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Retail’s future is looking augmented: AR you ready to embrace it?

April 6, 2023

Product Visualization of a bag, example applications of AR for Retail industry

Do you ever feel like retail shopping is stuck in the Stone Age?
Traditional brick and mortar shops can easily lose their fashion nowadays, especially with the rise of online shopping and the growing competition at an all-time high. 

And let’s face it, retailers that don’t keep up with the times can easily go extinct, like a dinosaur caught in a tar pit.

That’s why retailers need to stay ahead of the curve to survive. How?
By blending digital and physical worlds, thanks to Augmented Reality technology.

Virtual try-ons? Check. Interactive Product Visualization? Check.
But there’s more: AR can help retailers tackle pesky problems like limited physical store space and lackluster online product showcasing. 

In this article, we’ll explore the applications of AR for the retail industry and how it can enhance shopping experiences by solving real problems for both retailers and customers.

So let’s put on our thinking caps and see how Augmented Reality is helping retailers avoid extinction.

Brick-and-mortar? More like bits-and-mortar: how AR is blurring the lines between real and virtual shopping

In the age of online shopping, retailers are constantly looking for new ways to attract and bring customers back into their stores: for them, providing a unique and engaging shopping experience is essential to success in today’s market, especially to stand out in this crowded space.

Shopping is no longer just about buying products, it’s about the experience. And with the advent of Augmented Reality, retailers are able to offer customers an experience that is both unique and unforgettable. From virtual try-ons to interactive Product Visualization, AR is transforming the retail industry and redefining what it means to shop.

In addition to creating memorable experiences for their customers with AR, retailers can also open a new and engaging touchpoint that mixes offline and online, offering the benefits of both: one above all, the possibility to monitor and track experiences, to gather valuable insights on customer habits and preferences.

But let’s just take one step at a time and see what are the main applications of Augmented Reality technology that are renewing the retail industry.

In-store AR experiences: enriching the customer journey

Augmented Reality is here to revolutionize the way customers interact with products in stores. This technology offers retailers the opportunity to create immersive shopping experiences that not only engage customers but also enhance their journey, making it memorable. By adding a layer of virtual information over the real world, AR can transform ordinary objects into interactive experiences, giving rise to the so-called experiential retail.

As customers get more informed and selective about their purchase, in-store experiences have to (yeah, it’s mandatory) stand out from the crowd.
Enhancing brick-and-mortar location’s appeal, retailers can offer valuable experiences that add value to the store visits, with the effect of boosting the foot traffic in the store and driving sales, without adding any competition between channels (we’re looking at you, e-commerce). 

AR technology can be used in several ways to improve the customer experience. For example:

  • AR navigation systems: they guide consumers in shopping malls and avenues, letting them explore retail environments with additional information about store products, promotions and services, directly in their smartphones. But they work in stores too, providing customers with 3D maps and directions to help them navigate stores more easily, identifying the exact locations of products and discounts.
  • Product information and reviews: help customers receiving detailed information by pointing their smartphones at a product, such as ingredients, usage instructions, or even user reviews. This allows for more informed purchasing decisions, as well as increased customer satisfaction.
  • Gamification: retailers can create interactive games and scavenger hunts using AR, encouraging customers to explore the store and engage with products in a fun and entertaining way. This increases the likelihood of impulse purchases and creates a more memorable shopping experience.

Most of these new and innovative ways to engage customers are already successful among the young generations of consumers, like virtual shopping.
But the possibilities are endless: the aim is to offer customers the opportunity to engage with products in a whole new way. 

Lego used AR to show its customers how the sets will look when done, before buying them. This not only helps young collectors to better understand the product before making a purchase, but also helps their parents choose the most suitable sets for their children.
In-store AR experiences are not limited to just one industry, as they can be used across a range of sectors. In the automotive industry, Ferrari used AR to showcase their latest models and the innovative technology that makes their cars. 

However, one of the most innovative (and common) applications for AR is called Virtual Try-on.

Virtual try-ons: fitting rooms from the future

Virtual Try-Ons allows shoppers to try on items without touching them. How? By overlaying items on a live video recording, via customer’s smartphones or mirrors. The shopper can see the size, style, and fit of an item before buying it, without the need to be in the store or near the product.

They are especially popular in the fashion, beauty and luxury industries, where they have been used by major brands to showcase their latest collections and enhance the shopping experience, both online and offline.

In online shopping, Virtual Try-Ons can be launched directly from the product page, offering customers the opportunity to see how the product looks and feels before making a purchase, removing obstacles and friction from the buying process.
Imagine having a fitting room in your pocket: with just a few taps on your phone, you can try on clothes, accessories or even makeup.

But Virtual Try-Ons can be found even in stores: in this case, they are referred to as Virtual Fitting Rooms: in this case, the customer can see itself in a mirror, that scan the body with a webcam to recreate a 3D model of it, and then impose on the model the dress and accessories chosen by the customer.

Virtual Try-Ons experience offers many benefits, to both the consumer and the retailer:

  • customers can get a sense of how a product will look and feel before buying, removing any hassle about sizes and returns;
  • they can also enjoy an immersive and personalized shopping experience, enhancing brand recognition and recall;
  • that let customers experiment with products to find what works best for them, without worrying about pressure of a pushy salesperson;
  • less return means less money loss from the retailer – and that also reduce the costs linked to the trial of products;
  • another major benefits for the retailer is the opportunity to reduce the need for physical inventory.

In addition, Virtual Try-Ons can help retailers better understand their customers’ preferences and improve their marketing strategies. By analyzing customer data collected through the experience, brands can identify which products are most popular and which sizes and styles sell best, offering them insights to make more informed business decisions.

Virtual try-ons have transformed the way brick-and-mortar retailers sell their products, offering customers a more convenient, cost-effective and personalized shopping experience.

From browsing to wow-sing: how AR is revolutionizing the retail experience

For retailers, it’s crucial to keep innovating and providing unique experiences for customers. 

The competition for users’ attention is at an all-time high, the cost for advertising is growing and customers are getting more and more demanding with their experiences with brands.

Augmented Reality is the key to unlocking a world of possibilities that can keep your business ahead of the curve. With it, you can build brand loyalty, increase foot traffic, and drive in-store sales, providing interactive experience, gamification campaigns and most importantly personalized content.

And the best part? You get direct feedback from customers on their experiences, so you can continue to iterate and improve your offerings. 

Not to mention, it acts as a differentiator against competitors, both in the experience provided to customers and the marketing mix channels, promoting products in new and exciting ways. AR advertising campaigns can be less expensive than traditional advertising methods, making them a cost-effective option for retailers with limited budgets.

Don’t let your business fall behind – book a demo with our sales today to discover how to embrace the power of AR and stay ahead of the game!