Check it Out: Augmented Reality: Real Life, Only Better
Just last year, ROI reported on how augmented reality (AR) was beginning to make an impact in the retail industry with our profile of Fits.me, a virtual fitting room that enables online shoppers to see which clothing fits them best before making a purchase on a retailer's website. More and more retailers are using AR thanks to the growing number of mobile AR platforms. In fact, according to a report from Juniper Research, revenue from AR apps and services is set to approach $1.5 billion by 2015. My how it has grown.
Sure, AR has been around for decades now, but up until about a year ago the technology didn't garner much attention. In fact, it was previously viewed as a gimmicky way for brands to gain the attention of consumers. Today, however, retailers are realizing the technology is no longer a novelty, but an asset to a well-structured omnichannel strategy.
Most believe AR is slowly bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce, yet there are those who believe the more the technology is available, the further brick-and-mortar retailers will be left behind. Differences aside, retailers can't ignore how advanced AR has become and the role it plays in engaging today's connected consumers.
One channel in which AR is having a big impact is printed catalogs. For the 211 million recipients of its 2013 edition of its iconic catalog, Ikea created an AR-based design that enabled those with AR-equipped smartphones to scan over the catalog to see videos, photo galleries and interviews with designers. In an interview with Advertising Age in July, Andreas Dahlqvist, the global deputy chief creative officer of McCann Erickson, Ikea's advertising agency that created the concept, said the goal of the interactive catalog was to personalize the items available and extend the life of the catalog in consumers' homes.
AR isn't restricted to paper and mobile apps, however. Retailers such as Ray-Ban, H&M and NET-A-PORTER have taken the phrase "window shopping" to a whole new level with the help of AR. In late April, luxury department store Bloomingdale's introduced the newest feature of its AR platform, the "virtual try-on window." Consumers on the street walk up to the window, push a button and are instantly able to peruse through six different types and styles of sunglasses to try on.
Esentially, the window lets consumers decide which pair of sunglasses best suits their face. Bloomingdale's hopes consumers will be so infatuated with the interactive display that they'll take the extra step to go in the store and pick up a print of themselves wearing the item or, better yet, make a purchase.
Bloomingdale's is a prime example of how retailers are using AR to bridge the gap between e-commerce and in-store shopping.
Vendors are getting into the act as well. IBM has recently announced its plan to provide a mobile AR app to consumers shopping in-store that will be personalized according to each shopper's preferences and recent purchase history. This data will enable retailers to serve up targeted deals and promotions to them while in-store.
With how rapidly AR mobile platforms have advanced, I can only imagine what level of AR we'll be seeing in the year ahead.