In its earlier days of emergence, augmented reality (AR) was mostly perceived as “entertainment technology”. One would typically think of Pokémon Go, before they realise that AR has other truly beneficial uses in the healthcare, architecture, and education sectors.
Yet, AR can be used as more than a marketing gimmick or a “wow factor” for brand differentiation (both of which are valid — but not the only uses of AR in retail). It is capable of positively impacting sales and help with customer retention, especially when implemented as a “try before you buy” function.
The following are several examples.
While the circumstances of the rise of AR in retail is unfortunate (stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak which forced people to stay home and therefore shop from home), it does not mean that it is a temporary trend that can be ignored. Several vendors and studies have mentioned that online shopping, or at least contactless shopping experience (even in brick-and-mortar) is here to stay.
This is where AR fits in like a perfect puzzle piece.
Shoppers are still not 100% confident when shopping remotely, especially when it comes to big ticket items like furniture and house fixtures. Understandably so, as they would want to be sure that a sofa or a chandelier would look and fit perfectly in their home before investing in it. Good news is, retailers can tap on AR to alleviate this concern and help shoppers be more assured in their purchases.
Augmented reality apps like IKEA Place, Houzz, and The Home Depot allow shoppers to view products in 360°, as well as offering “view in room” capability which works through AR projection. The latter helps in visualizing what an item would look like in its intended environment. The Omniaz AR solution works similarly as well, with multi-product AR projection, AR configurator to see a product with different customizations, and floor and wall overlay. These AR solutions are easily accessible through web browsers or mobile applications.
Such “try before you buy” features take the guesswork out of online shopping as shoppers can immediately tell if a piece of furniture is not the right choice for them. It instils greater trust for the brand as they are empowered to make better purchase decisions.
The “try before you buy” function is not only used to encourage purchases — it helps shoppers rule out products that they would not buy. It helps customers rule out the items that clearly fall short of their needs, instead of receiving an order that disappoints.
In other words, using AR in retail helps to reduce return rate.
According to Invesp, at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned whereas that rate is as low as 9% for purchases made in brick-and-mortar stores. Due to the inability (or wariness) to visit showrooms under COVID-19 circumstances, this problem has become more apparent.
On the other hand, providing extended product information and opportunities to experience a product before buying them boosts confidence and likelihood of purchase.
According to a US-based study “The Impact of Augmented Reality on Retail”, 72% of AR end up buying something they didn’t plan to because of AR and 40% of shoppers are willing to pay more for a product if they were allowed to test it through AR.
Brands such as Overstock.com that have incorporated AR solutions into their e-commerce have reported an increase in conversion of up to 200%, and a 25% decrease in return rate. Similarly, eBags also reported a 112% increase in mobile conversions and 81% on PC from those who have interacted with their products in AR, as well as a reduced return rate too.
At the end of the day, shoppers just want to feel supported in their decision-making process. A simplified decision-making process increases the likelihood of purchase by 86%, once again showcasing the capability of AR in boosting sales.
So, does every business need an AR strategy? Simply put, yes, if you want to continue thriving. As AR shifts from its “emerging” phase and becomes more of a mature technology, brands and retailers who are trying to keep up with the rapid changes in consumer behaviour will find that AR is no longer just a novelty. Instead, it is a necessary solution that can be utilized to overcome several retail challenges and positively impact your business’ bottom line.