Change is inevitable and change is constant. Although this is a known fact, we have learned this past year that adaptability is essential if you want to keep up.The pandemic hit the fast forward button on everything and it has transformed the way we live, work, and shop. Retail businesses were forced to ramp up their e-commerce capabilities almost overnight . E-commerce growth has accelerated at a rapid pace during the course of the pandemic. One of the technologies facilitating this growth is Augmented Reality (AR). What was once unique to have, has become an essential technology, especially in the retail industry.
How is AR changing the retail industry?
VR Try Before You Buy:
As stores were forced to shut-down, many retail stores launched AR applications to improve customer experience. This enabled customers to try on anything from clothing to shoes to accessories online. These apps or websites allow customers to virtually try on products from the comfort of their own home before they purchase them. It is an interactive experience that engages consumers with the brand and provides intuitive and detailed product information.
Stores can be confusing to navigate, especially for new customers. When consumers can’t find a product they are looking for immediately, it dissuades them from buying. To avoid this hassle, retailers have introduced AR navigation applications that guide customers within the store for a seamless shopping experience. Due to COVID-19, consumers prefer spending less time in public and crowded spaces. Customers can now shop quicker and feel more safe. Lowe’s, a global hardware chain, launched their mobile app Lowe Vision which helps customers navigate through their stores, based on what they would like to buy. Users can also create shopping lists and the app will show them the fastest way to reach those products.
Virtual Reality Fitting Rooms:
Imagine trying out clothes in a fitting room without actually wearing them? Even though this sounds a bit bizarre, it is possible through VR mirrors in fitting rooms – also known as “Magic Mirrors”. Customers can try on outfits virtually and look through clothes, shoes and accessories using just hand gestures. Neiman Marcus uses VR mirrors to provide a more personalized and immersive shopping experience. They remember the customer’s size and preferences based on previous searches and send them emails when there are similar items in stock. As stores reopen, safety and hygiene are a prime concern.
Gamified Shopping Experience:
Retailers acknowledge that young consumers are increasingly living in a gamified environment, whether it is offline or online. To connect with newer and younger customers, many fashion brands partnered with gaming or app companies to provide a gamified social experience. Burberry partnered with Snapchat to create an AR game in-store. Snapchat users scan a code to be transported into a different Burberry world where they can win offers and rewards by interacting with the filter. They are not the only ones to do this, luxury brands like Gucci, Miu Miu and Estee Lauder all have mobile games that encourage consumers to engage with their brand.
Virtual shopping doesn’t end with clothes, it is also possible for home decor. With AR apps, consumers can virtually see how a piece of furniture would look in their home before they purchase. Buying furniture and home decor are decisions that people want to get right and these apps make it easier, which actually influences consumers to make the purchase even more. IKEA is at the forefront of this, offering consumers to view how pieces of furniture would look like in their homes. It allows customers to customise the type of furniture, size and colour and move it around the house based on their preferences. The IKEA app covers furniture, whereas the Dulux Visualizer app covers interior design. Users can use the live visualisation mode to see how different colour palettes would look like on their walls.
In conclusion, AR is catapulting a digital transformation within the retail industry for more immersive shopping experiences. It is a technology that adds value to the consumer and the retailer as it allows them to interact with each other online. It is time for business leaders to think of new ways technology can supercharge them into the future.