As companies around the world consider the new economic landscape, it’s clear that we need to change the way we live and work. Bustling shopping centres have become ghost towns, events are being cancelled and workplaces shut down, with employees being asked to work from home and communicate via Zoom. The shift to a remote, online lifestyle has become the new norm and for the retail industry, it signals a change to buyer habits that shouldn’t be ignored.
With more time spent at home, people are browsing more products and services online. Retailers should be taking note and considering their options to roll out enhanced digital strategies. Thankfully, most retailers have already invested in a solid digital presence. A good cross section of their products are available online and their ecommerce facilities primed and ready. However, what happens when customers are no longer able to visit showrooms? How can they provide a similar instore experience to help customers understand physical sizing, materials and styling options?
The good news is that technology has already solved this problem via Augmented Reality. While AR may seem like a futuristic concept, its premise is very simple. Customers can use their mobile phone or tablet to realistically visualise any product in their home. Products appear with accurate sizing, colors, materials and when integrated with a retailer’s website, it provides a seamless ecommerce experience that increases purchase confidence and engagement.
IKEA was one of the most highly publicised companies to jump into AR and describes the experience as a milestone in their digital transformation journey. Many global brands such as Apple, Amazon, BMW, Lego, Zara, Breville and Hisense, have incorporated AR into their digital strategies and continue to increase their competitive advantage. Customer interest is positive with 71% of people saying they would shop at retailers more often if they offered AR and 61% would prefer to shop at stores that offer AR.
A key benefit of Augmented Reality is its ability reinforce purchase confidence. It helps customers visually confirm that products will suit their home and gives them unparalleled freedom to explore options. Popular home furnishing apps such as Top3 AR, Nau Design AR and Cosh Living AR demonstrate this ability, allowing customers and sales staff, to effortlessly mix and match furniture in real time. Another exciting feature is the ability to visualise modular sofas and shelving. Modular sofas can consist of hundreds of materials and styling combinations, but AR makes the configuration process easy.
Augmented Reality’s potential continues far beyond furniture, with global brands such as Breville and Hisense empowering customers to try appliances in their home. Hisense Home AR lets customers measure their area using AR and receive intelligent recommendations for the best fitting large appliances. Alternatively, Breville AR allows customers to match the right Coffee Machines with small appliances for their kitchen bench, all represented in super realistic detail. In the fashion sector, Suzanne Harward helps brides interactively shop for wedding gowns using Suzanne Harward Virtual View. The AR powered fashion app lets customers visualise beautiful gowns on full size AR models, showcasing the intricate detail from every angle.
While AR is an exciting technology that retailers can consider, the big picture is that buyer habits are evolving and customers are spending more time online than ever. Showrooms and quiet public spaces will eventually return to normal, but investing in a smarter digital strategy and a more engaging ecommerce experience, is the future that all retailers should aim for.
Author: Jason Yim
Jason is the Director of Marketing at INHAABIT and has over 20 years experience creating digital solutions in areas of design, UX, branding, digital marketing & Augmented Reality.