Over the past few years, the retail industry has embraced enterprise mobility and mobile applications and have been extensively utilized by retailers in a number of ways. Augmented Reality (AR) is another trend that enterprises can benefit from if applied practically.
What is Augmented Reality? Augmented Reality refers to technology that combines real and virtual world elements in real-time through computer interfaces. It offers users the chance to have a real-time view of their immediate surroundings improved or enriched with digital information. For example, a medical equipment manufacturer can develop an app that allows its sales team to provide 3D demonstrations of its products to doctors on their mobile devices, helping to enhance their presentations and make company products tangible. AR can be used in the manufacturing industry to visualize and design machines and products and build digital mockups.
How can the retail industry enhance the shopping experience for their customers with AR? Quite a few elements of AR are already used in retail apps. For example, AR technology already makes it possible for phones to act like barcode or QR scanners and offer extra product information, reviews and price comparisons for users of their apps. Other ways retailers can implement AR into their mobile apps include just some of the following:
With so many consumers using their mobile devices to perform quick research on products, AR is a great way for them to obtain information quickly, especially during peak hours. A customer can use their device to take a picture of the product on an app and submit it to view information about the product as well as user reviews and ratings. This can help address store congestion and reduce inquiries made to store staff.
On a busy day, the lines for fitting rooms can be long and slow. Even with limitations imposed on the number of clothes a person brings into a fitting room, the wait can be long and tiresome and many consumers may give up and leave the store without buying anything. With AR technology, people can use their mobile device to virtually try out an outfit by pointing to the item of clothing and upload it to a pre-loaded photo of themselves or via webcam. This “virtual dressing room” can give consumers an idea of how an item of clothing will look on them without setting foot in a store. The app can also give customers the option to buy an item after virtually trying the item on.
An interactive billboard of retail products enables consumers to visualize themselves with a company’s products. Have consumers hold their mobile devices to a billboard to interact with products, or play games that make the product more enticing to the customer. These interactive billboards can be integrated into the store app so consumers can obtain more information about products they are interested in.
An “invisible store” means that a customer can use their mobile device to point to an object or image and link to a store’s eCommerce site or store app to shop and obtain discounts and deals. Shoe company Airwalk was one of the first companies to try this in 2010, in New York and Los Angeles. Retailers can reward loyal customers by stocking their invisible stores with sales, discounts, and exclusive offers.
Augmented Reality is designed to provide an engaging and enticing user experience for consumers. It can help increase the perception of the brand and help consumers in their buying decisions. If retail enterprises utilize the technology effectively, it could mean an increase in sales and the data collected can help them make better decisions on how their stores are stocked.