Augmented Reality In Retail

Published: 22/06/2022
Author: Vidatec

Breathing Life into the Retail Sector

Augmented Reality (AR), is this the stuff of sci-fi novels or is it a useful tool that is shaking things up?

No matter how you feel about it, this is an industry that is expected to grow to $77billion by 2030, and therefore cannot be ignored. That staggering figure is illustrative of all the heavy investments being made by organisations looking to make the most out of a technology that creates a fully immersive, enhanced version of the physical world.

For example, we are already seeing sectors such as retail introducing new AR experiences within their stores and apps, to attempt to stand out in an oversaturated market. This is a technology looking to bring new life to both bricks and mortar, and online stores, by providing consumers with faster, more convenient and more entertaining ways to interact with products.

And what’s more, there is already a thirst from the public for this technology with 71% of consumers stating that they would shop more often if retailers used AR. As a result, it’s safe to assume that as the demand for AR continues to grow, the more it will pop up in the shops we already know and love. But, what exactly does this integration look like? Well let’s take a deep dive into what has already been achieved.

AR technology to transform & enhance your customer experience

Vidatec Chief Technology Officer Nick Welch believes embracing AR will pay dividends for retailers looking to stand-out from their competitors.

“If you look at early AR experiences and apps, these were largely the preserve of big consumer brands using experimental technology and large marketing budgets. That’s no longer the case, as AR has matured; to the extent that it’s compelling and cost-effective enough for nearly any businesses with a creative or useful idea.”

Retailers looking to capitalise on AR technologies have a few options to choose from. Apple provides iOS Arkit, an AR framework that enables the creation of AR apps for iPhone and iPad. Google also provides ARCore, an AR framework that supports both Android and iOS. ARCore also supports popular 3D game creation tools such as Unity and Unreal Engine, allowing for the creation of more complex, richly interactive experiences.

AR doesn’t have to be complex to be compelling though. “Some of the most compelling uses of the technology on mobile are about bringing a product to life so it feels tangible in the customer’s world,” says Welch. “That might be trying on virtual clothes, seeing a piece of furniture sat in your lounge or helping you pick colours to redecorate your home. Streamed and AR product demos also have a role to play, helping customers learn and try before they buy.”

Using frameworks like ViroReact Vidatec is able to develop for both iOS and Android in one codebase, avoiding the costs of building and maintaining a native app for both audiences. “We can also reach website customers directly using WebAR for virtual product experiences, without the need to install an app,” says Welch.

Right at home

When trying to furnish your home, one of the biggest bugbears is imagining what a product will look like in your existing space, without all the added store spotlights and perfectly staged matching accessories.

This is a problem that AR can fix, with popular Swedish furniture company, Ikea, leading the way. Its new app brings the retailer’s furniture to life in your own living room, allowing you to trial out a product in a virtual space before making the commitment of spending more time than you anticipated trying to build it.

The concept of ‘try before you buy’ is a prominent trend that AR is enabling, allowing consumers to easily measure and see new products in their homes without having to repeatedly visit a store before settling on that perfect item.

This tech could also lend a hand in combatting the increasing furniture excess problem which produces an estimated 8.5 million tonnes of waste a year.

Looking ahead, as more homeware brands begin to adopt this technology, hopefully it will give shoppers the opportunity to visualise a purchase and end up with a product that they will love for longer.

Put your game face on

example of a makeup ar app

In the UK alone, the beauty industry is valued at £12.14 billion, with every brand trying to be more creative than the next. Enter AR as a technology that can take your artistic visions to the next level.

For example, Mac Cosmetics, a global company that recently started offering an AR powered service that allows consumers the opportunity to try on a thousand shades instantly from the comfort of their own home.

The innovation uses the camera on your smartphone to show you what a shade will look like on your skin tone, allowing you to swipe from a bright red to a muted rose effortlessly until landing on the perfect shade.

This is a big step forward in the cosmetics industry where many products are non-returnable due to hygiene reasons. As a result, this initiative essentially turns every phone into a portable makeup counter, offering customers more time to make their decision, reducing the number of unused products and resulting in a much more positive customer experience.

It’s not just a store

Homeware and beauty are not the only industries we have seen jumping onto this new AR technology. In fact, Marks and Spencer recently launched a new AR-led app which provides users with a new level of convenience when trying to make their way around the stores.

After all, shops are constantly updating their layouts to maximise marketing efforts, making it easy to be led on a wild goose chase when trying to grab your weekly essentials, and leaving customers frustrated.

The app uses an AR filter on the shopper’s smart phone to direct them to the aisle where their desired products can be found, especially useful when they have moved to a new display. The app brings a new layer to the customer experience, offering a much more engaging way to help assist shoppers and free up staff members.

This is only the beginning of what AR is doing in the grocery space and it won’t be long until this becomes a totally customisable technology that will give shoppers access to a wide range of recipe suggestions, product recommendations and running discounts as they move through the store.

Looking ahead

With brands already enthusiastically adopting this new tech, it’s exciting to think about how it is paving the way for a more convenient and frictionless shopping experience for consumers.

AR is going to be revolutionary in retail, helping to modernise, simplify and connect customers to every part of the buying journey. Long gone will be the days of aimlessly searching for the one product you came in for or being disappointed by a product that you took home.

As organisations continue to experiment, this tech will soon become the perfect companion for any shopping trip.

Talk to our team of experts today to find out how we can help ideate, design & develop an Augmented Reality solution for your  business.