As the lines between retail and technology blur, one of the biggest themes we hear about is Augmented Reality (AR). The introduction of increasingly powerful mobile devices has accelerated its adoption as functionalities that previously would have required the processing power of a desktop workstation are now available in your hand.
But while there certainly is a lot of noise about the technology, there is still a lot of work to be done to figure out how and why it will benefit the customer. Thinking beyond the concept, the question remains: can AR offer a truly personalised and exciting digital experience that enriches the customer experience?
Tailoring AR to your industry
AR allows retailers to offer novel yet powerful services to their customers, that tap into that all-important moment of interest. Simply by pointing a phone at AR-enabled trigger point, you can access an incredible depth of product information — via video or animation — that static images just cannot convey.
The beauty industry was one of the first to benefit from AR, with camera algorithms specialising in managing human face enhancement or, as we know them, filters. Today, it’s easy to test a different lipstick or eyeliner using an app without having to move from the comfort of your own home. Colour rendering has also been enhanced lately, with phones becoming increasingly capable of nuance and rendering quality that was once the preserve of high-end movie and photographic studios.
Our industry is similarly advanced in the space, with many creative uses of AR now ready to launch. You can use AR to place additional item information on top of an image while looking at accessories and garments through the camera. You can also animate your shopping window using AR, making it always available, even when the shop is closed. This is an early but positive sign of things to come.
AR at YNAP
We have long recognised the power of AR to make our customer experience even richer. We first used AR in 2011 when NET-A-PORTER ran shoppable windows during Vogue’s Fashion Night Out. Then in 2014, NET-A-PORTER launched PORTER, our first global glossy magazine completely shoppable through AR. Each experience has taught us valuable lessons about how our customers interact with the technology and we continually look for new, innovative ways to implement the technology.
I believe AR has an exciting future in luxury fashion retail. We’ve already seen examples of the technology turning mainstream — the Pokémon Go frenzy proving there is appetite from consumers. However, for AR to become a regular part of our customers lives, it need to becomes a fundamental part of the customer experience rather than a novelty. To achieve this, I believe AR’s next phase — its combination with AI and yet more powerful hardware — will give mobile devices the power to look at and reimagine the world around them, potentially forever changing our experience of the world as we know it.