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Augmented Reality for Online Retail and E-Commerce

Augmented Reality (AR) for online retail and e-commerce is rapidly increasing in popularity, providing webshops and e-tailers a new format to enrich the product experience. AR is useful for tasks like conveying additional information about a product, projecting and fitting life-size objects into a space, or showing how the many moving parts of a piece of complex machinery might operate. What’s more, with the wider use of AR apps for shopping both in-store and online, AR is becoming more and more familiar to today’s consumers and more likely to become a significant sales driver for online retail and e-commerce.

Boost Online Sales with Augmented Reality for Retail and E-commerce

Augmented Reality apps for online retail and e-commerce possess great potential to boost sales and improve revenue. They are also seeing an uptick in viability and investment, as major giants in the tech industry such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others are now investing serious money into advancing AR technology.

To give you an idea:

  • Google’s Tango Project was an early effort to bring AR to phones. While Tango never quite worked out, Google went on to invest with the likes of Alibaba, J.P. Morgan and others into an American startup, Magic Leap. This AR-centric project has seen lavish amounts of funding, totaling $2.6 billion across 9 rounds, and is one of the most-watched AR startups on the market at the time of writing.
  • Apple Inc. has launched a platform to develop Augmented Reality for iOS devices, known as ARKit, now supporting regular updates and including new features. 
  • Facebook purchased the rights to the Oculus Rift, now known as Oculus VR, paying over $2 billion USD for the acquisition.
  • Snapchat, before its take-over by Facebook, purchased an Israeli-based AR startup, Cimagine Media, for somewhere between $30-40 million in 2016.
  • Then you have other software companies like Microsoft with the HoloLens 2 and IBM also in the AR market, developing their own solutions and advancing research in the sector.

These are just some of the many examples of investment going into Augmented Reality. Many analysts, in fact, project numbers for the AR market were somewhere between $100-130 billion in 2020.

The use cases for AR in online retail and e-commerce are numerous. Shoppers nowadays can use AR technology in-store to compare prices or learn more about products on the shelves. Then, online shoppers can use AR apps to see if, for example, furniture not only matches but also fits into their homes. They can even customize, interact with, and personalize items, virtually try on clothing, or see how items operate. 

Augmented reality product page

Advantages of using Augmented Reality in retail and e-commerce

Just as with any product photography for eCommerce and online retail, ultimately, the goal is to boost conversion rates and reduce overall returns. This means delivering content that not only impresses online shoppers. The content must also provide all the vital information consumers need to be confident in making a purchase online.

This is where AR content can provide many advantages to businesses, marketing, services, and especially in online retail. AR provides webshops and e-tailers a new format to deliver more detailed and intuitive product information to shoppers. It makes the product experience more interactive and immersive overall, and this reflects well on brands and also helps to establish brand trust. 

Providing a more interactive user experience with AR

With Augmented Reality shopping apps, customers can become both content consumers and content creators. AR provides users the ability to personally interact with, customize and personalize both offline and online products. 

  • For online products, AR allows users to view items however and wherever they wish. 
  • Users can change colors, sizes, styles and designs of items they browse.
  • For in-store purchases, items with AR experiences require only a quick scan of a QR code or product ID number for shoppers to learn more about similar items on sale, compare prices, or even find nearby stores that might have the product available.

Projecting products into virtual space

Using AR to create customizable content for each user’s needs

From mobile applications to Virtual and Augmented Reality, the way shoppers are using technology in today’s world shapes how businesses must market products for online retail and e-commerce. It revolves around the shopper, and as shoppers’ demands grow, so too must brand leaders look to improve product content to meet the individual shopper’s needs.

In product marketing, this means that businesses need more than simply high-quality, visually rich product images. A shopper might want to view a product from all angles or in a deep field of zoom to check the tiniest of details before deciding if they make a purchase. 

On the other hand, the shopper might want to interact with a complex or heavy item, see how it works or try it out, all without leaving their home and on the device that is most convenient to them-- whether it’s on one operating system or another, on mobile or on desktop. This is where you need to meet each user’s often-varied needs and provide them with customizable solutions for their everyday lives.

Scan QR code AR product experience

Connecting online shoppers with printed content

The next advantage to Augmented Reality for online retail and e-commerce is in, believe it or not, bringing new life to print product content. With companies working to bridge the gap between print and digital content, one of the main challenges is in understanding how consumers use and interact with printed content, and AR provides new advantages in this regard.

Data isn’t often or widely available for print content consumption, but by adding AR features to print advertisements and showcases, businesses can get a better understanding of their print engagement, and then continually work from there to improve how they deliver their content. 

Have a look at the following list of major brands and companies now utilizing AR technology:

  • Vespa, the world-renown Italian scooter, now has AR codes for magazine readers to scan, at which point readers can build customizable scooters from the options available: from colors to styles and accessories.
  • Volkswagen has taken a truly unique approach, experimenting with AR and billboards. By pointing an AR app at one of these billboards, customers will see a display of the car pop out of the billboard on their phone screen.
  • Lego and IKEA have both begun support of AR in their printed catalogues, allowing readers to scan pages to see how objects would look in life-size. This content not only comes to life, but also provides shoppers with additional information, tips for use, or an option to purchase instantly.
  • Manor, a Swiss-based retailer, does similar to Lego and IKEA, and integrated AR into its application. Now, users can scan pages from their catalogues to receive video clips from their cover shoots or to receive additional information and extra content.

Mobile device AR viewer

Overcoming language barriers to appeal to a global market

Another challenge to online retail and e-commerce is appealing to a global market, and, in this area, Augmented Reality can help bridge the language barrier. Language challenges can be not only time-consuming and costly for companies but also poor translations can disengage shoppers completely and leave them looking for alternative places to shop online.

This is where AR and translation software becomes an advantage. With international companies and sales especially, AR can provide valuable and accurate information in many languages across all channels, from team members down to the customer. 

Things like technical demonstrations of complex products or machinery, presenting blueprints and 3D models, enhancing user manuals, or just about anything that calls for more information and needs translation for a global audience can be enriched with today’s AR technology and AR apps. 

Utilizing AR to boost consumer confidence, trigger purchases and reduce overall returns

Ultimately, the goal with using 3D models and AR technology for e-commerce apps and online retail is to make shoppers feel more confident in the products, triggering purchases and reducing overall returns. 

This becomes more likely to happen in today’s world if you make your product experience more interactive, informative, and tailored to the needs of the customer. This way, consumers’ curiosity is not only satisfied, but also the real product often lives up to the customer’s expectations and leads to less returns overall.