How AR is Transforming the Retail Industry
The retail industry is growing and becoming more competitive, which fosters the implementation of Augmented Reality as one of the most effective digital transformation solutions. According to IDC, expenditures on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) solutions will reach $72.8B in just two years. It’s obvious that part of AR use cases will be related to retail, where smart mirrors, navigation solutions, and remote assistants boosted by AR are gradually gaining momentum.
The emergence and development of new AR trends in retail depend on the strength of the eCommerce industry and the ability of key players to transform and overcome challenges, one of which is the pandemic that’s still spreading across the globe.
Let’s take a look at the most promising use cases of augmented reality in retail.
Virtual Try-On Solutions
AR try-on solutions boost the digital revolution and benefit eCommerce companies regardless of their size.
Retailers that sell makeup or products for skincare may offer clients a virtual try of the product. For instance, to check whether lipstick would look good on her, the lady uploads her selfie and sees how lipstick suits her. Oriflame has introduced an app that allows women to try not only lipsticks but eyeliners, eyeshadows, blushes, and other cosmetics, thus improving the consumer experience and level of convenience. Understanding how these products would balance with facial characteristics and skin tone serves as an additional incentive to purchase.
From now on, retailers that operate in the field of cosmetics are going to implement virtual try-on solutions. It’s even more important than in the case of clothing since cosmetic items purchased on the websites can’t be returned after opening due to the hygiene rules and existing policies.
Clothing & Shoes
The fashion industry is also embraced by virtual try-on technology. Being an eCommerce store that keeps up with the times means introducing augmented fitting rooms. Customers use their smartphones to check whether clothing and shoes suit them. Leading brands like GAP, H&M, Timberland, Asos, and others provide their clients with such a possibility.
Zeekit has come up with a solution that helps people to try on any items of clothing found online. The core of the technology involves mapping images, both client’s and clothing items’, into separate segments. Then, the equivalent points of these images are found and re-mapped to form the final look. This all seems as realistic as possible because of the variety of criteria taken into account – from body proportions to fabrics.
Style.me invented another solution related to digital fashion and virtual fitting: customers form avatars to check how the clothes look on them. Also, thanks to this technology, online shops can offer clients improved ‘phygital’ experience and the possibility to view items from all angles. It’s notable that Style.me works with metaverses, introducing plug-and-play solutions and allowing designers to be metaverse-capable creators. Therefore, virtual try-on and AR solutions are directly connected to the development of the metaverse, for which Facebook has created 10,000 new jobs.
Glasses, Watches, Jewelry
Virtual try-on features are gradually being introduced by jewelers, watch and glasses sellers. Retailers in these areas of e-commerce apply AR to improve ROI and shopping experience, simultaneously growing brand awareness.
Chrono24, one of the world-known watch marketplaces, offers potential customers to try on the watch before purchasing. The functionality is raw since marketplace visitors do not download a picture of their own hand, though it helps them to assess the appearance of the watch on the male or female wrist with different widths.
Another interesting approach is applied by Michael Kors which creates promotional advertisements on Facebook. Users click on those ads and try glasses on without leaving the page, which is fast, convenient, and increases the likelihood of the purchase.
Smart mirrors enable customers to pick out what they really were looking for. Constructively, a device consists of mirrors, cameras, projectors, displays, and illuminations. The system works as follows: the image of a clothing item is placed on the human reflection in the mirror – the store visitor virtually puts some clothes on to choose the best option. The image isn’t static since it’s clear what’s going on with fabric in the case of any movements. While posing in front of the mirror, the user may see how the appearance of the clothing changes depending on the environment. It’s a convenient feature since, for instance, an evening gown should be assessed in conditions of low lighting.
Being AR solutions that are innovating retail, smart mirrors will be useful not only to customers but to merchants. Retailers consider smart mirror adoption because of the following reasons:
- Successful engagement with passers-by – a smart mirror is placed in the mall, where potential customers may walk up to it and try on the clothes they are interested in. The payment can be made right then and there.
- Reducing the time spent on customer service - customers require quick service, so smart mirrors bring their experience to a whole new level, allowing merchants to reduce the amount of time spent on service and free up staff time for other activities.
- Intelligent combination of physical and digital experience - merchants can build small stores that are as efficient as large points of sales.
- Building customer loyalty via demonstration of the relevant advertising - a smart mirror displays special offers or discounts that might appeal to potential customers.
In-store navigation brings customer experience to yet another level, allowing them to reduce time spent in the search of specific items. We have already seen beacon marketing systems implemented by Mall of America, Harrods, and smaller chain stores. The essence of these systems is to determine the location of the potential customer relative to the entrance, exit, or other crucial areas and send them a push notification in the application or tailored marketing message.
However, the beacon is a Bluetooth-powered device that may be used for indoor navigation. It costs about $15, so to reduce costs and come up with new digital solutions companies are looking for other ways to define users' location even more accurately.
AR-markers lie in the core of AR-navigation, which consists of two interconnected parts. The first part is the localization module, and the second part represents AR pointers in the form of arrows and text that are displayed on the screen of the device. One of the best applications of this technology is the display of augmented reality directions in large spaces such as distribution centers and shopping malls. This can be useful for both customers and store employees who need to quickly find a certain product.
AR tools and applications help companies to provide clients with remote assistance, sharing their expertise or reaching marketing goals. Though typical AR-remote use cases are related to collaboration, repair, customer service, and education, these technologies are being gradually introduced in the retail industry.
A buyer and salesperson may be connected via AR-remote assistant to discuss the design and construction of the product. Moreover, it will assist in providing clients with warranty maintenance and repair. In case of any breakdowns, the technician can connect the client to resolve hardware issues, viewing surroundings and the current condition of the device.
According to Hiver's research, email, chat, and social media are listed as the most popular customer support channels, but in case of a breakdown, customers require an instant reaction. So, by using AR-remote assistants, companies speed up the troubleshooting process, saving cost and time since a technician shouldn’t need to be sent onsite.
AR product tutorials
A diverse assortment makes it harder for customers to find the appropriate products, and online purchasing even aggravates the situation since buyers become more cautious. They start to investigate reviews, trying to define the quality, functionality, and usability of the products. An AR manual can allay their doubts by providing a virtual tour that reveals all the features of the product.
To access an AR product tutorial, buyers use their smartphones. Passing all the sections of the tutorial, they find out if it’s reasonable to buy a product. This approach reduces time spent on evaluation and implies the blend of 3D experience and AR.
AR guide proves to be a reliable tool for e-commerce that may help potential customers to get a closer acquaintance with products. A tutorial can include object recognition capabilities that identify the separate parts and functions of devices. Additional instructions on how to use the product provided via an application look really impressive and innovative.
AR product tutorials are also perceived as educational materials. Despite the fact that 31% of webinars are used for user training and onboarding, AR tutorials can eliminate this need and help customers in an interactive way to learn how to use the product.
Tying it all together
According to Statista, the total downloads of AR applications will reach 5.5 billion in 2022. In some cases, these apps will relate to the area of eCommerce, opening new horizons for retailers who want to attract more clients and improve customer experience.
Major brands implement AR solutions for AR-navigation, virtual try-on, product tutorials, and remote assistants, demonstrating their own approaches to solving challenges. For instance, IKEA induces customers to download an app that is fueled by AR and demonstrates how furniture or other household supplies look directly in their homes. This sounds impressive and specifies the possible direction of AR development in the retail industry.
To gain competitive advantage, retailers are supposed to consider the three-element development landscape. Those who manage to solve the labor problems related to resignation, while maintaining supply chain resiliency and adopting digital solutions, will occupy the leading positions, and augmented reality is one of the ways to achieve this goal.