It’s time to move over Pokemon Go and get into the serious business of Augmented Reality (AR). The AR technology is no longer a fun quotient. It’s more of a value-adding element for businesses. Among other industries, the retail industry is witnessing stupendous demand in incorporating AR into their day-to-day business operations.
Call it going with the flow or a deliberate attempt to offer something unique, today’s retail brands are trend-conscious when it comes to the way brand-consumer interaction takes place. Immersive customer experience is the buzz now. If you are in retail and you still think that AR is not all that necessary, you might have to rethink before you strike it off as an important business need.
The Psychology of Shoppers
It’s natural that anything new holds our interest. Online shopping companies are in a flux, forcing businesses to reinvent user experiences. As a result, the attention span of shoppers
have greatly reduced. They have become more of a skimmers than real buyers. By and large, consumer behavior is changing. And brands are realising that the only way to engage them is to wind back the conventional user experience and deliver ‘immersive’ experience.
Merely telling consumers to buy a product no longer works, it’s the age where brands are hell-bent in offering ‘tangible products’ through spectacular 3D visuals and appealing sounds to hold and increase consumers’ attention span.
Augmented Reality comes out as the best example of immersive user experience. The rate at which businesses are adapting AR is something retailers are not advised to miss.
Retail Perceptions reports the following:
More than 70% of shoppers prefer to shop with retailers who offer Augmented Reality
About 40% are willing pay more for products from retailers who offer Augmented Reality experience
More than 60% of shoppers expressed their willingness to buy products from brick-and-mortar (stores) that offer Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality to make retail stores as popular as their apps
Since the advent of apps, retails stores/kiosks have been on the receiving end, diving vertically down in terms of revenue. For instance, GAP, the US clothing retailer, announced that it would be closing about 75 stores in the first half of 2016 and go on to close another 75 by the second half of the same year.
Not just GAP, several other retailers decided to shut shop due to declining walk-ins. It’s a dicey situation for these retailers. When people prefer to shop sitting at the comfort of their houses, it’s not hard to see why the store sales are spiralling down. The reason, most agree, is the lack of personalized user experience.
To reverse this loss, retailers are coming out with fashionable ideas to incorporate Augmented Reality in their apps and at the brick-and-mortar outlets. By doing this, several outlets outlets are witnessing increased walk-ins and sales, encouraging them to AR-enable more stores.
Immersive experience is the key. By facing the AR screens installed in the stores, customers can try out clothes just by giving their height, weight and other minor credentials. Since this simplifies the tedious trial room process customers are more willing to use the app and to visit the stores just for that immersive experience. By this method, the retailers are hoping to increase sales in both platforms.
Retailers who have realized the potential of AR are going for the early adoption of the technology to stand out from the rest and create an edge over their competitors.
Top Retailers using AR
A fast-growing furniture and lifestyle product retailer in India.
Fabindia followed the customary product showcase system through catalogs, but when customers had trouble on how the new furniture would look in their room, Fabindia went the Augmented Reality way to overcome this challenge.
With the implementation of Augmented Reality, customers were able to visualize the look and fit of the product in a room. By this, the customers were able to ‘try’ a furniture or any lifestyle product before the purchase. This, they say, has increased the confidence in customers and made way for faster decision-making.
Not just that, the AR technology has enabled Fabindia to show products that they sold at their outlets and also the products that are upcoming.
Shiseido ‘Magic’ Makeup Mirror
A Japanese beauty product brand
If AR can change the game for an interior makeover, it can do so for face makeover, too. Buying a makeup kit and later realizing it’s not for you can be an expensive affair. Shiseido has decided to help its customers overcome that hassle through its ‘magic make-up mirror’.
The product is called Digital Cosmetic Mirror.
This AR-powered mirror allows customers to apply make-up virtually and see how it suits them. The technology captures the customer’s face, sets markers at key points like eyes, nose, lips. Using the touch screen mirror, customers can try out various products and hundreds of shades in real-time, without having to go through the trouble of apply-wipe-and-re-apply process and burn a hole in their pockets with a needless purchase.
China’s largest food retailer
This one is truly unique. If AR can help reinvent retailers through apps and kiosks, Yihaodian went a step further up setting up Augmented Reality supermarkets in China. And the best part of it is that it has set up these ‘supermarkets’ without spending any money.
Without a smartphone, it’s an empty parking lot, but looking through a smartphone, it’s an fully- stocked virtual supermarket, with products updated regularly. Users can choose from over 1000 grocery items, tag them and add to the cart. A QR code is also printed below each item to scan them. All customers have to do is select their goods and instruct Yihaodian to have it delivered to them.
Yihaodian made heads turn in the AR retail space. By following the same module, UK retailer Tesco is said to have boosted its online sales by 130 percent.
The future of AR – Industry experts’ POV
Augmented Reality is still in infancy, but the rate at which it is growing is tremendous. Industry experts say that the AR’s scope and opportunity is huge, and is expected continued growth in the coming years.
Sam Murley of GE says that the tipping point will take place anytime this year, and there will be an increased opportunity for AR providers. However, the AR is not without its challenges. Murley states that one of the biggest challenges for AR in the following years will be the interoperability and its advancement from closed systems to connected systems and open frameworks.
Ken Lee, CEO of VanGogh Imaging, specialized in 3D capture technology, states that instead of companies focusing the technology, they should focus on how AR could solve their industry problems, or how best AR can turn a pain point into a value adding point.
With AR expected to reach the tipping point, many industry experts are evaluating AR at various levels and formulating methods to integrate it into their businesses. Though they have their own set of questions, many are coming out as proponents of the rising trend of Augmented Reality. Top Augmented Reality companies in Bangalore are gearing up for big opportunities.
Viewing a flat image of a product on your app is different from viewing them through AR. Now customers can view object in a whole new light, which was not available to them earlier. It’s not just about cool 3D images, the idea is to go beyond that by connecting consumers with products on different levels. Today’s retailers are not ready to settle down anything less than immersive experience.
By increasing the visual impact of a product, you also increase the recognition and value of the product.That’s the game-changing point of Augmented Reality.
Recent reports say that, in just a few years, more companies will adopt AR technology to deliver personalized user experience.
Due to its flexibility, enterprises from different industries are trying to get the best out of Augmented Reality. And the way it is heading, it’s apparent that immersive experience is here to stay.
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