How to acquire new customers, increase clients’ engagement and get the most out of the augmented reality potential in your retail app?
We all know that the retail industry is all about competition and only those who embrace the latest technological innovations to improve customer service – will be able to survive it.
Many retail businesses have already benefited from “going mobile“. With one of the major tech trends for 2016 and 2017, Augmented Reality, they can now benefit even more and further strengthen their competitive advantage.
Augmented reality enables retailers to enhance customer service to a qualitatively new level never seen before by providing a more customized and personalized shopping experience. As a consumer, you can now customize the look and feel of a product and “virtually” try it on in real time before buying it. You can try on a shirt without actually putting it on, visualize a piece of furniture in your living room to make sure it fits perfectly or see how the latest cosmetic products would look like on your face in front of the AR makeup mirror.
Augmented Reality can be experienced across a wide range of hardware: handheld devices (smartphones and tablets), wearables, PCs and laptops, TVs, digital mirrors, connected devices such as glasses, head-mounted displays, lenses and even AR fitting rooms. The difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is that AR doesn’t replace the real world but “augments” it with additional virtual objects.
In the case of handheld devices, AR uses the device’s camera, computer vision technology, GPS, compass and accelerometer to gather information about the surrounding real-world environment and then overlays additional contextual information (in 2D or 3D) on top of that environment image.
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There are two fundamentally different approaches for implementing AR in the retail industry: in-store and out-of-store. The first would involve a consumer actually being in the store or just outside it and experience AR through handheld devices, wearables such as AR glasses, or special AR hardware including smart interactive mirrors, fitting rooms, shop windows, etc. Let’s briefly explore a couple of in-store AR implementations that don’t require the use of handheld devices.
A smart or “magic” mirror is a combination of a mirror and an interactive digital display that can “see” a person standing in front of it, detect and record their body gestures and recognize their facial features in real time. For example, “MemoryMirror”, developed by MemoMi, allows a customer to virtually try on clothes, sunglasses or makeup, change colors and patterns, and then see how it looks from different angles or side by side. The customer can even record and share the outfits via social media.
Smart mirrors can also be incorporated into dressing rooms or as part of window shopping to convert passers-by into buyers.
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The adoption of AR-enabled smartglasses is a little behind, partially due to the failure of Google Glass, but it is steadily building. The opportunities offered by the retail industry will undoubtedly reanimate this technology trend. We will see a lot of these devices going mainstream in 2017, from world-known manufacturers such as Apple, Snap, Vuzix, ODG, and Sony. AR-enabled smartglasses could serve as a personal assistant for in-store shoppers.
A consumer will be able to walk through a store and the smartglasses can provide them with a more convenient, expansive view around them, help them find suitable products, show relevant info about the product such as product details or special offers as well as provide information about other comparable products. For example, a shopper could specify the kind of product that they are looking for and a pair of glasses would guide them to where this product is located in the store.
The Out-of-store approach involves experiencing AR from another physical location via e-commerce mobile or web apps. Of course the best strategy would be to combine both in-store and out-of-store approaches, the so-called “omnichannel” strategy. Not all retailers, however, can afford to install in-store AR hardware, such as mirrors, and many rely solely on an online presence without the hassle of running a traditional “brick-and-mortar” store.
Also, add to this the widespread use and availability of handheld devices and that more and more people turn to online shopping via these devices.
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That’s why developing an AR retail app, or adding AR to an already existing online store, seems to be the most appropriate solution at the moment, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. The beauty of AR is that any smartphone or tablet can serve as an AR platform to create a shopping experience for consumers and provide “virtual tryouts”, no matter if the consumer is shopping within a traditional “brick-and-mortar” store or browsing an online store. Web-only retailers may even build a fully interactive 3D virtual store that would replicate the experience of shopping in a traditional store.
The promise of augmented reality opens up new opportunities not only for retailers, but brand owners and manufacturers can also benefit from Augmented Reality to boost sales, increase brand awareness and broaden their market reach by integrating it into their corporate websites and apps. For example, Harley-Davidson has created a mobile app that provides a virtual shopping experience with the ability to design a customized virtual bike and then view it in the real world surroundings in 3D.
Ferrari is not lagging behind either. Its AR showroom app lets you customize your own Ferrari:
The Converse’s sampler app gives shoppers the ability to virtually try on footwear and see how it would look like on their feet. Customers can even buy directly from the app without the hassle of visiting a physical store:
To sum up, there are two options when it comes to AR app development: web-based and native. Most modern e-commerce platforms can serve both mobile web and native apps so you should probably consider both options to reach the maximum number of potential customers. Luckily, there are a lot of development tools for both native and web AR integration, such as: Wikitude SDK, Augment SDK, Vuforia Augmented Reality SDK, ARToolKit, Catchoom, Layar, DroidAR and many more.
Side note: The capabilities of modern web browsers allow the delivery of AR content without the need to create and support native applications. So, if you decide to restrict yourself to web app development only, there are a lot of web frameworks, libraries and APIs that provide the ability to add AR to web applications: awe.js, argon.js, three.js, etc.
This game-changing trend will revolutionize the retail industry and transform the way people shop. The AR locomotive is quickly gathering momentum, and those who won’t manage to hop aboard – will be left behind!
Has AR aroused your curiosity? Are you interested in adding AR functionality to your retail platform (business, store)? Book a free consultation from our specialists!