The E-Commerce Secret Weapon: AR and VR
When it comes to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), consumers’ minds oftentimes go to the esoteric musing of Stephen King, sci-fi movies and even video games. However, over the past few years, these technologies have expanded beyond futuristic settings and landed a bit closer to Earth — straight into the e-commerce world.
Now, as AR and VR become more popular, consumers become more familiar with using it and, in some cases, expect to see it, retailers must make a point to incorporate these tools into their online shopping experiences to capture consumers’ attention and, most importantly, their dollars.
Bringing Experiences to Life
From luxury brands like Louis Vuitton using AR to bring animated mascots to life to home furnishing companies, like Wayfair, allowing consumers to “see” furniture in their homes before purchasing, there are endless ways for brands to bring AR and VR to life as part of their e-commerce efforts.
The most familiar integration of AR, perhaps, is virtual try-on solutions (VTOs). By allowing consumers to “try on” a product right from their beloved smartphone, brands can better manage customer expectations, as well as help them make a complete, informed decision before pressing “buy now.” And while this tool has been around for a while, the advancements in facial recognition technology have propelled it even further, allowing customers to try on everything from makeup to jewelry to apparel without ever stepping inside a store.
AR and VR tools also allow retailers to bridge the gap between traditional stores and online shopping. Think about a traditional retail experience, for example. In-store, shoppers can physically walk around and experience the exciting displays and captivating environment. VR tools give retailers the ability to do this online, building the outstanding experience and showcasing their products in a way that consumers understand — the only difference being that it’s behind a screen.
Providing Measurable Benefits
Aside from bringing in-store experiences into the virtual space, AR and VR also bring measurable benefits to the table for retailers. Both technologies can help reduce friction in the customer journey and increase consumer confidence, resulting in a happier, and likely more loyal, customer. Because AR and VR tools allow consumers to try on designer sunglasses or see a Peloton in their home before making the purchase, they don’t have to worry about taking a gamble on a product.
In the same vein, AR and VR tools can also help reduce returns. The try-before-you-buy model gives consumers the ability to truly visualize a product and remove the need to buy multiple versions of a product that ultimately need to be returned, hurting a brand’s bottom line and keeping product on shelves, physical and digital.
At the end of the day, AR and VR are no longer mysterious, otherworldly tools. Instead, they're technologies fueling the growth of e-commerce and bringing outstanding experiences to life. Retailers across the spectrum would be wise to take note and incorporate them as much, and as often, as they can to not only drive margins and benefits, but delight customers each time they visit a website.
Fernanda González León de la Barra leads product development at end-to-end e-commerce solution Scalefast.
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Fernanda leads product development at end-to-end eCommerce solution, Scalefast. She has more than 10 years of international eCommerce, marketing and project management experience supporting established and emerging brands online.