Many people associate augmented reality with the gaming industry, but when it comes to this technology, it’s not all fun and games. There are countless ways to use augmented reality, which is why this technology has been embraced by businesses in a wide variety of industries.
Augmented reality has been used to enhance the educational experience for students in the classroom. In the automotive industry, manufacturers use it to increase the efficiency of the design and production process. In marketing, brands use augmented reality to grab consumers’ attention and make their advertisements stand out.
Because of its popularity, experts predict that the augmented reality market will experience exponential growth over the next several years. In 2017, the value of the global augmented reality market was roughly $3.5 billion. But industry insiders predict that the value of this market will increase to nearly $200 billion by 2025.
Much of this growth might be driven by the use of augmented reality in the e-commerce industry. A number of e-commerce brands have recently started to use augmented reality technology to sell to consumers. Now, this technology has the potential to completely disrupt the industry.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is technology that allows users to superimpose various digital elements such as images, videos, and sounds on their real world environment.
Unlike virtual reality, it does not transport users to a simulated environment. Instead, it allows users to blend the digital world and real world together. Users can immerse themselves completely into a simulated environment with virtual reality, but with augmented reality, they simply add to their existing world.
Perhaps the most well-known example of augmented reality is the Pokemon Go smartphone app. This app was designed as a game where users had to locate, capture, and battle Pokemon characters. Augmented reality technology was used to make it appear that the Pokemon characters were actually in the player’s real world environment.
Pokemon Go is one of many games that is powered by augmented reality technology. But now, this technology is also widely used outside of the gaming world, including in the e-commerce industry.
How Do E-Commerce Businesses Use Augmented Reality?
E-commerce companies have come up with many different ways to use augmented reality technology to grow their businesses. Some of the most common ways in which augmented reality is used in e-commerce include:
- Preview Placement
- Virtual Try-Ons
- Virtual Stores
- Virtual Showrooms
It’s hard to shop online for certain items, such as home décor or furniture. This is because consumers can’t see the item in person, which makes it more difficult to visualize what the piece will look like in the consumer’s home. However, e-commerce companies can solve this problem with the use of augmented reality technology.
IKEA, the international furniture and accessories retailer, created an app called IKEA Place that is powered by augmented reality technology. Consumers can use this app to project virtual true-to-scale 3D models of different IKEA goods.
For example, if you want to see what a specific IKEA couch will look like in your living room, use the app to preview its placement in your home. This way, you can see if the size, color, and style are right for your home.
Using augmented reality in this way makes it easier for consumers to shop for products online with confidence. They are less likely to purchase an item that won’t fit or look right since they have the option of previewing its placement prior to buying it.
Plus, it saves consumers time after making a purchase. They will no longer need to rearrange the furniture in their home to see how their new purchase looks in different locations. Instead, they can figure all of this out before completing their purchase.
If consumers shop in brick-and-mortar stores, they can try clothing and cosmetics on before deciding what to buy. In the past, they didn’t have the option of trying these items on when shopping online. But thanks to augmented reality technology, that’s no longer the case.
Many retailers now use augmented reality technology to offer virtual try-ons for consumers shopping online. One example is Sephora, a global cosmetics and skincare retailer that developed an augmented reality app solely for this purpose.
Using the Sephora Virtual Artist app, consumers can give themselves a virtual makeover. They can browse through different Sephora products and choose which ones to virtually try on. Then, the app will project the selected item onto the consumer’s face. This allows them to try out different shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, and other items before deciding what to purchase.
Solstice Sunglasses also uses augmented reality to create a virtual try-on experience for consumers. On its website, the e-commerce company uses augmented reality to allow consumers to virtually try on different pairs of sunglasses and eyeglasses.
These are just two examples of the many e-commerce companies that are currently using augmented reality technology for virtual try-ons.
Building a virtual store is one of the more ambitious applications of augmented reality technology, but it has been done before.
Airwalk was one of the first companies to launch a virtual store powered by augmented reality technology. The brand created its virtual store to promote the launch of limited edition sneakers, which were popular among skaters and surfers.
To access the store, consumers had to visit certain locations such as Washington Square Park and Venice Beach. Then, consumers could use their smartphones to visit the Airwalk app and project a virtual store onto their surroundings. This gave consumers the unique opportunity to shop in a virtual store and purchase the limited edition sneakers before anyone else.
The automotive industry often uses augmented reality technology to create virtual showrooms for their consumers.
Using augmented reality technology in this manner gives consumers the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior of a vehicle without visiting a dealership in person. Instead, they can project a digital version of the vehicle onto their real world environment and explore it from the comfort of their own home.
Since today’s consumers prefer conducting research on vehicles from home, this is an important tool for every automotive manufacturer to have at its disposal. It’s become even more crucial during the pandemic, which has made consumers hesitant to visit an automotive dealership in-person.
How Can E-Commerce Businesses Benefit From Using Augmented Reality?
Every e-commerce business should constantly look for new ways to make the online shopping experience more user-friendly and exciting. Augmented reality has the power to drastically improve the online shopping experience, which is why e-commerce businesses should use it to reach new levels of success.
According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers believe that augmented reality improves the online shopping experience. Furthermore, over one-third of consumers surveyed said that augmented reality actually makes them shop online more often.
In fact, nearly one-quarter of consumers surveyed said that they would not shop in brick-and-mortar stores as often if more e-commerce sites used augmented reality technology.
Another survey found that 70% of consumers believe they would be more loyal to brands that incorporate augmented reality technology into the online shopping experience.
This data indicates that consumers are eager for all e-commerce businesses to start using augmented reality technology. Based on these results, it’s clear that e-commerce businesses can use augmented reality to enhance the online shopping experience, improve customer retention rates, and increase sales.
E-commerce businesses that fail to use augmented reality could lose customers to other competitors who choose to take advantage of this technology.
What Are the Barriers to Using Augmented Reality in E-Commerce?
E-commerce businesses can definitely benefit from using augmented reality, but there are certain barriers that could prevent the widespread adoption of this technology.
First, many e-commerce businesses are not aware of the many ways in which augmented reality can be used. This is a fairly new technology, so decision makers at these companies may not fully understand what it is or how it works.
Some e-commerce businesses may be hesitant to use augmented reality technology because of its cost. E-commerce businesses must be willing to invest in order to incorporate this into their selling strategy. For example, a clothing retailer that wants to use augmented reality to create a virtual try-on experience must invest in building a website or app that supports this type of technology. The retailer must also invest in marketing this new feature to attract consumers.
Many e-commerce businesses may be reluctant to use augmented reality because of the time and money that it takes to get it up and running.
Finally, some e-commerce businesses may not think it’s necessary to use augmented reality because they view it as another trend that will eventually pass. However, this is not the case. As previously mentioned, the augmented reality market is expected to experience massive growth over the next few years. The longer e-commerce businesses wait, the further behind they could fall in the competition to attract customers. There’s no doubt that e-commerce businesses may face certain challenges when adopting augmented reality technology. But e-commerce businesses must be committed to overcoming these challenges in order to experience the many benefits of using augmented reality to sell to consumers. In the case of augmented reality for e-commerce, the benefits far outweigh the costs.