The year 2020 has made the world virtually advanced in more ways than ever before. The pandemic has enforced all sectors in adapting the new age technology in order to keep the customers attracted to the businesses. This has made it necessary for retailers to become digitally accessible to the local as well as global consumers. Retail market has been greatly impacted due to the binding of safety precautions in the times of post lock down in terms of avoiding crowds, maintaining social distance and sanitizations all of which are going to be the new normal. This has boasted the e-commerce sector. In these times reaching the customers is challenging as the customers could not reach the stores. Experts have opined that the pandemic has provided a novel experience to the costumers in digital market with the help of augmented reality.
Augmented Reality (AR) is the enhanced version of the real physical world that is achieved through the use of digital visual elements, sounds, or other sensory stimuli delivered via technology.
AR is being used by major brands like Audi, OnePlus as well as fashion brands and beauty products like Louis Vuitton and L’Oréal to engage the customers by giving them a unique experience of trials through augmented reality companies.
According to a Neilsen global survey from 2019, consumers listed Augmented and Virtual Reality as the top technologies they’re seeking to assist them in their daily lives. In fact, just over half (51%) said they were willing to use this technology to assess products. E-commerce company Shopify recently released new data that interactions with products having AR content showed a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR.
Augmented Reality And Online Business
Augmented reality can amplify the customer experience immensely by providing visually interactive methods. Post Covid the shopping centre’s are rapidly adopting digital, zero touch and engaging solutions for shoppers to keep attracted to the shops at the same time maintaining the safety protocols.
AR has become a tool that gives a brands almost unlimited opportunity to interact three-dimensionally with consumers. According to a report, nearly 50 percent of consumers shop more on online than in-store.
It allows retail businesses to provide their customers with in-store experiences, which can benefit both customers and retailers.
Few benefits of AR for the retailers are listed below
• Increase in conversions
• Reduced returns
• Facilitate consumer curiosity about certain products
• Support customer purchase decisions
• Provide a higher level of service
• Build customer loyalty
Using the AR fashions the retailers can enhance the customers experience by introducing virtual trial run of the product that they wish to buy. This will help the customers to choose better, increase their confidence and make up their mind. AR in fashion industry can in turn help complete the sale even if the customers are at home. This is an attempt to give the same experience as trying out at the store.
The digital extension for online shoppers will allow better engagement audience and also benefit the store by providing contactless service. Even the safety and hygiene measures can be followed and a the store can save a lot of money and effort as in the physical setting the physical inventory that is touched or tried will need to be sanitized as a part of safety measure at the time of pandemic. Here again the augmented reality try-outs provide easy and safe solution for both retailers as well as shoppers. It is much easier to sanitize a digital screen than to sanitize different items that customers might touch. Thus use of AR/VR can be a suitable alternative for following the norms of social distancing and avoiding crowds in the stores but at the same time without affecting the sales. This will also reduce the need for a sales person to guide a customer during their augmented reality shopping experience.
Personalized shopping experience with better engagement
Personalization is a major strategy in business marketing these days. Personalization of the customers’ requirements and customize their demands is a way of winning more customers and gaining their loyalty. AR can help customize this experience by allowing the customers to collect, save and analyze various products to make informed purchases. This can provide a hassle free shopping experience till they find the right fit.
AR along with applications like digital mirrors can provide a personalized shopping experience at the same time act as an excellent marketing tool. These applications provide mirrors that can act as digital trial rooms. Shoppers can customize their looks, pair it with accessories etc. Such software can detect the tastes and choices that might appeal to the customer and give suggestions or options to create an experience similar to that of shopping with friends.
Recently, MG Motors offered a life size 3D car visualization experience that delivered 5 million impressions to its customers during the Auto Expo 202 period making it one of the largest AR campaigns in the country. Fashion e-tailer Myntra also used an Influencer- led AR experience with a popular Indian celebrity that resonated well with their customers.
Realizing the advantages of AR many companies are focusing on building various mobile based AR applications that will be accessible to the customers through smart phones or tablets in order to increase their audience. Advanced AR/VR applications are providing options like “shop the look” offers that are attracting lucrative revenue gains by channeling the needs of target audience. The nature of these applications allows the retailers can track the wish list of the customers and attract them with undeniable offers.
AR to complete the purchase cycle
AR gives the unique opportunity to the retailers to bring the stores to the customers even when they cannot reach the stores physically. All this can be achieved with the mixing of AR, VR and XR technologies in paradigm of the business. Research has shown that AR/XR produces 150% or more click-through rates (CTRs) and conversion at the bottom of the funnel compared to 2D videos and 300% higher than 2D images.
These strategies also provide an opportunity to collect extensive data for marketing purposes as most of it includes an accessing significant degree of personal information. This data will provide a good database to further channel the prospective audience and development of upcoming marketing strategies.
AR is emerging as an effective tool to help amplify the reach of retailers, their number of impressions, increase traffic on website etc. This seems like solutions to ensure returns on the amount spent by the business on advertisement.
Retailers have realized that AR can help a brand achieve their marketing goals by giving the customers a 3D life-size experience of the store in the comfort and safety of their own house.
Research has suggested that the AR or VR or XR have an engagement rate that is seven times higher than 2D video with a UGC rate of up to 40%.
Next level for retail markets
The pandemic has shown us how AR can uplift the retail market to the next level digitally. Big brands like Levi’s is further complementing its AR retail strategy with digital tools like Squad, and online co-watching video app where friends can shop together. This app launched in April as a way to recreate some of the social experience people miss and have been craving amid the pandemic. Customers can use the new Selfie Lens feature to picture themselves in the Levi’s Trucker Jacket.
Beauty and cosmetic industry is also taking this opportunity with tools like Ulta’s virtual try-on beauty tool, GLAMlab, which was launched four years ago but has seen a surge since pandemic. Customer engagement has increased seven fold and more than 50 million shades of foundations have been swatched digitally with the app post Covid.
Not only the fashion or cosmetics industry but the visual try-out facility provided by AR can be applicable to jewelry, art, furniture’s and interiors. Virtual objects are away for customers to interact with, try-on and even own a part of a brand that might not otherwise be accessible to them.
Few notable examples that are seen of AR goods for purchase in art world was in March with artist Brian Donnelly (a.k.a KAWS), who debuted an AR art exhibition entitles “Expanded Holiday” in collaboration with Acute Art. This app featured AR sculptures that could be rented for $7 per week or $30 for a month.
A similar trend is seen in the interior decoration arena, where stores are now providing facilities where the customers can picture the furniture or home décor virtually in their house settings and can take an informed decision about the products. Augmented Reality (AR) applications have been on the rise with virtual “try-before-you-buy” experiences ranging from previewing furniture and products in your home with everyday brands like IKEA and Home Depot, to virtually trying on luxury fashion such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Once a nice-to-have feature, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers.
AR makes stores so approachable that it’s added to the “lipstick effect”, this term is referred to customers continuing to spend on small luxury items even during economic crunch or recession. Augmented reality companies are providing an amalgamation of physical and virtual worlds, which will bring new revenue opportunities to tech industries like Google, Facebook and Snapchat. Examples of these are already on a rise, be it Google adding AR make up try-on tools or Snapshot using AR for social commerce.
With technological advances and the need to adapt to the new normal, retailers also have to up their game in order to keep the confidence and loyalty of customers. AR has become a trigger for the digital transformation in retail world. AR is proving to be of enormous value for the customers in the shopping journey. This is the need of time, where the business leaders should take this opportunity to not only rebuilt their brand but also catapult these immersive shopping experience. In future AR coupled with AI technology has the potential to become a booming marketing strategy.
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