How Augmented Reality (AR) is going to transform Retail?

ar in retail
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Gartner estimated that over 100 million consumers used AR to shop in 2020. While 66% of people say they are interested in using AR for help when shopping.

With the help of Augmented Reality, retailers can customize and personalize the shopping experiences of these 100 million people as opposed to traditional retail experiences where most users would have a similar shopping experience. With targeted offerings in the retail space, AR shoppers are able to have a more impactful, personalized shopping experience.

Operating a store in such a competitive market is already a challenging business, with the ever-growing demand for creativity and the ability to stand out. Therefore, retailers have never shied away from experimenting and choosing to adopt new technology. Augmented Reality can help them to provide a unique experience to their users.

The act of shopping has undergone massive changes in the past few decades with shops shifting online and people getting to buy things from the comfort of their couch. A huge number of people prefer shopping online these days instead of going out to the store.

With the COVIID-19 pandemic, more and more retail stores have been forced to shift their proceedings online. This opens the gates for Augmented Reality to be incorporated into advertising and e-commerce, revolutionizing the shopping experience manifold.

Augmented Reality in retail comes with multiple benefits not only for retailers but also consumers, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

AR in retail is not a new concept with multiple businesses and agencies already testing its benefits such as AR product visualization, personalization as well as AR sales campaigns, and growing their businesses and customer base. As a result, consumer usage also rises.

The Problems Faced in Traditional Retail Marketing

With the constantly changing demand and supply of goods, marketing needs a much-needed makeover for increasing sales and capturing the attention of people. There are several things about the traditional ways of retail that are either obsolete or not powerful enough as strategies in today’s times. Some of these issues are as follows:

  • Travelling & Convenience
    Probably the greatest impact of the pandemic yet, restrictions on traveling have managed to hit small and big businesses alike. People have been forced to stay and work from home and travel out only to buy essential items. In a climate that scrutinizes window shopping and flouting social distancing norms, traveling poses a great inconvenience. Even without the pandemic, retail companies with limited branches in a handful of locations make them inaccessible to people living farther away from them.
  • Compartmentalization of work 
    Compartmentalization in retail is when a retailer employs various compartments for the production of a good to distribute the total work evenly and in doing so, create a chain of work that functions efficiently. It is very effective but it can be time-consuming and major health risk during a pandemic as the risk of contracting a disease increases.
  • A limited number of items in stock
    We bet you have heard “This product is not in our stock” multiple times and that has always curbed your try-on experience. This is one is the greatest and recurring limitations of traditional retail businesses. Stocks are always running low when it comes to popular goods and in this climate of mass-hoarding, shops are facing a shortage of demo products like never before.
  • Capital issues
    Setting up a retail store requires a lot of capital and in some industries, it also means you have to risk everything to start something of your own.  God forbid, the capital runs out due to large investments in traditional retail and if you are unable to grow your business, you end up winding it up.  
  • Limited working hours and days
    Shops obviously have fixed business hours and even days so their service is pretty restricted. During the coronavirus pandemic, these working hours have become even more rigid with shops in some areas opening for only a few hours every weekday. Moreover, the shops crowd up when you visit them which also puts your health in danger. A consumer needs time to properly evaluate the product before buying it with satisfaction which requires time.

How AR in Retail Can Alleviate These Problems

Augmented reality is a powerful tool to transform the way business has been conducted until now. People now get a more customized and personalized service at the click of a button virtually which is even impossible at times in real life!

Let us take a look at how Augmented Reality can nip the above-mentioned problems and more at the bud easily.

  • Convenient Self-Service
    Retailers need to keep changing and mixing things up with time lest their sales strategies are rendered obsolete. As shoppers look for the next big and attractive thing to draw them to a retailer’s product, retailers need to provide more information about their products and also incorporate customers into their brands. And what better way to do this than using Augmented Reality in the business.
    Using AR-based self-service solutions, consumers can use their preferred devices to access any product or brand and know about it without depending on customer care or any other support teams to explain things to them. Not only does this method guarantee efficiency, but it also provides the customer with self-sufficiency and satisfaction in discovering the information themselves.

  • Personalization and Customization
    We are all familiar with how AR in retail allows us to try on products without sacrificing the comfort of shopping from our couches. E-commerce allows you to view the product in 2D and does not let you try them on but with Augmented Reality, you can not only try the product but also view all its dimensions in 3D. This also solves the problem of having limited stocks as unlike real shops, virtual try-on areas cannot run out of products.

  • Checking 3D Products at Home
    As an extension of the previous point, this advantage of AR in retail deserves a separate section for itself as buyers can not only try products on but also view how a certain item will look in real life. For example, the Project Color app launched by Home Depot in 2015 allows users to assess how a certain paint color would look on their walls.
    Moreover, AR try-on centers are available 24×7 which means you do not have to wait for a store to open or even deal with a crowd of people to get a good look at the product you want to see!

  • Live events and product launches
    As product launches and other events are not possible due to current travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, AR comes in handy for companies wanting to create a little buzz by hosting these events.
    Retailers can take the virtual stage and transform it into a product launch set-up using the immersive and effective features of Augmented Reality and appeal to their buyers.
    AR campaigns and events are as effective as in-person experiences and are even accessible to people who do not live in the vicinity of the event, making it ten times more accessible to people. In the past, OnePlus has used AR to launch its new smartphones which were also live-streamed for people.

  • AR product visualization
    People do not just want to look at the product when they shop, they want a 360-degree view of it and want to experience the personalization that draws them to it. Real-life shopping keeps customers engrossed through interactions with the retailer who also acts as a visual guide and offers assistance. AR product visualization does the same exact thing, but better.
    Retailers can now let customers try any product multiple times in whichever variant they want it. Some AR retailers also use salesmen in their AR stores who make eye contact with the customer to give a more realistic experience!

    Moreover, one can use AR to see what a piece of furniture will actually look like in their house. According to Apple, the possibility of someone buying an item increases by 11 times if they have an opportunity to see how it looks in their house’s interior. And this can be done only with the impressive

  • Telling a product’s story
    What if retailers could tell in-depth stories of how their products are made and what all goes behind making the final product we see on the shelves?
    In real life, it would be a boring experience, almost like a lecture; but using AR in retail to bring this story to life in an immersive and, in some cases, the interactive way would not only provide customers with the much-wanted information but will also increase retailers’ transparency in doing so.

    With WebAR, even the need for apps is eliminated to tell a product’s story and offer a seamless, enjoyable virtual experience to consumers. For example, Kellogg’s used AR to teach breakfasters about the natural world and the history of chocolate via immersive virtual games set in a jungle.

  • Smart Mirrors
    Smart mirrors, also known as smart displays and digital mirrors, use Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and gesture recognition and control to work. When you see a piece of clothing and try it in an AR fitting room, it is a combination of these advanced technologies that help make the superimposition of the clothes onto your body possible.

    This is how AR in retail can make fitting rooms and trial rooms a thing of the past and use virtual changing rooms to not only provide comfort, but also safety and efficiency. Moreover, you can also click a picture while trying these clothes on and share them on your social media of the app’s community. This way you can save it for the future or let your friends know how good it looks on you!

  • Makeup Trials
    One of the greatest concerns of trying demo makeup products in even high-end stores is proper hygiene. A simple stick of lip color is tried on by tens of customers and is not really the cleanest thing to put on your lips to check if the color would suit you.

    This is where Augmented Reality in retail comes in. Alleviating skin and hygiene issues caused by tester makeup products, in an AR-facilitated trial room, you can see what the color, which is true-to-life, looks like on your skin without risking contracting germs or even having to go through the hassle of cleaning your skin later.

    Retailers like Sephora and Ulta already have restrictions against customers physically trying their products, especially with the current pandemic scenario. They have instead turned to AR, like the GLAMlab try-on beauty tool by Ulta, to digitally test and then buy their products.
  • Saleable virtual goods
    With a rise in AR, comes a rise in saleable virtual goods. For example, AR art and model exhibitions can be rented by buyers. A good real-life incident akin to this was when artist Brian Donnelly organized an AR art exhibition collaborating with Acute Art. Titled ‘Expanded Holiday’, the exhibition used native AR which let the user’s rent AR sculptures on a per week or per month basis.
    This new model of retail is also developing rampantly as we see in video games already where people buy ‘skins’, weapons, and other amenities for their avatars. 

Bottom Line

Understanding how Augmented Reality will help you meet your customer’s satisfaction is of paramount importance when you take your services online. Using AR in retail can help you sustain your flair and using it as a long-term strategy can not only benefit retailers but also consumers and help both parties find lasting success.

With the pandemic raging with no end in sight and online shopping continuing to be the safest and most convenient way of shopping, Augmented Reality, with its product visualization and other benefits, surely is the savior we did not know we needed!