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The impact of AR on online retail

26 December 2018

Online retail has grown considerably over the last few years. By the year 2020, the number of online shoppers is projected to grow to beyond 2 billion. That said, online retail does have some issues when compared to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. While eCommerce systems, like on-demand apps that allow a shopper to use their mobile phone to do everything from browsing to purchasing to getting the product delivered, may have the upper hand when it comes to convenience, they lack the sensory experience shoppers get at a physical location.

By the year 2020, the number of online shoppers is projected to grow to beyond 2 billion Click To Tweet

By the year 2020, the number of online shoppers is projected to grow to beyond 2 billion

For many, this missing component can result in uncertainty that may be a barrier to completing online purchases. In a 2017 survey, 74% of consumers who said they prefer shopping at physical stores cited the ability to try or see products as one of the main reasons they continue to shop in-person. Consumers want to be able to hold some products in their hands before they commit to buying them. They may also need to try some things on or test different functions.

74% of consumers who said they prefer shopping at physical stores

With some online businesses (like those selling big-ticket items, such as large home appliances or furniture) are unable to provide the real physical item before the consumer makes a purchase, eCommerce companies need to look for technologies that can help them simulate this element of the in-person shopping experience.

AR Creates a More Engaging Experience

When a person shops online, there is a disconnect between the shopper and the product. You can look at pictures and read a description, but the rest is up to your imagination. By developing an Augmented Reality app, eCommerce businesses can create representations of the product that seem more real to the consumer.

With the ability to interact with a virtual rendering of the product, customers are given a more realistic and more engaging experience. in fact, according to a survey from Retail Perceptions, 61% of shoppers say they would rather shop on sites that offer augmented reality features.

61% of shoppers say they would rather shop on sites that offer augmented reality features

The IKEA Place app is a good example of AR being used in eCommerce. With this app, shoppers can preview 3D renderings of IKEA furniture and see how they look in their home. You just view the space through the camera on your smartphone, and the app places the piece of furniture on the screen in its place. This helps customers because they can make sure the piece matches the rest of the room and that it fits in the dimensions of the space.

The IKEA Place app is a good example of AR being used in eCommerce

Making it Easy to Customize

Offering a variety of options can be a good way to attract customers. However, shoppers are going to want to be able to make their selections and see the difference between similar products before they make a purchase. In many cases, these differences can be difficult to demonstrate on a traditional online shopping platform.

With an augmented reality app, an eCommerce business can make it much easier for shoppers to explore the differences between their options. Consumers could use the app to change colors or add different optional features. As they cycle through their choices, the AR rendering could change to reflect the difference.

Gap has been experimenting with using AR to help shoppers virtually try on clothes. With the DressingRoom app, users can provide their dimensions to build an avatar that can then be used to test the look of different pieces of clothing. With this feature, shoppers can put together different outfits, try different sizes on the avatar, and see how different items look in their environment.

Augmented Reality is absolutely going to have a significant impact on the eCommerce industry. The brands that embrace this technology first are going to have an edge over those who do not. That said, AR has to be more than just a gimmick. Businesses need to create AR shopping experiences that are useful to the consumer if they want the feature to seen as beneficial.

Read next: How Can Traditional Retail Compete With E-Commerce?

This article was written by guest contributor Catherine Metcalf from www.bluelabellabs.net . Views expressed are her own.