The truth is that changes are already happening around augmented reality for eCommerce, but it may not be as novel as you think. You may be surprised to know that the term was first coined by Professor Thomas P. Caudell, then a researcher at Boeing, in 1990. Many advancements have been accomplished since then; however, the idea behind it remains the same: Enhance the reality of its users.
It’s important to note that augmented reality is different from virtual reality. As Augment states, “Augmented reality and virtual reality are inverse reflections of one in another with what each technology seeks to accomplish and deliver for the user. Virtual reality offers a digital recreation of a real life setting, while augmented reality delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world.” In addition, virtual reality usually needs a special visual set to experience the technology, while augmented reality can be easily experienced through an app.
With an increasing list of companies already experimenting with the technology, the question we should ask ourselves is: How long will it take for augmented reality to become the norm in the eCommerce industry? I don’t have a magic crystal ball to know the answer, but I do know you have to understand and prepare your business to make the change.
Here we’ll shine some light on the benefits augmented reality can provide to customers and businesses, and how other companies are already using the technology.
We all love to shop online. It’s easy and fast, we can avoid lines, and we can shop from the comfort of our homes. One of the only issues is that product photos can be deceiving and not show the true size or fit of the products. Therefore, buyers can misleadingly buy a pair of shoes that are too tight or a couch that is too big for their living room. They then end up having to return products that did not fit their requirements.
Augmented reality can avoid this type of returns by providing a more realistic experience with products. Buyers can easily see how a fridge would fit in their kitchen and even interact with it. They can also see exactly how a pair of sunglasses would fit their face.
By giving customers a better idea of how a product fits on them or in their home, they’ll be able to make smarter purchase decisions and buy exactly what they need, therefore reducing the number of store returns. In addition, it takes out the guesswork, giving customers more confidence to shop, which can encourage customers to buy more products.
Offer a Higher Level of Personalization
We are experiencing an increasing shopping trend toward personalization. Buyers are demanding it more than ever before, and new technology such as Alexa or Google Home are facilitating these needs.
For example, now users can ask Alexa for their personalized Expedia travel updates without ever having to go online. We can also see a great level of personalization on eCommerce websites with custom recommendations based on customer’s purchases, products viewed, and more. It’s the easy, fast, and effortless customer experience that customers perceive as a standard in shopping.
In a similar manner, augmented reality can provide customers with a higher level of personalization through product customization. Instead of having your customers click through multiple color or size options, you can show them, right there and then, how their product of interest can match their personal space or even how products can fit on them.
Is this level of personalization that will give you a competitive edge and help you provide customers a better shopping experience? Companies like IKEA are already aware of this competitive advantage and have already created an app that allows customers to see how furniture can fit in their home.
Photo credit: http://www.digitaltrainingacademy.com/casestudies/2014/11/ikea_augmented_reality_catalogue.php
Sephora has also been experimenting with augmented reality with their own app using modiface. It allows customers to see how makeup products would look like on them.
Attract Potential Investors
Adopting augmented reality early can help add value to your eCommerce store. It not only provides a better shopping experience for your visitors, but it can also help you look more attractive to potential investors. Investors have poured in $1.7 billion in the 12 months to Q1 2016 for these types of technologies.
Companies such as Ditto have raised $3M to build their augmented reality experience related to glasses. Customers can visit their eCommerce store and discover how different sunglasses can fit their face in real life. Augmented reality can give you the uniqueness necessary to stand out from the competition and solidify an investment like the ones mentioned above.
As we are already experiencing, augmented reality is changing eCommerce as we know it. Its user friendliness, the higher level of personalization, and the unlimited product uses makes it the ideal technology for the ever-demanding buyers. It offers a higher level of customer experience that almost matches the in-store experience, but without moving from the comfort of your home.
The only thing that would possibly make it better is having a virtual customer sales rep walking buyers through the product selections—maybe that would be next! The only certainty is that smart business owners have to prepare to adopt this new technology and be as flexible as necessary. It can provide the competitive edge necessary to win customers over the competition.