Try Before You Buy (Online): Augmented Reality is Ushering in the Future of Retail
The comfort of online shopping has always faced one primary obstacle: the fear of something not being the right fit. Holding, feeling, seeing or trying something on makes the consumer exponentially more confident that a particular pair of jeans or living room couch is the right call. However, an emerging new technology is quickly rising to eliminate this barrier. From online furniture retailers to top beauty brands, augmented reality (AR) is quickly taking over the world of e-commerce — and reshaping the customer experience in the process.
Why Should Brands Leverage AR?
It’s no secret that online shopping is on the rise. According to a recent Adtaxi survey, 66 percent of internet users make an online purchase at least once a month. Furthermore, over half (52 percent) of internet users spend as much, or more, of their dollars online than in-store. With business booming in the e-commerce sector, demand will likely continue to increase for accompanying technologies that makes the online shopping process easier and more efficient.
Thankfully, AR promises just that. Generally speaking, AR involves superimposing computer-generated images over real-world video or camera images. As adoption spreads, this technology has the potential to further the momentum of online shopping growth worldwide. The groundwork has already been laid: Adtaxi’s survey revealed that 67 percent of internet users who have tried AR applications while shopping online would never again shop in-store for clothes if AR made it possible to do so.
Convenience is paramount to the customer experience, and AR caters to this need. The technology allows consumers to try products before committing to buying them without needing to set foot in a store. No gas money spent, no wasted time looking for parking, and no hassle of physically trying the product on in public. Now, beauty consumers can see which lipstick shade looks best on their skin tone, and new homeowners can visualize which paint color looks best on their bedroom walls — all from the comfort of their own home. Not only does this benefit the consumer, but brands as well. That is, by incorporating AR into your marketing strategy, you allow consumers to interact with your offerings in real life via smart devices, which in turn can significantly reduce return, exchange and cart abandonment rates.
What Are Today’s Top Brands Doing?
Using AR advertisements is an effective way to reach audiences with your brand message in an enjoyable and engaging way. Recently, Facebook announced the launch of its AR ads: in-feed ads that leverage cutting-edge AR technology to make the ad personal and the advertising experience fun. In essence, Facebook's mobile camera permissions allow advertisers to offer AR video experiences from within normal-looking news feed ads, which let consumers try on virtual renditions of products. It’s anticipated that such ads will boost user interaction and increase the probability of clickthrough conversions.
In the beauty space, Sephora was an early pioneer of the AR e-commerce experience with its Virtual Artist tool. The AR feature allows users to upload a selfie to virtually try on various products that can be purchased from Sephora. Similarly, beauty giant L'Oréal purchased tech startup Modiface this year to implement its own tool allowing consumers to virtually try on makeup through AR technology.
Meanwhile, in the home furnishings sector, Wayfair introduced a proprietary AR application called WayfairView, which makes it possible for consumers to see virtual furniture and décor in their homes at full scale before they buy. Furniture powerhouse Ikea has also jumped on the AR train with its app, IKEA Place, which lets customers see exactly how more than 2,000 furniture items would fit in their homes. In both cases, AR affords consumers a level of personalization not possible through in-store shopping.
There are few concepts more enticing to a consumer in today’s on-demand world than having a personalized and engaging shopping experience available at their fingertips. To meet the increasing demand for convenience and speed, the technological landscape is quickly advancing with consumer needs and preferences. As data indicates, technologies like AR have gained traction and are on the cusp of widespread adoption in the very near future, with the potential to drive a shift toward consumers shopping more heavily online.
Over the last 18 months alone, AR has made significant strides in the e-commerce sector. Within the next couple of years, AR capabilities will no doubt continue to improve, increasing consumer confidence and comfort in purchasing items online, virtually hassle-free. With this technology on the verge of becoming mainstream, brands have a major opportunity to implement AR into their online marketing and advertising strategies, propelling them into the future and allowing them to keep up with the ever-evolving e-commerce landscape before it’s too late.
Evan Tennant is the national director of e-commerce at Adtaxi, a digital marketing agency.
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