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How Could Augmented Reality Impact The eCommerce Industry?

  • Written By Chris
  • Posted June 4, 2018
  • 7 minutes Read Time

The emergence of augmented reality in recent years has led to many questions arising surrounding its use within eCommerce, in particular how it could revolutionise the way customers interact with an online store.

The world of eCommerce has come a very long way since the earliest stores were created in the 90s. It could also be argued that the online shopping boom has been so big in the last three decades that it has now overtaken the traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer. From non-existent to one of the fastest growing industries in the modern world, eCommerce is certainly here to stay.

So with the advent of Augmented Reality (AR), what can this new technology do to broaden the horizons of eCommerce and improve the user experience?

The Present

Well, it’s clear that eCommerce is now the number one preferred way to shop thanks to its ability to rise above any obstacles via the online space. 2017 saw total eCommerce sales worldwide totalling a huge £1.7 trillion and this is predicted to reach £3.5 trillion by 2021.

It’s becoming clearer that augmented reality can play a massive role in bridging that gap between online and offline shopping experiences.

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Augmented reality is already playing a part in pushing this industry in new directions. The driving force behind this is the role AR can play in bridging the gap between online and offline shopping experiences. One of the biggest barriers to any sale is uncertainty – consumers need to be confident that what they’re purchasing is right for them and meets their unique requirements. It’s fair to say not all customers have the imagination to correlate online products with real-world spaces.

This is where augmented reality can really take things to a new level. With an AR-based app, eCommerce retailers can ‘see’ their purchase and feel much more confident hitting the ‘buy now’ button. Smartphones are already fully ingrained into society, so there’s no extra requirement to get consumers using a custom-made AR platform – they already have one.

Andy Crathorne

Managing Director

Media Lounge

We’re finding that, for retailers, competition is stronger than ever so it’s never been more important to their success that they differentiate themselves from the competition to improve engagement, performance and ultimately conversion rate. We’re seeing return rates upwards of 40%, especially in the fashion industry, so anything that can be done to reduce this is certainly welcomed by both retailers and customers.

Examples

eBay – As a multinational eCommerce organisation, eBay needs to be at the forefront of the industry. It has recently created an Android-based app that enhances the user experience surrounding their ‘box picker’ feature.

The app allows eBay customers to select the most appropriate size of the box when packaging their chosen product. AR superimposes each box from eBay’s standard sizes – small, medium top loading, medium side loading, large top loading and more. Doing this gives the user additional confidence that the box they choose will fit the item perfectly.

IKEA – One of the first to adopt augmented reality as part of their business, IKEA allows customers to pull objects out of their smartphone screen and place them in their home. Simply put, this app allows customers to bring furniture home and see what it looks like in place before making their purchase.

This type of AR reaches a whole new level of interaction with virtual products. The app couldn’t be easier to use too – just scan the floor of your home through an iPhone or iPad camera and position the product of your choice there. You can instantly see how that piece of furniture would look without the hassle of buying, building and returning.

Banana Flame – Another early adopter, but this time in the fashion and clothing industry, Banana Flame worked alongside augmented reality software company Zugara to build an app that allows customers to virtually ‘try on’ clothes when shopping online. This idea came about after customer research found most shoppers abandon their purchase because they can’t try anything on first.

‘What will this look like on me?’ is the biggest question for online shoppers when buying clothes or fashion items. The Banana Flame app helps to answer this by creating a virtual fitting room where customers can try before they buy. The technology utilises a range of controls that adjust clothing position, size, colour and even allows users to take a snapshot to send to friends or family.

Amazon – To further enhance the glowing reputation of this leading electronics and cloud computing organisation, Amazon were keen to dive into AR to improve the ease of shopping online. At this moment in time, they currently offer augmented reality views for a number of products and this list is expected to grow in the coming months.

Amazon’s app is simple yet effective. Users can rotate products to understand their size and how they will look when placed in their desired location. Being able to do this gives users an increased sense of success when placing an order as they already know what the item will look like when it arrives.

Omnichannel shopping, where customers can purchase through a variety of different platforms, is growing in popularity and becoming more of an expectation than an added bonus.

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Thanks to the rise of eCommerce and more recently augmented reality, the industry as a whole is striving to grow in a more user-centric manner. The addition of this technology to already-popular smartphones and tablets means there is a new feel to the experience of being an online customer. We are closer than ever to bridge the gap between an online shop and physical store.

Omnichannel shopping, where customers can purchase through a variety of different platforms, is growing in popularity and becoming more of an expectation than an added bonus. Adding AR to this offering will only continue to challenge buyer perception – eCommerce stores that have already implemented some form of augmented reality offering have seen significant decreases in the number of returned items as customers are more confident in their purchase thanks to the lack of guesswork involved.

The Future

There’s no denying the fact that augmented reality will play a significant role in the evolution of the eCommerce industry as a whole, but it’s also certain that technology will continue to bring new players to the table.

One of the hottest topics on many lips in 2018 is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the possibility that machine learning will overtake augmented reality as the must-have feature on eCommerce stores. There is definitely scope for AI to dramatically influence the online marketplace by further personalising shopping experiences and assisting customers in making better, more informed decisions.

Alongside AI, there is also Extended Reality (XR). This is where things get very high-tech very quickly. XR is the complete amalgamation of both physical and virtual shopping worlds – something that could have significant ramifications across the industry. As a continuation of Virtual Reality, XR will engage customers on a deeper level by delivering a sensory experience through haptic technology. To give an example, imagine looking to purchase a new wristwatch and being able to feel the watch on your wrist from the comfort of your own home.

XR is quickly becoming the hot new thing on the block as it has the potential to redefine what makes a good customer experience. Don’t be surprised to see XR-commerce sooner rather than later.

Summary

When it comes to omnichannel shopping, AR is the present and immediate future. It’s a technology that perfectly balances the benefits of online shopping with the removal of key obstacles like buyer uncertainty. Giving the power to the customer is massive in the current market, letting them ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ the product interactively can give that in-store feeling many customers still crave.

Helping customers to overcome the guesswork associated with online shopping can only be beneficial in the long run, and AR massively reduces the pain points customers regularly encounter even on the most popular eCommerce stores. That said, keep an eye out for both XR and AI in the not-to-distant future.