The face of retail is rapidly changing. Ecommerce is a commonplace, with $2.3 trillion in sales transacting in 2017. Many traditional bricks and mortar retail companies are shifting focus to their digital strategy, with a large portion of their customers choosing online shopping as a preferred method of purchase. Alternatively, retail giants such as Alibaba and Amazon have flipped the scale, establishing physical stores in key locations to provide customers a better hands-on experience. Intriguingly, this change in strategy comes after almost 20 years of predominantly online transactions. Amazon is seeking to build 3000 stores by 2021, while Alibaba is opening pop-up stores around the world, to reach new markets.
This transition of the retail landscape is for a new age of consumers. According to KPMG’s 2018 Global Retail Trends, this consumer places significant emphasis on a feature that is often overlooked in traditional online shopping – customer engagement. Retailers are urged to ditch the boring retail experience or risk losing their customers. An essential aspect of retail involves seamless integration of online and offline strategies. Technologies such as Augmented Reality can bring these two together and translate customer engagement to sales.
Renowned Australian furniture brands, Cult Design, Cosh Living, and Barbeques Galore are redefining customer experience with AR. Using INHAABIT’s industry leading solution, these retailers are empowering customers to realistically try products in their homes and backyards. Customers can browse an extensive product range, pick an item that they like and ‘drop’ it onto their patio. They can also swipe through color selections, see how it matches the decor of their home and walk around the piece, to view it from different angles. The apps will even adjust how a product looks based on real world lighting, providing accuracy that customers need to give them confidence in their purchases.
On an international scale, companies such as Alibaba are moving forward with their own custom AR solutions. The conglomerate has established physical stores in combination with AR to increase brand exposure and customer engagement. Shoppers can chase a virtual cat around the store to unlock special promotions, find discounts and virtually try on makeup via magic mirrors. Customers also have the option to checkout and ‘pay with your face’, using face recognition in the company’s app.
In the fashion industry, Nike released SNKRS, which allows customers to experience selected products from their shoe range in Augmented Reality. The technology has been particularly beneficial for promoting new products such as the 2018 Jordan range, allowing customers to explore them, before they were officially available for sale. In addition to visualising products, Nike has combined AR with gamification, leading customers on an instore ‘easter egg’ hunt to find and purchase limited edition pieces. Another collaboration involved celebrity chef, David Chang, which required users to point their smartphone camera at the restaurant menu, unlocking the ability to purchase shoes.
A constantly evolving retail environment, requires retailers to embrace technology to be competitive. Augmented Reality has demonstrated itself as a successful marketing and sales tool, enhancing the retail experience, making it both fun and useful for customers. Essentially, it’s a win-win situation – retailers enjoy increased customer engagement and sales, while customers avoid post-purchase dissonance. Customers don’t want to be sold to; they want to be empowered with the ability to make better purchase decisions. Augmented Reality has equipped retailers with the ability to truly revolutionise customer experience, making the future of retail an incredibly exciting prospect.
Author: Alicia Ng
Alicia is a marketing & communications contributor. She enjoys writing, augmented reality and retail technology.