The stage is set for augmented reality (AR) to take over the shopping experience. The tech is already in the hands of shoppers — because AR tech is mobile phones, tablets, and even desktop tools. Mobile networks and internet speeds are faster than ever, and people are shopping on their phones more often. In fact, mobile ecommerce is predicted to be 72.9% of total ecommerce by 2021:
Today’s app stores feature a plethora of AR apps, including AR games (like Pokemon Go), AR shopping, and AR home renovation. It is becoming so ubiquitous — and so genuinely useful for consumers — that it’s being adopted for large-scale infrastructure. Take Norway’s official transit system, which allows users to check where buses stop, what route they are traveling, and how far away they are, all from just pointing their phone at a street:
It’s the perfect storm, and ecommerce and brick-and-mortar companies should be well-poised to take advantage of it. AR is going to become a key feature for shoppers across industries because it is a tool that helps fill gaps in customer experience that influence every retailer’s key metric: how many people make a purchase.
AR shopping is the best way to capture personalization in ecommerce
One limitation of the ecommerce shopping experience is that shoppers can’t interact with items the same way they do in-store. That’s a problem because shoppers need a lot of input to decide whether to buy something. In-store, much of the input comes from product interactions that shoppers simply can’t have online — touching products, trying on clothes or shoes, opening or sampling goods.
Ecommerce companies have been trying to work around this for years with various features designed to give buyers a more information-rich experience:
Booksellers include reviews on their websites and have “sneak peek” features that allow customers to read the first chapter of a book without purchase.
Fashion retailers make product videos that show you what fits inside a backpack or how shoes look when you’re walking.
Clothing websites allow you to view an item on models with different heights, weights, and body measurements.
Live chat brings salespeople into product spaces to answer questions instantly.
Features like this are inventive, sensitive to customer needs, and probably here to stay. But AR allows shoppers to take their digital experience to the next level by providing a more “realistic” experience with a product. This might not matter as much to a bookseller as it does to retailers of custom or highly personalized goods, where it can be a critical component of the customer journey.
Take the virtual glasses try-on. By using visual information about the size and shape of their face and features, the try-on allows shoppers to “wear” glasses. This has quickly ballooned across eyewear retailers — the photo example is from Vint & York Eyewear‘s website, but Speqs Eyewear, Specsavers, EyeRim, Eyeconic, and more offer virtual try-ons, some on both desktop and mobile.
Retailers from industries that sell highly personalized products, such as eyewear, should look to AR shopping as a way to enable more consumers to experience their products across the globe. After all, if you were going to spend a hundred dollars on a pair of glasses, wouldn’t you want to know they’d look good before you buy?
AR affects online shopping decisions, especially on mobile
It’s not just in highly personalized industries that AR helps consumers make decisions, especially on mobile. That’s because AR turns the mobile device into a decision-making tool. This is a significant step forward for ecommerce on mobile.
Much of mobile commerce to date has been clunky and badly formatted for phones. For example, text search and filters are a nightmare, especially on a slower mobile network, where a page needs to load every time a customer wants to apply a filter.
AR uses the mobile platform as an advantage — especially mobile cameras. If you want to shop with AR on mobile today, you can point your camera at any product, from an outfit to a bike, and instantly see shoppable information. Take this example from Samsung’s Bixby:
Think about it: Whatever a consumer is looking for becomes part of a huge, intuitive, and easy-to-use digital ecommerce platform, on their phone, which is in their pocket. For individual ecommerce retailers, that means you can quickly get people into exactly the product they’re looking for, without the hassle. So many shoppers have an I’ll know it when I see it mentality; allowing them to render anything they’re seeing as shoppable is a huge value-add for mobile ecommerce.
And that’s only the tip of the mobile AR iceberg. Mobile AR can help shoppers do virtual try-ons of different lipstick colors or “paint” their walls — all things that help with purchasing decisions.
Samsung’s product video shows a woman virtually trying on different shades of lipstick with her phone’s front-facing camera.
One of the most difficult things about ecommerce for sellers and buyers is that people can’t see objects, touch them, or try them on. If your customers can’t see, touch, or try your products in real life, using AR is the next best thing.
For some products, AR shopping augments in-store decisions
Ecommerce retailers are not the only ones who can benefit from AR. The same technology can help brick-and-mortar shoppers go from browsing to purchasing.
Especially when it comes to big purchases (like expensive housewares or renovations), consumers to go through a multistep process to get to purchase. They will browse for inspiration online, look in-store and take pictures, bring samples into their own home, visit showrooms and stockpile paint chips, and cart around tile or carpet remnants. AR can augment these types of multistep purchasing journeys by working in tandem with in-store shopping.
For example, if you are shopping for a faucet, you probably want to go to a showroom, test them in person, and ask questions about finishes or pricing. But you also want to know what they’ll look like on your sink in your bathroom. With AR, you can go in-store to find some faucets you want to “try out” at home, and then go back to your house and digitally project faucets into your bathroom. Manufactures like VADO are emboldening their consumer market using AR in a way that was previously the domain of decorator computer software.
Or take housewares. Many people will see decorative items they like in stores but can’t properly gauge how they will look on their coffee table or in their breakfast nook at home. So what happens? They leave the store empty-handed with the idea of, say, a rustic sign to measure sometime later, or they bring home the sign, find out it’s the wrong size, and then have to return it.
Companies like Magnolia Market will let you “place” items in your home with AR. If a shopper sees something they love in-store, they can return home with the item saved on an app and then virtually add it to their decor. If they like it? They can purchase instantly.
And if they haven’t been to a store yet, they can still try out different items in their home. If they decide to go to the store, they’ll enter with purchase intent and the confidence that an item will work for them. If they can’t visit a location, they are given an in-store experience at home.
These innovations help purchasing decisions and give users a chance to keep your brand/product top of mind while they decide whether to purchase. If you can make purchasing decisions easier for customers, that’s good for your bottom line — and not just from the perspective of the raw number of items sold. Research shows that 40% of consumers “would be willing to pay more for a product if they had the chance to experience it through AR.”
All aboard AR
One of the best ways to be convinced by AR is simply to give it a spin yourself. So head into the app store and check out Pokemon Go, virtually paint your dressers with the Home Depot app, or expense a trip to Norway and hop on the bus.
Then, when you’re ready to see what AR can do for shopping on your ecommerce website, contact Syte.
Today, we’re happy to share that Syte raised $21.5 million in Series B Funding. Viola Ventures lead the investment, alongside high-profile investors Storm Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Axess Ventures, and Lyra Ventures. The total funding to date is $30 million.