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Rethinking E-Commerce for the “Magic Window”

Looking at the role of XR solutions in digital retail experiences today and in the future.

Shanil Patel
Sep 14 · 7 min read

E-commerce has become a highly competitive and crucial space for brands to succeed in. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores were feeling a growing challenge from online retail, and since the pandemic hit, these pressures have accelerated. The formerly novel channels of online marketing supported by a virtual storefront on desktop and mobile just don’t give companies a competitive edge anymore. They’re considered basic requirements. Nowadays, for a brand to stand out it needs to compete for the customer’s attention at multiple touchpoints — without sacrificing the integrity of the brand.

That’s where a strategic headless e-commerce solution can do wonders. And for many, that requires a full digital transformation to get touchpoints aligned across a digital platform experience solution. But to achieve a digital transformation like that, there are unique challenges and opportunities to be faced that could either see a brand flourish, or find it lost in the noisy crowd that is online retail. Increasingly, to stand out, businesses need to look at emerging technologies such as XR and voice to engage customers and develop their brand in new ways. A digital retail experience that engages the customer at key touchpoints, allows them to experience your brand up close, and brings your products to their physical space instantaneously is the kind of experience that will stand out to consumers.

The world of voice has gained a lot of traction in the past few years with the rise of Amazon Alexa and Google Home (among others), and there’s lots of great reading on the topic. But voice isn’t the only emerging interface experience and it may not be the most effective option for your brand’s needs, either. Augmented, virtual and mixed reality are beginning to find mainstream footing with big-name retailers, which makes now the perfect time to explore this area. For today, we’re going to focus on the world of XR.

XR and the Magic Window

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The XR spectrum covers the space between a completely digital world and a completely real world, with VR on the digital end, AR on the real end, and MR bridging the gap between the two.

How can users interact with XR content you might ask? Currently, there are two main approaches. The first: users can interact with XR through sophisticated, expensive, power-hungry headsets that offer highly immersive experiences, but are not all that accessible to the masses. And the second: mobile devices, which allow users to experience XR content through something known as the magic window. Using the devices’s sensors, cameras, and supporting software like computer vision, a user can experience XR content on their screen. The magic window isn’t as immersive as a headset, but it does the trick and opens up multiple avenues to engage with customers in a more impactful way. (Plus it’s significantly easier and more affordable for users to try out — crucial for early adoption.)

The world of MobileXR

MobileXR opens many new channels in the e-commerce journey, but can be a little restricting when a company adopts the pre-fab options from major players, or quite costly if a brand chooses to develop an XR application themselves. MobileXR also requires a specific application download, which can be a barrier to customers. Thankfully, there is a newer, more promising technology on the horizon that alleviates these challenges and further lowers the barriers to entry for both a brand and their consumers.

The world of WebXR

Brands can leverage this awesome power and embed experiences directly into their websites. creating a seamless narrative that engages the user and allows new ways of immersing and providing value to consumers. With a combination of Mobile and WebXR bundled within a strategic headless solution, a brand has the ability to cut through the noise of online retail and provide value to its customers through a brand-led experience.

Experience is better than showing and telling

XR in the awareness phase

Though these experiences seem simple, they’re highly effective in capturing user attention and because of the immersive nature and high-level of convenience, tend to create far more engagement than traditional sources of text, video, and imagery. It’s no surprise that conversion rates increase by 40% with the use of AR. And the opportunities and touchpoints for these experiences don’t stop at social media platforms.

Companies like Google have begun incorporating AR capabilities into apps like maps, so that users can discover products while navigating. XR technology, in this case primarily computer vision, is also being used for image recognition search, so that product discovery is far easier than before. This technology will play a big part in the early stages of the customer journey, but the magic of this technology can also bring products to life in the consideration phase, and this is where the true value of mass-market XR shows.

XR in the consideration phase

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Ikea Places App taking a product from a physical catalog and allowing you to place it in your environment

Interactions like this enhance the customer experience and allow the brand to fully showcase their value to consumers. Most of all, the customer can actively interact with the brand, instead of passively reading, watching videos, or searching through Google for information to help them make a purchase. These XR-enhanced experiences can (and will) also be taken one step further, by integrating the XR within an omnichannel experience that leverages other technologies such as chatbots, voice, and wearables to create a more personalized and natural experience. At Myplanet, we’ve been exploring some of these solutions and building out sample use cases for when the technology and industry are ready to adopt them.

Conclusion

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