A woman using a “virtual fitting room” on an eCommerce site
When making purchasing decisions at a retail location we often pick up the packaging of the item we’re interested in and examine it closely, looking at the picture, the instructions, and more. But what if we could actually see exactly what the item looked like without having to take it out of the box or put it together? What if we could see how a shirt or dress looked without trying it on?
Sound unrealistic? Well, it partially is, but now it’s also partially possible. Through “augmented reality”, or AR for short, consumers can take their two-dimension experience with products to three-dimensions. For an example of this, look at what LEGO is doing with AR when one of their products is held in front of an in-store camera:
Although forms of AR have been around since the late 50’s, it wasn’t until recently that technology had advanced to the point where the possibility of using augmented reality on the go and at home became realistic.
With this technology pushing the boundaries of the retail space, what are some ways to incorporate AR into eCommerce strategies?
- Let consumers try on products virtually – By adding a “fitting room” component to an eCommerce site not only can consumers see what clothing and accessories will look like on them from head-to-toe using webcam technology but they can also virtually change their look in a matter of seconds. Recently one U.K. retailer incorporated AR into their eCommerce strategy and has seen the number of unique visitors who places an item in their cart increase by 182 percent over the past 12 months.
- See how furniture looks in homes – Redecorating a home can be an exciting experience but it can also be dreadful – there’s nothing quite as bad as when the latest sofa style doesn’t match the rest of the furniture or, even worse, doesn’t even fit in the living room. Fortunately there are now several smartphone apps which use AR to take a photo of a room and can place furniture in the room to see exactly if the colors work and to make sure the couch will fit.
- Bring print ads to life – AR isn’t used solely on product packaging but it also can be utilized in the print medium. Similar to QR codes, AR is becoming more prevalent in catalogs and newspapers to bring products to life and bridge content between traditional media and the online realm.
Unlike QR codes which could be declining in usage and require a unique code to be printed, AR can recognize the image displayed and play the corresponding video associated with the image.
While the future of QR codes is still up in the air, the future of augmented reality looks promising. By 2015, 1.6 billion phones with AR capabilities are predicted to be in circulation and revenue generated from applications featuring AR technology is expected to reach $2.2 billion. The key here, however, is AR can actually help drive sales. Recent research has shown products supported by AR efforts have higher conversion rates and could even merit higher price points because consumers form greater connections to these products after using augmented reality. Augmented reality is moving at a rapid pace and should be on the radar of all e-retailers as a way to bring their products to life.