Digital technology is influencing the retail space at a rapid pace. The impact of augmented reality in retail industry spaces is currently seen in many areas, as we discussed in our last article. Using devices to marry the real world with a digital overlay, brands like Lowe’s help customers visualize products in 3D from the comfort of their home, and brands such as Converse and Sephora, allow customers to virtually test products without physically handling them. Still others, like Dusobox, make it easy on businesses to envision changes within their brick-and-mortar footprint to improve the consumer’s in-store experience before committing to changes.
While AR is influencing and changing the retail industry, the future of augmented reality promises more options and benefits to businesses as well as consumers. It’s altering retail stores, consumer experiences, online shopping, retail marketing, and more.
Anticipated Business Impacts
Smartphones are most often utilized for AR. About 72% of adults own a smartphone, and 76% of teens between the ages of 15 and 17 own, or have access to, a smartphone. Due to this, applications using AR are noticing high adoption rates (like the booming success of the Pokémon Go game), and that’s only expected to exponentially grow with time. Moderate projections put the AR market at $90 billion in spending by 2020 (15 times greater than the spend in 2016), and some projections peg AR’s commerce share of that to be as much as $20 billion.
Trends Pulling AR Forward in Retail
This level of growth derives from AR’s offer of sincere and engaging utility to customers in a user-friendly manner. Early adopters, like Lego, understood this, and in-store AR kiosks were used to help kids visualize what exactly they could build with different Lego kits. This trend does not only appease a younger audience; adult versions exist and create experiences that support the retail industry. For example, Lowe’s Tango-enabled app, uses the powerful Lenovo Phab2 Pro to fully visualize furniture and appliances as 3D objects existing in specific space within the customer’s home. This has expanded into more personal areas as well, from Sephora’s in-store AR mirrors for testing new makeup styles and mobile Virtual Artist for testing lipstick shades on the go, to the Inkhunter app that allows users to virtually test tattoo designs. The utility is allowing customers to test products and services, leading to improved consumer confidence and better insights for the business into the consumer’s decision-making process.
Similarly, early adopter Yelp offered Monocle, which provided name, rating, and distance information about nearby stores. Combining this sort of technology with GPS (another very early form of AR) has led to the development of windshield-based heads-up-displays for vehicles; of course, this opens the door to even more value-add utilities like blind-spot protection and internal diagnostics. On a smaller scale, similar ideas were applied to navigating the Tokyo Aquarium: virtual penguins would guide guests, and as a result, attendance increased 152%. Walgreens is doing something similar with the Tango platform. This service enhances the customer experience to increase brand trust and perception.
What will continue to propel AR forward in retail is the expansion, the utility and functionality, and since AR technology isn’t slowing down, this evolution is certain. Brands would be wise to look to all aspects of development as well. For instance, augmented reality was coined by Boeing researcher in the ‘90s that foresaw this kind of technology as a tool to aid engineers installing complex parts. Eventually, Volkswagen would develop an iPad app to project images and labels in real time to aid mechanics during repairs. How does this translate to retail? Home repair retailers could develop AR programs to help DIY shoppers design, install, build, and repair various parts of their home. Retailers with niche products can offer troubleshooting, potentially with the addition of advanced AR assistance.
Augmented Reality Is the Future
As we mentioned in our last article, AR is the now for retail, but there’s development to in the works that businesses can look forward to. Considering most smartphones have a single camera, the Phab2 Pro by Lenovo features two, which allows the phone to accurately capture 3D perspectives and scale. This enables apps like the Walgreens in-aisle app and the Lowe’s home design app to represent products with complete accuracy. There will be new technologies, programs, and options invented in the future, so it’s important to get on board now, so you don’t get left behind during the evolution of AR.
Not Already Using AR? Things To Get You Started:
- Be proactive about approaching new technologies. You can’t afford to continue to wait long, but do the groundwork to ensure you have the right offering.
- Strive to meet your customers where they are. Do the research to understand what your customers want and need, and put AR on your trajectory with that in mind.
- Offer useful experiences and avoid sheer novelty. This requires understanding what your customers need so that your AR applications add value to the way they engage with your brand.
- Remember that novelty isn’t always bad. It simply needs to be a useful sort of novelty, like when Warby Parker and other eyeglass retailers began to offer trying products on virtually in addition to requesting physical trial frames.
- Even if you don’t think your products are suited to an AR experience, remember that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize AR. Interactive ads and displays can enhance the experience as well.
Augmented reality in retail industry applications are quickly becoming a necessity because of the expectations consumers have. It represents the engaging value add that can elevate a brand far above its competitors, and because of that, the future of augmented reality is a piece of the new retail norm.