Augmented reality is a rapidly growing sector of app development and it’s little wonder why. The technology is opening up opportunities for businesses and new ways to engage their audiences.
In fact, augmented reality technology is becoming so popular that it is predicted to generate $138.78 billion by 2021.
While possible applications are still emerging, the popularity of apps such as Pokemon Go has drawn attention to new ways of grabbing that coveted slice of customer attention. This includes using it as a vital part of sales.
If you are a retailer wanting to put out a new app, what is your ultimate goal for the app? For many, it’s to drive more sales for the business, a challenging feat when competing for attention with so many others.
Augmented reality represents an opportunity for sales. Its use in apps is a way for retailers to stand out from the crowd and engage customers in meaningful ways. Here’s how it can help to close sales:
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Know your Augmented Reality
First of all, it’s worth highlighting the distinction between Augmented Reality and its technological cousin, Virtual Reality. While you may have seen Virtual Reality often pop up in the world of gaming, or even in applications such as flight simulator training, the idea is that it is entirely artificial (although the aim is to be convincing despite this).
Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand is intended to supplement the real world by laying computer generated data over the top of it (such as those Pokemon in the “Pokemon Go” game). Usually, the aim is for that data to either provide a useful source of information or to be purely for entertainment purposes.
For retailers who are aiming to use AR as a means to close more sales, the focus is more likely to be on using it to provide some kind of useful, supplementary information.
How to use AR for closing sales
A large percentage of the investment in AR is going into things like headsets, with Microsoft, Google and others working on upgraded offerings. However, as pointed out in a recent article by The Economist, a low uptake for virtual reality headsets may point to similar results for AR. They state:
“If AR is not to go the same way, it will have to be made easier to use. That probably means consumer versions will be adapted for people’s phones. As Tim Merel, Digi-Capital’s boss, points out, phones are a known quantity that people are comfortable with. They have become, for many, their default computing device.”
The app is the medium through which retailers will reach more customers more readily, so how does it apply to closing sales, rather than simply being a gimmicky bit of fun?
Barriers to closing sales
First of all, when thinking about how AR might help with closing sales, it’s helpful to think about what the usual barriers are to sales and how its use might overcome them.
HubSpot conducted a survey among B2C and B2B salespeople to come up with the three most common barriers to closing sales. They found these to be:
- Competing against a low-cost provider.
- Creating a compelling case for change to prevent a “no” decision.
- Positioning a competing value proposition.
Price can obviously be a major driver for shoppers and it’s not always easy to compete. This is where value comes in. How can you demonstrate that your product or service is a better value? Your AR technology might be part of that, for example being able to show highly interactive presentations of products.
This could actually be a distinct advantage if a retailer is predominantly an online seller. Your competitors won’t necessarily have an AR offering and you could use an AR product catalogue to get past the barrier of not having a physical showroom. Shoppers still want to have as good a “feel” for a product as possible before purchasing online, so your AR catalogue can provide a better experience than a competitor’s flat imagery and traditional catalogue.
Bricks and mortar retailers can use AR to supplement the in-store experience and display any sales or special discounts to shoppers as they scan aisles with their phones. This way you are offering an extra layer of value, while still appealing to the price-driven shopper.
The other two common barriers to closing sales can be tackled with compelling marketing messaging and value proposition. AR could well be part of that value proposition – something that you offer which is unique and done better than competitors.
Another important piece to getting customers to close which AR can help with is to remove any uncertainty. If you think about this especially in the context of online shopping, it makes a lot of sense because the shopper needs to trust that they are receiving what they think they are paying for.
AR may be able to help, particularly with applications such as visualizing what a finished product will look like or how it might fit into the current setup of the customer’s house.
Photo credit: Navicore via VisualHunt.com
While still a relatively early technology (there are currently two phones on the market which use it) Google Tango is an example of how advances in AR technology will enhance the overall customer experience. This may set the wheels in motion for better use of AR to close sales.
Tango works with phones which have an extra set of sensors, essentially allowing them to detect the shape of the world around them. This from The Economist:
“Using information from infra-red detectors, a wide-angle lens and a “time-of-flight” camera (which measures how long pulses of light take to reflect off the phone’s surroundings), Tango is able to build up a three-dimensional image of those surroundings. Armed with all this, a Tango-enabled phone can model a house, an office or any other space, and then use that model as a canvas upon which to draw things.”
Google has already written some apps which can only be used by Tango-enabled phones. For example, “Measure” will overlay a tape measure on the phone screen and allow the user to point their camera at an object to take its measurements. Imagine the implications of that for closing sales in home furnishings or decorating businesses.
How different industries are using AR in sales
There are some great examples already of different industries using AR in their apps and it helping them to close sales. Let’s take a look:
Hotels and accommodation – Augment wrote a piece outlining the various applications for AR in selling hotels to guests. An app with AR may allow the guest to take a virtual walkthrough of the hotel and get a feel for the place, it may allow them to explore guest rooms or it may even help them to look around any nearby attractions.
Another great point is that AR can be used “off the paper brochure” if the customer was able to scan or take a photo of the printed material, then take a virtual walk-through, for example.
Pharmaceutical sales – The pharmaceutical industry is already finding ways that AR can be used to enhance the sales experience, with interactive presentations.
Retail stores – Physical stores such as Lowe’s and Ikea use AR to help customers see what furniture and other fixtures will actually look like in their homes. Lego uses AR to show people what a fully-built project will look like, while various online retailers use AR to virtually place products in homes, show people what they will look like in clothes or with a haircut or color.
Vehicle sales – When you walk into a dealership, there are often models which they could sell you but don’t have available on the shop floor. Some dealerships have turned to AR apps to help give their customers a walk-through of models which they don’t have physically present.
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Time to close…
Of all the possible innovations in apps, AR represents a great opportunity for retailers and sellers of all kinds of products because it gives new chances to engage the customer.
AR can be a powerful tool to help close sales by helping to reduce uncertainty, answer questions about the value of the product and even convey messaging that the company is on top of the latest technological trends.
Many different types of B2C and B2B companies are turning to AR, with considerable investment expected over the next few years.
Will your company be one of them?
Koombea builds stunning apps for retailers and B2B. Talk to us today about how we can help you.