We live in a time where the stuff of science fiction 20 years ago is very much a part of our reality. Augmented reality may have been something we only dreamt of a few years ago, but the new technology is well and truly here. AR is finding new and exciting uses, and eCommerce is taking the lead on using the technology to provide a richer customer experience, and to drive more sales.
AR - An accessible technology
Virtual Reality (VR) and AR are often talked about in the same conversations. The technology is seen as similar, and while this is true, AR is far more accessible. Almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera. This is basically all you need to use the technology and see your next purchase projected ahead of you.
Virtual Reality could do a similar job, but the hardware needed to access VR is still quite specialist and expensive. People don’t have the headsets. One of the massive benefits of VR is the fact that virtually anyone can use it. In fact, some industry experts have said they expect it to become a day-to-day normality for pretty much all of humankind to use AR. Apple CEO Tim Cook stated “A significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”
Make no mistake that this technology is making huge waves, and you should expect the technology to revolutionize shopping as we know it. Entrepreneur magazine recently discussed the potential of the technology; “the message here is that, far from just being a feature for games, AR may well up-end and upgrade the shopping experience as we know it. The cost of entry is still relatively low, and the potential benefits are outrageously high.”
Jumping on AR early - novelty value
Make no mistake, AR is not a novelty. There’s no denying that the technology has some valuable uses, and it is here to stay. However, at this point, the technology is brand new and offers an exciting experience for customers.
If you are able to offer an AR shopping experience as an early adopter, customers will be drawn in by the excitement of the process. A lot of people have never been able to shop like this, and seeing the amazing technology in use is likely to be something they tell their friends about.
If you offer AR and your competitors don’t, the novelty value, as well as the engaging nature of the technology, is likely to increase conversion rates as people embrace this new technology as early adopters.
"Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” - Steve Jobs, Apple Computers
Interaction and ownership
Augmented reality has a profound psychological effect. Humans love to interact with things rather than just ‘see’ them, and augmented reality allows them to do exactly this.
Think of the immersive experience of playing a game compared to watching a movie. Both are enjoyable, but the decision-making and interaction that impacts what is happening in the game gives a sense of ownership. This is something that AR can provide for the shopping experience.
By using AR, potential customers are engaged in a story. They are able to make decisions to change this story. For instance, if you are able to make alterations in real-time and see what the end result will be, you feel a real ownership over the product already and are more likely to purchase it.
The power of visualization
Compare these two shopping experiences.
- You’re shopping for drapes or curtains. You know you need these for your windows downstairs. You go into a store and see some drapes looking great on the display, but you can’t tell if they will go with the decor. You then go home and look at some models online, but the photos still don’t perfectly show you whether they are the right model for your home. You have to try and visualize it yourself and eventually take a bit of a leap of faith.
- You open up an app, point your phone at where the drapes are going to go and are confronted with hundreds of different choices, shown exactly in situ, where they will be within your home. You can then click on the drapes you like and have them delivered in a few days.
It’s clear to see how this visualization can help. We’ve all been through the process of loving something in the store and not quite having the same love when we get it home.
As well as design preferences, AR can also help with shapes and sizes.
Amikasa, a 3D, virtual reality floor planner, allows you to plan and visualize a room before making any alterations. Before you redecorate, you can test out color schemes, furniture and more. They even offer a walkthrough mode which you can use to see the room as it would look with the new furniture and design in place.
As well as seeing the color scheme and design options, you might just see when you put that new dining room table in that it just looks too big and bulky, or is too high for your preferences. Humans just aren’t able to visualize with the same detail that AR can provide.
Amikasa describes their app as a way to “build, restyle, and redecorate your rooms using furniture, flooring and wall colors from real brands.”
Load your customers with different options
We’ve dived into this a little bit when talking about the power of visualization, but this is slightly different. AR is a way to give your customer options. Risks they may never take otherwise can be tested out in an augmented version of reality.
Sephora is an incredible example of this. It’s primarily a makeup app, which allows you to see through your phone’s camera how different styles of makeup will look. It’s equally good for makeup artists who do it for a living and for people experimenting at home.
Let’s say you want to test out whether a specific shade of lipstick or eyeliner will work with an outfit, you can upload a picture of the outfit and then compare this with the ‘virtual’ makeup. It allows you to virtually ‘try on’ the different makeup looks, without having to buy them first. You can try an amazing new shade of makeup or even a completely different look, just to see if you like it. If you don’t, you don’t have to buy the makeup, if you do, the app will show you where you can get these shades and brands.
Sephora was developed by a company called Modiface. When talking about the benefits of this app for the retailer, the CEO of Modiface said “We believe the ability to see yourself with products can impact sales online. We now have significant data and test cases to back this up. Thus, the integration on Sephora will, based on our expectation, result in increased conversions and user engagement.”
You can see how, by giving a potential customer a lot of different choices, they can fall in love with things. Why do we enjoy trying on clothes? It isn’t just the functionality of checking that things fit, it’s because we want to see how we look in them. As a retailer, if you have the chance to make your customers fall in love with more of your products, it is inevitable that this will lead to a higher conversion rate.
Embracing AR technology now means you are ahead of the curve, but not so far ahead that people don’t have the chance to use it. The chance to strike is definitely upon us when it comes to AR, as, if predictions by Tim Cook and other leaders are correct, this will become a part of most eCommerce experiences pretty soon.
The implementation doesn’t have to be hard, and the potential upside for eCommerce brands who introduce AR is huge.