The role of augmented reality (AR) in retail expands with each passing year, suggesting that the technology may soon be necessary for retail businesses to thrive. There are many ways in which augmented reality can help retail businesses, from providing virtual dressing rooms to expanding brand awareness.
A recent report from Retail Perceptions found that 61% of shoppers would rather shop at a store with AR technology versus one that doesn’t have it. The report also found that 71% of consumers would shop at a retail store more often if augmented reality was part of their business model. These figures indicate that consumers are increasingly interested in AR technology and its impact on the shopping experience. But how exactly is retail augmented reality transforming the industry? And what trends can we expect in the future?
Let’s take a look.
Virtual Fitting Rooms
One of the biggest ways that AR is changing the shopping experience is by allowing customers to try on clothes via virtual fitting rooms. Since customers don’t have to physically put an item of clothing on, there’s no need to worry about long lines for fitting rooms. This is especially important during busy shopping seasons, as shoppers have been known to buy items, try them on at home, and then return them just to avoid fitting room lines. In this way, access to virtual fitting rooms encourages customers to make purchases and reduces the number of returns.
While virtual fitting rooms can be used when shopping in-store, they are especially useful for e-commerce stores. After all, a major problem with online shopping in the past has been not knowing whether an item of clothing will look good on you. By enabling customers to see items on their person, virtual fitting rooms help online shoppers buy with more confidence.
Another drawback of online shopping is that it can be difficult to know if something will actually fit. It can be extremely disappointing for shoppers to fall in love with a piece of clothing, only to have to return it due to wrong sizing. This can be an arduous process for manufacturer and customer alike. Fit Freedom’s solution is an augmented reality (AR) body measurement application designed to simplify the online shopping experience. The Fit Freedom app uses the consumer’s smartphone camera to provide quick, simple body measurements. The resulting 3D model allows the platform to recommend the consumer’s perfect size on Fit Freedom’s retail partner websites, eliminating the hassle of comparing different sizing charts. The user simply inputs their “Fit Freedom ID” (their email address) to instantly initiate Fit Freedom’s sizing algorithm.
Virtual fitting rooms and body measurement apps restore the convenience of online shopping and help the customer pick the right item and right fit every time. Many companies are making use of virtual fitting rooms, including Topshop, Converse, and GAP. These companies have been finding success with the technology, with sales increasing and customers enjoying an easier way to try out clothing.
Improving the In-Home Shopping Experience
With AR, you can test out more than just clothes from the comfort of your home. For example, Home Depot’s Project Color app allows users to see how a paint color will look in a user’s home. It’s highly accurate, too; the app even considers lighting, objects and shadows. The end result is a realistic portrayal of what a certain shade of paint will look like if you were to apply it to your walls.
Anthropologie is using a similar approach to increase its furniture sales. The app provides shoppers with detailed previews of furniture in a variety of fabrics, shapes and colors. Plus, users can see the furniture in various lightings and shadows, as well as from multiple angles.
Naturally, personal products retailers have been taking advantage of the technology as well. L’Oreal Paris created an app called MakeupGenius that has been downloaded on Google Play over a million times. It allows shoppers to virtually apply makeup to their faces. They can mix and match products to create their ideal look.
Businesses have been quick to adopt AR in the retail industry because the technology can bring products to customer’s homes in an interactive and accurate manner. Doing so creates a deeper connection between brands and consumers, ensuring they are buying products that will work well with their homes.
In-Store Mapping Capabilities
Augmented reality can also make it easier to find items in a physical store. Take home improvement retailer Lowe’s; they combined AR with geolocation technology for their mobile app. The In-Store Navigation app allows customers to create shopping lists in the app and then suggests the fastest and most efficient route to find all the items they need.
Customers may get frustrated if they cannot find all the items they want in a timely manner, so using AR to guide them to everything on their list will lead to greater customer satisfaction. It also means retail workers spend less time helping shoppers find specific items.
Augmented reality is, well, cool. It’s still an exciting, novel technology, and this means it has the power to attract more customers. For instance, Lacoste created an AR app that allows customers to try on shoes virtually, while also giving them the option of learning more about the product.
The brand added AR to its window displays, in-store signs and promotional postcards to appeal to a younger audience. The move paid off; sales of the LCST shoe model from Lacoste increased, while more than 30,000 shoppers used 3D products on the app. As such, AR can be a compelling way to attract more customers to your business.
Retail Augmented Reality Allows for Greater Customization
There is an increasing need for personalization in the retail industry, as customers want their unique shopping habits and interests to be taken into consideration when they shop. A study found that close to 60% of shoppers look up product prices and information on their mobile phones while in stores, and augmented reality technology can help answer their questions.
American Apparel is testing out this idea with an AR app that allows customers to scan signs in its stores. When a user scans a sign, the app pulls up product information, including reviews and ratings from other shoppers. Customers can also look at different color and size options, as well as pricing information. Users will be able to view videos of models wearing items and recommend products to friends.
Adidas is also leveraging the power of AR, but to help customers after they make a purchase. Once a customer receives a shoe from the company’s AR-enabled sneaker line, they can lift up the shoe’s tongue and scan a code on it. Once they do so, the app reveals a digital world where they can use the sneaker as a joystick that controls the user’s movement within the app. The app offers customized product recommendations, articles tailored to the particular customer, blog posts, videos and real-time updates on sports, athletes and products they may be interested in.
Both brands are seeking ways to make the customer more involved in the shopping and post-shopping experience by offering additional digital content. Doing so has the potential to increase brand loyalty and customer retention rates.
The Future of Retail Augmented Reality
We can expect the role of augmented reality in retail to continue growing in the future. In fact, 69% of consumers expect retailers to roll out an AR app over the next six months. Plus, 42% of shoppers think AR technology would make it easier for them to make a decision and reduce the time between browsing and the final purchase. Clearly, customers are responding well to the ways in which AR can streamline the shopping experience.
Retailers who are on the fence about incorporating augmented reality technology should consider the many benefits the technology brings, including:
- Immersive product catalogs: These catalogs include preview options for consumers. They are particularly useful for businesses that lack showrooms, as they allow customers to try out or preview products without being physically at a store.
- Personalized user experience (UX): AR is conducive to an optimized UX that meets a user’s exact needs, thereby customizing the customer experience from top to bottom.
- Lower return rates: You can expect reduced returns since customers are more likely to keep an item if they can try it on before buying.
- Improved in-store navigation: Easier in-store navigation decreases the time customers spend shopping and increases the number of purchases they make.
- More targeted marketing campaigns: Augmented reality especially appeals to younger audiences because it takes into account their interest in interactive advertising.
Moving forward, expect retailers of all sizes to create or expand upon their mobile applications, upgrading 2D product catalogs into 3D ones. Doing so will improve the consumer experience through AR environments. Failing to do so can cause a business to lose out to the competition, experience fewer sales and see a decrease in customer loyalty. As such, augmented reality looks to be a valuable investment for retail businesses.
But how do you implement augmented reality into your retail company? It starts with finding the right developer.
At SevenTablets, our development team can create custom augmented reality apps tailored to fit your business’ exact needs. We built the Fit Freedom augmented reality fitting app, which is available to clothing retailers worldwide. To discuss your augmented reality project or fitting needs, contact us today.
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Lacey earned a B.A. from Baylor University. Sic'em!