Did you know that out of $3 trillion being spent in commerce, only about 9% is spent online? Retailers and innovative brands are looking to adopt immersive digital methods for offline shopping to increase their revenue, drive consumer engagement and improve brand awareness and loyalty. How do they do it? Augmented reality (AR) is a key transformational enabler for offline consumer engagement that brands and retailers are implementing to digitalize the consumer experience. This digital innovation is already creating a massive shift in how retailers conduct business. But what exactly is AR? How is it affecting the future strategies of retailers and brands?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that enriches the real world with information and digital media. These digital media can be 3D models, videos or other formats that are superimposed in real-time by the view of the camera on our smartphones, tablets, computers or connected glasses. Thus, the virtual world and the real world merge on the screens of our devices. AR uses computerized graphics and virtual objects to create real-time scenes from the real world. It is designed to augment (i.e., add graphics, sounds or touch) to enhance a user’s experience. It’s not surprising to see how AR technology is becoming more accessible. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and many other leading tech giants have invested heavily in AR technology. You can see the impact on smartphones, smart wearables and smart prompts, such as photo tags on social media networks.
Over the last few years, AR has started to impact how consumers expect to interact with products. According to Gartner, “By 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in AR online and in-store.” About 75% of consumers expect retailers to offer an AR experience. So, for retailers and business owners, this is the perfect time to utilize AR.
Although AR is still in the early stages of adoption, it’s already starting to become an integral part of the shopping experience. Many brands, such as Lacoste, Tesco, Converse, Zara, IKEA and MTV, to name a few, are utilizing AR to embed smart interactive content into their products and immerse consumers into a world where real and virtual merge. Imagine your child scanning a cereal box and launching a mini-game on their device, or being able to research competitive products straight off the shelf? Imagine walking through the airport and seeing a wall advertisement for an amusement park, scanning it, being immediately immersed in the park’s experience and redirected to buy a ticket? And what if you could scan your medication packaging at home and place an online order straight off the package, without having to go to the pharmacy or online portal?
Building AR content can help brands and retailers grow their businesses in a new way, truly developing an understanding of consumer behaviors. How does the consumer engage with my brand or with this packaging or product? What marketing campaigns work or don’t work? AR can enable brands to develop a detailed understanding of consumer engagement and allow brands to enhance this engagement in a new, digitally exciting way. Brands that have mastered and integrated AR technology into their businesses are seeing increased revenues, spontaneous brand awareness and a jump in customer loyalty.
Retailers continue to explore ways they can implement AR, and the more they experiment with the technology, the sooner AR will become an integral part of the offline shopping experience. The bottom line is, AR facilitates interaction between retailers/brands and their consumers. The retailer shares interesting AR content with their consumer, who learns more about the product with ease and excitement.
By using AR technology, retailers and brands are creating a more engaging and fun way for their customers to shop. In 2019, Toyota launched the Hybrid AR app to help consumers understand the new C-HR model. Using the app, customers were able to interact with the car’s key features. Sephora has been using AR since 2016 and integrated an AR feature called Virtual Artist into its main app, allowing its customers to see how some of their beauty products will work on the actual customer’s face. AR is here to change offline and online shopping and make it a more exciting, more digitalized and more rewarding consumer experience.