Before the internet became a rising phenomenon, the retail business was all about customers interacting with the products directly. The scene changed in the ’90s as retail businesses started evolving into online and eCommerce businesses. And then entered the pandemic, where online was the only able means for businesses to continue. Every other retail firm was trying to establish itself from offline-based experiences to online-based experiences.
This led to a search for new-age technologies that could give the online shopping experience a new face. Thankfully, augmented reality was just the right thing that users needed. Let’s find out how augmented reality holds the key to the future of the retail sector.
The Backdrop on Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) is not entirely a new concept and has been used by a few retail brands in the past. But the technology in itself was in infancy. Part of it was down to the lack of fast connectivity, mainstream approach, and right technical tools to name a few. But the scene’s constantly changing with AR in the retail market reckoned to be valued at USD 11.4 Billion by 2025. Compare that to the USD 1.2 Billion valuations in 2018, it’s an evident growth spurt expected for AR in the retail sector.
At present, AR is used in the retail industry in various forms like interactive 3D product trials, virtual training, and customization options. Many businesses have incorporated 3D product trials into their web and apps to entice customers. The prime examples are Lenskart, Caratlane, Tinkle among few.
5 Ways Augmented Reality (AR) Can Streamline Retail Industry
- Improved Brand/Product Visualisation and Exposure: When you remove the experience of offline shopping, you deliberately end up nullifying the hands-on approach of the customer towards the product. Customers have a habit of engaging with the products before purchasing them. So how do you go about incorporating customer engagement in online retail shopping? That’s where AR can come in handy. The inclusion of AR allows the customer to visualize and try out a hands-on approach to the product. It was noted that people are 3.4 times more likely to buy a product when they experience or visualize the product with the help of AR. Using various AR technologies can help replicate the physical shopping experience for the consumers. This in turn will lead to increased brand awareness and exposure.
2. Conduct Immersive Live Events and Product Launches: If there’s one thing that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we need to rethink our approach to life. We never know when the situation turns abrupt. This is why having an alternative way of approaching things should be prioritized. AR can be the perfect flagbearer for retail in live events and product launches. Traditionally brands follow live events and product launch campaigns for bringing the product to the market. However, due to the advent of the pandemic, in-person live events were few and with far more restrictions on the attendees. AR can present a viable solution for this. AR can allow seamless conduct of product launches and live events without compromising on the dynamism and experience. One Plus unveiled their recent smartphone in the world’s first AR smartphone launch. AR events can help deliver an immersive experience for customers and allow them to become active participants. This also removes the barrier of physical location and is highly scalable for lead generation and exposure.
3. Create In-Depth Storytelling and Branding: Consumers over the years have become immersive and expressive. These days customers care for the story behind the product as much as the product itself. A good product with a terrible promotion story is going to get lower sales than those with a good promotion story. Traditionally print and streaming media were the preferred means of storytelling and branding. AR can amplify that experience and bring an engaging side to it. With the digitization already upon us and AR becoming accessible, why not use it to create an immersive brand story? Kellogg’s had a successful use of AR in retail for branding and storyboarding that improved its status and market share in the Middle East.
4. Reduced Product Returns: The return ratio for online shopping is substantially higher than the return rate for physical shopping. This is because customers are more likely to keep the products that they pick after visualization and interaction. It’s a perfectly rational approach from their side and will likely remain forever. So how can the retail industry incorporate visualization and reduce the returns in online shopping? Using Augmented Reality For Retail can help customers pick the products and try them out in their home environment. IKEA has been doing this for years while Walmart has an AR shopping guide and inventory. Similarly, Kohl’s has launched a digital catalog based on AR on their web and app. Using AR try-outs can result in 40% fewer returns for products purchased. This will reduce the operating cycle, hurdles of storing returned products and also provide a streamlined product supply chain.
5. Strong Competitive Edge and Customer Retention: The concept of first movers or early market movers holds quite a sway in the retail industry. The industry in itself is highly competitive and has a high turnover of customers. This is why businesses in the retail industry are always in a bid to improve the customer experience to retain the consumers and gain a competitive advantage over their peers. AR is one of the technologies of the future and the seismic shift of AR becoming mainstream is all but sure. Becoming part of this new age of future-proof technology and integrating successful consumer interaction will allow retail businesses to gain a strategic and strong competitive edge and build customer relations.
Augmented reality in retail market is one of the next big things with enormous potential. It holds the key to future-proof solutions and dynamics that can disrupt the way shopping is done. And it certainly has shown enough promise in a short period. The majority of the users have already acclaimed preferring the retailers with AR rather than those without. This can not only improve brand exposure and retention but is also likely to result in an improved buying experience, visualization, interaction, and engagement for the customers.