Disruptive technology, smart devices and wearables have blurred the barriers between the physical and digital world. Businesses across the globe are now embracing the power of digital technologies to connect with customer. Due to the rapid proliferation of social networking and mobile applications, customers now have access to information. This non-stop access to information is playing an important role in shaping the expectations of today’s savvy customer from products and services.
The impact of technology is most evident in the retail industry. Retailers are now using innovative technology such as augmented reality to drive user engagement level, improve conversion rates and drive bottom-line results.
Augmented Reality: Conquering New Digital Frontier
This technology is now a buzzword in the retail industry to entice shoppers.
Some of the world’s largest retailers are now using augmented reality (AR) to reach omni-channel shopper with the ultimate goal to provide a seamless experience across different channels. Retailers are now utilizing AR to let shoppers compare and purchase products in an engaging way and bridge the digital divide.
Here are advantages of using augmented reality in the retail world:
Cost-savings: Create virtual stores, anytime, anywhere
AR today is one of the most cost-effective ways to expand a business and transcend geographical barriers without incurring business overheads such as real estate or additional manpower. This technology lets shoppers just walk through virtual aisles and tap on device screens to shop.
Yihaodian, a leading Chinese e-commerce grocer, launched 1,000 virtual stores out of nowhere in empty spaces across different cities of China. These augmented reality supermarkets allowed customers to walk around in the virtual stores and order 1,000 different products. These products were later delivered right to customer’s doorstep.
Product Sampling: Trying merchandise virtually
Augmented reality app can allow customers to try out several different variations of product eliminating the need of having all styles and sizes on display/stock. It can minimize returns and the risk of products being damaged in the fitting room.
Entice, Involve and Trigger Action: Increase User Engagement Level
Augmented reality could be used to trigger imagination and entice customers to try out your products. Toy company LEGO used augmented reality to help user understand features in a playful manner. With the help of augmented reality in-store customers can watch a LEGO model come to shape in 3D by simply holding LEGO box against a flat screen kiosk. This enabled user to see the final product.
Image Courtesy: adobe.com
Augmented reality is not all about gimmicks or driving sales. It is perhaps the best way to simplify and explain the most complex functional aspect of products. Several businesses are helping customers understand how to use, install products or solve glitches at home.
IKEA Success Story: Getting Augmented Reality Right
IKEA has managed to leverage augmented reality by combining the best of print and digital content.
IKEA catalog app. used image-recognition technology that identified digital layer on the top of print catalog. Users simply need to scan catalog pages with a plus sign using their smart devices. This will let users see how to assemble products or place virtual furniture in their homes to determine if the furniture meets their needs.
Result: IKEA catalog app quickly became one of the most downloaded branded apps in the world. Most importantly, IKEA catalog application revolutionized shopping like never before for its customers.
A Caveat: Before you jump into the AR bandwagon, it is important to have your fundamentals in place. Remember, augmented reality is a part of a larger business strategy to improve customer experience. It will fall flat as a standalone method.
Augmented reality is an emerging technology in nascent stage with very few industry standards. This affords retailers the opportunity to push limits and develop custom AR solutions that are purpose-driven and unique. It can improve brand awareness and customer engagement in an exciting way. If used correctly, it can deliver value to retailers. Always, keep user experience as the focal point of the augmented reality development cycle.