the edge of the revolution that will merge the real and digital worlds, and this revolution starts with the world of commerce. Strange as it may seem….