Over 83 million people in the US alone used augmented reality on a monthly basis in 2020. By the end of 2023, it is projected that the number will grow by over 30%, to over 110 million people.
With the pandemic having accelerated the evolution of digital shopping, retail and e-commerce brands are looking for new ways to engage with their consumers and to bridge the online-offline experience gap that exists today while shopping.
How Big Brands Leverage Augmented Reality
Immersive AR experiences are increasingly being leveraged in stores, to create memorable and personalized relationships between the brand and its customers. Through augmented reality, retailers can not only engage the otherwise passive customers but also provide the context needed for them to make a decision and significantly improve the likelihood of the customer making a purchase.
Lego, for instance, used an augmented reality digital box in its stores for parents/kids to put up the physical boxes in front of the screen and see different scenes being built and come to life. This allowed parents and kids to find the right set and also proved to be a fun way to engage with consumers.
Other retailers use augmented reality to specifically drive sales for products that typically need the in-person context to make a buying decision. Houzz’s AR-powered app offers consumers the ability to view their rooms from their phone camera and ‘drop in’ true-to-scale 3D furniture items superimposed on their physical reality, for them to make a more informed buying decision.
Converse’s AR app lets consumers try shoes at home by simply pointing the camera at their feet. They can then evaluate multiple models with varying colors within minutes from the comfort of their home. The app is also integrated with their e-commerce platform, creating a seamless flow from discovery to intent to making the final purchase.
The Future of Retail Is 3D
While all these examples use AR in slightly different ways, they all have one commonality: the buyer is at the center of the experience and the camera has become the new home page. Replacing 2D images with interactive 3D products gives the shoppers the context through visualizations that they need, to be confident in their decisions.
The experience boosts consumers’ confidence, allowing them to make the right choice because AR provides the level of real-life context missing from a flat, 2D product image online. It’s a win-win for the customers and the retail brands, who experience a big increase in conversion rates and a lower product return rate by leveraging augmented reality.
Consumers are coming to expect this experience. Augmented reality adoption is following a similar pattern to mobile phone adoption of the 2000s. And as the mobile-first Gen Z cohort continually gains more buying power beyond the $360 billion they already have in disposable income, we will see large retailers transforming their traditional online and in-person shopping experiences into more immersive, 3D retail experiences to reshape online browsing and buying behavior as we know it.
About the Guest Author(s)
A technology enthusiast and a student for life, Sravanth started Avataar in 2014, with a vision to uncover untapped potential from the confluence of self-learning AI and computer vision.