For the most part, as soon as technology moved from something that you used at work into something that became a part of your everyday life, it became something retailers put on their radar. Personal computers, the internet, mobile phones, social media – most of the 21st century of retail has been defined by consumer adoption of technology. The next technology already hitting retailers’ radar—both brick and mortar and online—is Augmented Reality (AR).

A drawback to online shopping is that many of the sensory elements that customers use to make their purchasing decisions are not there.  When shopping online, a customer cannot touch or feel an item, see how it works or know how it will fit in their home. The loss of this interactivity and presence in the shopping experience leads to uncertain buyers and more abandoned carts. With shopping online in particular there is a lot of consumer guesswork, which can lead to unsatisfied customers and company loss through increased return rates. According to research conducted by the National Retail Federation, merchandise returns in the U.S. represent nearly $16 billion of the retail market.

Enter AR. It is sure to be a true difference maker. Retail has always been about engaging experiences with the right delivery—time and place. The evolution of e-commerce shows past milestones that have addressed these same worries with enough efficiency to make online shopping a consistent revenue channel for brands and stores. Still, as the digital era matures in how personalized it has become, consumers are expecting more of these experiences. To continue this engaging experience in a way that provides value to both sides, AR is helping shoppers visualize products in the environment around them, in real-time.

AR is becoming a viable option to transform the customer experience through AR-commerce—connecting augmented experiences with direct product interactions and seamless purchase opportunities. But some may ask—how fast? According to an Adtaxi survey, about 10% of US internet users have used an AR app or feature that lets them virtually try on apparel or view furniture in their homes. But 45.0% would be interested in trying out the technology. And in the same study 30% said they thought they would never visit a clothing store again if the technology could help them shop clothing fit with confidence. And there are increasing tech development and tools that enable the creation of AR retail content.

As the technology becomes more sophisticated, AR-commerce is set to expand the experiential retail market in impactful ways by:

Creating an Engaging Buying Experience

While shopping online, a customer has to imagine and interpret what an item would feel like in their hands, or look like in their home. AR technology helps overcome this online buyer’s challenge by transforming an imagination into a reality. A customer who can accurately see how any product will actually feel in their environment, at-scale, will be able to purchase with more certainty and satisfaction.

Customizing Selections

Before making a purchasing decision, customers often want to see various color selections and explore other modifications that might be available. AR makes it easy for consumers to explore their options and make personalized modifications while online shopping. With retailers who offer augmented reality, shoppers can change the color of furniture they’re looking to buy to see how it looks in their home first.

Understanding Products and Features

Online shoppers, as well as in-store customers wish that they could interact with a product to get a feel of how it works before buying it. AR allows shoppers to trigger animations to show how complex products like appliances or electronics work and function.

There is tremendous potential for AR in retail and online commerce. AR-commerce provides a new medium and interactive story to inspire purchases and brand loyalty. What will be your AR retail story?

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