10 Ways Retailers Can Utilize Augmented Reality Technology

While augmented reality technology has been around for several decades, the initial applications of it never made it into the commercial world. Primarily being used for pilot-mounted heads up displays, flight simulations, and military applications, it has only recently made an explosive entrance into the world of entertainment and gaming (see Pokémon Go’s success). Now augmented reality is growing at a rapid pace, with a growth rate of 18.8bn USD by 2020, and while the video game market may be the top driver of growth, the retail sector, sales sector, and manufacturing sector are looking to capitalize on this emerging technology.  In this article, we’ll look at 10 ways that retailers can use to take advantage of augmented reality.

  • Augmented Reality Gives Retailers Virtual Fitting Rooms for Higher Conversion Rates.

Trying on clothing at a physical store location is not everyone’s first choice when it comes to shopping for clothes, especially if one has a family with them or they are in a hurry. One way around this is with virtual fitting rooms. Shoppers can try on clothing before they make the purchase in the comfort of their own home. This helps retailers get higher conversion rates because it allows customers to try on clothing at their own leisure when it best suits them, thus giving them more time to make a more informed purchase decision.

  • Augmented Reality Can Aid in Navigating Large Warehouses.

Augmented reality can support warehouse management by speeding up the data capture processes, so that warehouse managers and staff can easily locate and keep tabs on products without having to manually count or locate items. For instance, warehouse staff can use augmented reality to quickly identify and collect items via barcode scanning software, allowing them to accurately order pick items without error. Scandit’s barcode scanner software turns basic smart devices into scanners and SDK’s MatrixScan allows any device with a camera to scan shelves to find, track, and decode barcodes.

  • Blend Traditional Retail & eCommerce Together.

While online shopping is extremely popular, when it comes to some products such as grocery items, the traditional method of going into a store and picking out what items you want to stock your kitchen with is preferred. One way to get around this is by offering a virtual store through augmented reality, that allows customers to still get the traditional walk-in experience but without the long checkout lines and shopping carts with wonky wheels. One example of this is Yihaodian, which opened up 1,000 virtual stores in prime commercial space (virtually), which gave customers looking to grocery shop, the ability to “walk-in” to the store, browse the virtual shelves, and checkout without any lines. All items were then delivered to your home.  Virtual stores like this allow companies to get close to their customers without the high cost of inventory, employee wages or frustratingly long checkout lines.

  • The Gamification of Augmented Reality Helps Engage Customers &  Provides Purchase Incentive.

Augmented reality applications that are built alongside physical products can be used to gamify the sales decision. For instance, an augmented reality application could have you “play” a game after scanning or placing a physical product on your smartphone screen. If you win the game, you get a purchase incentive, such as a 20% discount code.

  • Augmented Reality Experiences Can Be Used in Advertising.

Augmented reality can be used in advertising to create emotional connections, save companies money, boost sales, and improve hyperlocal advertising for establishments directly by the customer. Examples of this include Pepsi’s Bus Shelter AR Ad which turned common bus shelter posters into an entertaining experience, Toys “R” Us AR campaign that gave children the ability to go on a virtual Easter egg hunt (the eggs were coupon codes for toys in the store), and  Lacoste’s virtual try-ons which used an AR app for its brand to aid customers in trying on their shoes. The Walking Dead did a similar campaign to Pepsi’s bus shelter campaign, where they used high-resolution displays, cameras, and television networks at tram stops to shock commuters with virtual zombie attacks in an advertising campaign for their Walking Dead show.

  • Customers Can Try Before They Buy.

One of the many ways that retailers can take serious advantage of augmented reality, is in providing shoppers with a way to try out products before purchase. While the traditional in-store experience does offer this to an extent; think elaborately staged showrooms in furniture stores or makeup counters with “try me” samples in department stores, augmented reality will allow shoppers to try these products out right at home!

An example of this is L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius application, which takes customers’ smartphones and turns them into virtual mirrors, allowing the customer to try out the makeup products regardless of their location.  You can easily use this application to scan labels, try on products, and share your findings with others. But, most importantly, it gives customers the confidence to buy a product without having to visit a physical shop location.  Another example of this would be Ikea and Converse allowing you to use mobile applications to see how certain products would look like while in the comfort of your own home. With Ikea, you could easily place products in your home with the AR app to see how it looks against your room décor and with Converse, you can see how a specific shoe looks on your foot. The kicker, no need to visit a physical store.

  • Augmented Reality Can Enrich the Shopping Experience.

Augmented reality applications, like the IBM app, can be used to make shopping easier and a better experience. For instance, with the IBM application, you can grab an image of a grocery store shelf and then sort the products by different fields, such as calories, protein, or by the price. You can also open up each product to view its nutritional value, sort them by name, or even see which ones have discounts attached to them.

  • Augmented Reality Can Help Customers Find Good Deals.

Augmented reality gives brick-and-mortar retail stores an advantage in that it allows them to personalize the shopping experience for those who prefer to go online. Retailers can use predictive analysis, customer data, and machine learning algorithms to generate personalized offers based on targeted profiles. For instance, instead of offering generic online shopping displays, retailers can provide discount displays for specific customers based on their past shopping behaviors. So, someone who routinely purchases an item once a month at a local store, may get a substantial discount on that item if they buy a second one with their initial purchase.

  • Product Catalogues Go From 2D to 3D in Real Time.

As mentioned above in method six, retailers can take their 2D catalogues and make them appear as 3D in real time. The best known one for this is Ikea, which allows customers to choose a product from their catalogue and make it appear or project it into their own home via augmented reality technology. This gives the customer a real-time, scale view, of what the product would look like. So, if there is a particular desk, shelving unit, or bedroom set that you are looking into buying but want to see how it will fit with the room you are planning on placing it in, you simply use the app to project it into your environment. If you like how it looks, you can then buy the item right then and there. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it gives you a better, more seamless shopping experience.  The best part about this is that any retailer that has a magazine or catalogue of their products, can take advantage of AR tech in this way.

  • Augmented Reality Store Windows Can Entice Customers to Come Inside.

Interactive window displays can help entice customers to head into the shop if they like what they see through the display experience. For instance, Hugo & Boss did a Black Magic Seasons Greetings Card for Christmas, where one would hold up the card to the outside display and be able to view a private fashion show or play a game of Blackjack to see if they won a free voucher for the store. Other examples of this include the Burberry Beauty Box Store which uses an interactive display to show off how a nail polish looks in real life. The customer just simply chooses their skin tone and different nail polishes to view them. These types of interactive displays will bring customers into the shop if they like what they see through the display, as it plays up on the individual’s curiosity.

While augmented reality in the retail industry is still fairly new, we are bound to see more and more retailers taking on this emerging technology as the results from AR campaigns can be seen in real-time with live feedback. There have been numerous successful and impressive campaigns over the last few years, which has paved the way for augmented reality to become a crucial marketing tool in the future.

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