How Retailers Can Use Augmented Reality to Improve the Customer Experience
Ever sit in a department store, try some shoes on and wonder how they might look with an outfit? Or see some chairs and wonder if they go with your dining room set? Does that microwave fit well in your kitchen? Does that piece of jewelry actually fit?
Well, all these things have happened to me. There’s inherently an element to the retail experience that leaves us guessing. Or at least having to return to a store — or website in the e-commerce space — to determine whether a purchase makes sense.
It amounts to a giant pain.
Which is partly why I find myself mired in a technology that’s certain to change all that. It’s called augmented reality (AR) and it weaves interactive digital elements such as informative overlays and 3D previews with our physical world surroundings.
AR essentially allows us, using a smartphone or tablet, to place objects in the space we see on our devices. And there are several ways in which it can improve the retail experience.
Consolidating the Decision-Making Process
Retail is often plagued with indecision. The should-I-or-shouldn’t-I conundrum is compounded by the lack of information we have at our fingertips. That can cause the purchase buying process to drag out, especially with big-ticket items.
Let’s take an SUV purchase for example. You and your wife are trying to decide what color to pick, but actually need to see how it looks. Or maybe you’re looking to upgrade the wheels — you just don’t know which will look best on a car. AR can allow you to look at all your available choices.
AR allows customers to do more with a lot less. For example, think about when you’re shopping at Nordstrom for makeup. Instead of having to question whether it’s appropriate to ask to try on multiple lipstick colors (similar to not wanting to ask for one-too-many samples at Baskin-Robbins), consumers can “try on” as many colors as they’d like — even those that aren’t in stock. Access to more data, information and clarity has never once hurt the decision-making process.
The upsell is critical in retail. Outside of the biggest purchases, stores rely on the ability to offer multiple products or more expensive ones.
Remember that car example? Let’s say your customer has already decided on a car and color. But now they want to see some upgrades. Maybe it’s leather seats or wood trim or sports seats. There’s plenty they can do on the outside too: add a spoiler, sunroof or xenon headlights.
The problem is this is all customized and you may not have the exact car in stock. But you need to show your customers exactly what their custom car might look like. AR could do just that, placing the customized car inside a dealer’s showroom.
The idea of the upsell, however, is often hard to contextualize for consumers. Remember, your customers aren’t experts on your products. You are. And you need to speak a layman’s language.
Your customers don’t know everything you have in stock or how those items pair with one another. They have to see it, which is sometimes a hurdle. There are customers who like to minimize the time they spend in stores or shopping online.
AR allows consumers to see how things look paired with one another. That accent-colored chair in your cozy living room. Or a centerpiece for your kitchen table. Or that new lipstick with a dress.
The Bottom Line
AR has ample applications for retailers of all kinds. Not only does it save customers time, but it also allows salespeople to be more granular and personalized. The technology eliminates the guesswork from the buying process. This will lead to fewer product returns, too.
All this ultimately nets more business, greater profits and improved customer experience. It’s win-win for businesses and customers alike.
And it’s about to transform the entire retail experience.
Aaqib Usman is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Midwest Immersive, a cutting-edge interactive multimedia studio specializing in augmented reality, groundbreaking projection mapping techniques, and advanced audio-visual software.
Aaqib Usman is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder of Midwest Immersive, a cutting edge interactive multimedia studio specializing in augmented reality, groundbreaking projection mapping techniques, and advanced audio-visual software. His passion for these emerging technologies, coupled with the art of storytelling gave Aaqib the foresight to see the potential of how combining the two can create brand experiences never seen before. National and global brands like Adidas, Cadbury, Invisalign, Nike, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and 1871 partner with Midwest Immersive to "bridge the physical and digital together." Aaqib is also a member of the Shorty Awards’ prestigious Real Time Academy.