How Augmented Reality helps customers make purchase decisions for complex products

Mike Osswald
May 14, 2019 · 8 min read
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AR is fast proving its value for eCommerce, beyond a marketing novelty

Today, there are an estimated 80-100 million active users of AR in some form, and 1 billion AR-compatible smartphones in people’s hands. It’s no longer a question of waiting for the technology to catch up to deliver useful experiences.


Here’s why Augmented Reality adds so much more value throughout the whole shopping journey

In order for retailers to provide AR in their eCommerce sites, they need the 3D assets from manufacturers. But your investment has a much wider reach.

  • A high cost to purchase (including delivery and installation)
  • Lots of custom options, varying sizes, or even groups of options (many decisions purchase)
  • Many stylistic/aesthetic choices (finding something I like, or what goes with my look)
  • Difficulty/concerns about installation or repair (know what you’re getting into)

Here’s how AR helps mitigate barriers to purchase

Understanding size and relationship to other real and virtual products

AR helps set accurate expectations in many ways, specifically because items can be placed into a room at actual size. Many highly-configurable products change in size and form and need to fit a given space, and might need to work together with existing things you might own.

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A virtual chair and a real chair.
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Understanding actual size.

✅ Exact placement and moving things around

People can spend time with the things they don’t yet own, and better imagine them in their lives. You can move things around and then walk around them. The immersive experience is powerful, even through the screen of your phone.

Adjusting a 3D piece of furniture.

✅ Evaluating aesthetic choices

AR can support amazingly detailed textures and patterns, transparency, shine and shadows. Virtual objects can look amazing up close and far away, and blend into the lighting of a room.

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High quality textures, shine, and transparency.
Trying out different materials.

✅ Seeing any angle, any detail

You can step back and view the bookshelf from a distance, or you can get right up to see the details. People who want details can have greater confidence in purchase decisions, without having to visit a physical store.

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Evaluating construction details up close.

Interact and learn with animations

Before a big purchase, people can interact and understand how something works, how it opens/closes, how it changes in size, even go step by step through how it is assembled, installed, or repaired.

Step-by-step assembly details and instructions.

Here’s what you need to do to get started with an Augmented Reality strategy

Like anything taken at scale, deciding to add Augmented Reality to your digital customer experiences is complex. Today there are already a lot of best practices, so you won’t be breaking new ground, but there are a lot of variables involved in understanding the full scope of what is needed today, and for the future.

Taking a handful of products and sticking them into a simple AR player might be an exciting demo, but it really won’t help your business understand what it will take to be up and running.

So let me give you two areas you can begin to think about as you consider making AR an integral part of your marketing strategy.

First, understand what you want to achieve, what your customers need

Think about the gaps you have in helping customers buy. AR is not a novelty and should be planned with specific intent, which means knowing what problems you want to solve.

  • Take a look at your competitors and what they provide.
  • Think about the dealer, professional, retail experiences that customers have.
  • Or you may have trouble showing people valuable product options, or touting unique features.
  • You might be spending too much, or relying too much on samples.
  • You might really need a helpful showroom experience, or a tool to help professionals sell your products, vs. catalogs and limited samples in the shop.
  • It’s tiring to hold out your phone for a long time, so you don’t want people to have to use a search engine or do complex filtering.

Second, do a high-level assessment of your assets

3D assets can be so much better than 2D-photo assets (more adaptable). They are more adaptable — and can be scaled and sized in different ways. If your current marketing solution is to construct entire room sets to put your physical products in, you’ve already been thinking about 3D. Most companies we work with have some form of 3D product data available, but often it’s not equally managed, or locked up in engineering.

What to expect later:

Transitioning to a product asset strategy that involves the management of 3D assets doesn’t have to be complex, but there are a lot of details. When done properly, you’ll unlock capabilities not just for AR, but for replacement of your existing catalog images, at nearly any scale, with photorealistic details — you’ll want your models to be developed correctly.


Hanson Inc.

Our first principle?

Mike Osswald

Written by

VP, Experience Innovation @HansonInc, thinking about digital engagement, IA, UX, XD, MarTech, B2B, IoT, AR/MR, edu » speaker, lefty, Trekkie, honey badger

Hanson Inc.

Our first principle? Never stop challenging. It’s how you go from good to knocked-it-out-the-park. Find us at www.hansoninc.com.

Mike Osswald

Written by

VP, Experience Innovation @HansonInc, thinking about digital engagement, IA, UX, XD, MarTech, B2B, IoT, AR/MR, edu » speaker, lefty, Trekkie, honey badger

Hanson Inc.

Our first principle? Never stop challenging. It’s how you go from good to knocked-it-out-the-park. Find us at www.hansoninc.com.

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