Augmented reality in eCommerce now is an eyebrow raising gimmick that sets a store apart from the competition and puts it on a trendsetter pedestal.
In eCommerce of the future, an AR feature will be the default setting, and lack of one will signal clients to bounce, just as a non-responsive website design does now.
With 83 million monthly AR users in the US alone forecast in 2020, the market is set to exhibit exponential growth before it reaches the status of a standard commodity.
To build on those massive stats, let’s take into account one gigantic factor: the supply has not yet caught up with demand. The above figure describes the monthly users with a limited supply of AR features available throughout the eCommerce domain.
Futuristically speaking though, the addressable potential market for AR in ecommerce will come close to the total number of online shoppers in the US, which Statista puts at 227 million in 2020.
Augmented Reality Tech Fundamentals
Before we proceed with detailed information on augmented reality in eCommerce, let's quickly clarify the basic definitions of AR, so we are all on the same page.
What is Augmented Reality [AR]?
Augmented reality [AR] is a manmade digital interactive experience of virtual and real worlds, layered through technological means on the screen of a device, most commonly, a smartphone. Predominantly, an image or a video of real-world objects and scenery are augmented with 2D and 3D images and videos of virtual objects.
Augmented reality is often considered along with Virtual Reality [VR], both of which are parts of the Extended Reality [XR] concept.
Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality [AR vs VR]
While both terms suggest some extent of immersion into a world that is not real and are commonly used together, VR and AR technologies are different and have applications in business that are rather dissimilar too.
Virtual reality takes a user into a 100% virtual world, blocking the real world out completely, usually by means of special VR masks.
Augmented reality is employed on a device that does not block a user from the real world, but layers the virtual elements on top of the real physical surroundings.
The application of AR and VR is also different, with the main feature and limitation of VR being a VR mask required for the virtual reality experience to occur. The evolution of VR is mostly based on the development of the hardware.
With new norms and ways of life imposed by the COVID pandemic though, VR may face a further hurdle in its genesis. When used in museums and other public places – it requires people to put a multiple-use public mask on their faces after other people have used it.
In contrast, tools for Augmented Reality, such as smartphones and laptops, are personally owned and carried around by a vast majority of the users worldwide. So further evolution of AR comes down to businesses developing more software solutions.
Trends In eCommerce in 2020 + COVID impact
The eCommerce industry will definitely see a further uptake with COVID-related social distancing practices. Brick and mortar stores are likely to become even less popular as health risks come into play.
AR in eCommerce is one feature that helps bridge the gap between online shopping and the brick and mortar experience, filling the void of being unable to try things on when buying online. AR may well cater to this pain point in the near future.
Other Trends in eCommerce we witness in 2020 will encompass:
- Artificial Intelligence [AI] technology expansion into the industry
- A further rise in mobile shopping
- Further growth of voice commerce
- Ultimate personalization and bespoke loyalty programs
- Across-the-board application of Big Data analytics
How Does AR Affect eCommerce?
Invespcro summed it all up in a digestible infographic: Augmented Reality in eCommerce: Statistics and Trends.
The figures are simply mind-blowing, with client preferences stating loud and clear: “We will prefer your online store to a competitor if they implement AR technology in their mobile application.” See for yourself.
Benefits Of eCommerce-Specific Augmented Reality
The augmented reality eCommerce statistics given above are evidence of laying the foundation for the benefits of this technology. Let's review the benefits of AR for the eCommerce segment through the prism of the merchants and customers.
Advantages for Merchants
Among the most vital benefits for online sellers at this moment in the evolution of AR technology is the industry leader status. It’s as broad and all encompassing as the following scenario.
Those eCommerce players who managed to integrate augmented reality features into their mobile applications in 2020 are seen as cutting edge, contemporary and hi-tech. It’s mostly industry leaders who have AR modules already, so any app that features AR is automatically perceived as avant-garde in the industry.
Other more measurable and less ephemeral benefits than status as a leader include:
- Increase in customer satisfaction through interactive experiences;
- Boost in loyalty to online shopping vs physical stores;
- Higher engagement on-site and time on site, lifting SEO rankings;
- Decrease in refunds & returns due to more conscious, deliberate decision making around purchases that involve fitting a piece of clothing or furniture on an image in augmented reality.
Advantages for Customers
Online shop customers also reap these benefits with many of the AR features:
- Time savings, as AR helps quickly try on a dress or take the guesswork out of the dilemma about whether a chair is a good fit for an interior.
- Better color choices enabled by comparing and picking the best match of a piece of clothing with face tone in an AR fitting room.
- Access to all the discounts, offers, prices, availability, and reviews available in brick-and-mortar stores, with an app pointed at an item of interest.
- Ability to see how a makeup product looks on your face without having to actually apply it.
How To Use Augmented Reality In eCommerce
As the technology itself develops and its capabilities grow from the basic layering of real-life images with virtual objects, the applications and use cases for this innovation of the 21st century will also expand.
Currently, augmented reality ecommerce solutions boil down to the following functions:
- Online Try-On Solutions
Virtual try-on solutions allow shoppers to see how a product fits on their face or body. This technology is used for eyewear, accessories, clothing, shoes, and even makeup.
Protocube company, for example, offers a virtual personal shopper tool technology that has a 3-D configurator as its integral part, but is extended by a machine learning algorithm and a chatbot for a complete augmented reality experience.
The Warby Parker eyewear eCommerce company reported that the Try-on tool addition to its mobile application more than doubled the number of downloads in 2019.
Positive customer feedback for try-on AR solution.
- Product Visualization, aka Preview Placement
Widely used in the furniture and interior design industries, a product visualization AR solution allows users to see an object from virtual reality – or an item from an online store – in the settings of their homes and offices.
This solution helps customers to create an emotional bond with the product by placing it against the background of a familiar location. Preview placement also allows users to make a purchasing decision faster.
VewiAR Product Visualization Solution
- Virtual Product Aisle
It may sound somewhat incredible, but brick and mortar stores put a spell on customers, who can get addicted to wandering along aisles of items neatly stocked on the shelves.
If you feel like providing the comforts of a physical store to the customers who miss it, AR can be used to project virtual products on virtual shelves – on the wall of any room.
- Body Measurement Augmented Reality Solutions
Out of all customer pain points that AR can address in terms of the eCommerce segment, the ability to measure the person correctly and ultimately find the right size and fit for clothing is truly vital.
An immense 77% of the surveyed customers confirmed that they sent a poorly fitting item back at least once, based on wrong measurements only.
Another argument to confirm the importance of this AR solution to ecommerce is Amazon’s acquisition of Body Lab back in 2017 for an estimated $50-70 million.
- AR Manuals as Customer Support Assistance
In order to decrease the workload for customer support, some savvy eCommerce entrepreneurs provide an AR manual experience to accompany their products.
Customers can follow the guidelines on the screen of their mobile device to install and connect all the cables and parts correctly – without ever needing to call upon your live technical support.
All a client needs to do to get guidance – is to point their device at the item for sale and start following the detailed prompts.
- Marketing on AR Steroids
Digital marketing is one realm that is very creative and ultra-competitive anyway.
It is due to marketing that no-name companies gain international fame overnight. It's due to digital marketing that entrepreneurs can get 3 dollars back for every dollar invested.
AR has the power to make storytelling so much more immersive and believable, to create loyalty and mold emotional attachment to a brand.
Games, quests, quizzes, tests, and boring questionnaires may all become many times more engaging, captivating, efficient, and viral when married to an AR technology.
Augmented reality marketing is becoming the new norm for digital marketing anyway, so we’d better get creative sooner rather than later.
AR in eCommerce Examples
Practical applications of AR are truly eyebrow-raising. Below are a few augmented reality eCommerce examples to illustrate:
- Rebeca Minkoff is a tester and an early adopter of Shopify's AR feature. This feature allows ecommerce entrepreneurs to upload a 3D image of their products so that their clients can interact with 3D items, rotating them, zooming in, and putting them in a real environment. The experiment revealed that those who interacted with the 3D model were 27% more likely to place an order.
- John Lewis recently launched a Virtual Sofa AR app that allows placing one of their 100+ best selling sofas in the interior of the user's room, and checking out the size, shape, and color in the relevant context.
- Previously the company made a marketing move that many women appreciated by creating an app with over 300 lipstick colors that users could ‘try on’ before buying with the help of AR.
- Hermès Parfumerie introduced an AR experience into their physical shops to increase customer engagement. In their stores, clients who downloaded an invitation-only mobile app with AR features were sent on a scavenger hunt. When following the clues, they were presented with a series of artsy whimsical augmented reality vignettes.
How To Implement Augmented Reality In eCommerce Business
Companies using augmented reality now have pioneered the realm for those still bracing themselves before trying this new and crispy technology to boost their own sales, retain customers, and increase average check-outs.
We recommend the following strategy for seamless adoption of AR for your online store:
- Study all of the existing examples of AR apps for eCommerce.
- Understand your overarching goal in using the technology: higher engagement rates, boost in conversion, lower return rates, and/or an increase in loyalty, etc.
- Choose a mobile app development company wisely.
- Make sure you agree on the vendor, and who will perform the augmented reality development for mobile use. Many web development companies have a tried and proven supplier with a case history. It is always a good practice to have a say in strategy and AR development company selection.
- Keep a close enough eye on the process to control the big picture, but distant enough to allow for creativity to speak first.
AR Development Solutions For eCommerce
If you are one of the eCommerce companies who is only starting to appreciate the value of AR in the online markets of today.
If you are one of those online store owners who missed becoming an early adopter of AR, but is determined to join the early majority.
If you need to increase engagement, boost loyalty, and expand brand awareness with the help of an augmented reality shopping app.
Bon Voyage on this exciting journey to your own augmented reality app!
Need a reliable partner who knows a thing or two about this advanced technology, enough to have crafted this piece?
See how the Zoolatech mobile app development company can help.
While AR is still in its infancy, and not even a toddler in terms of maturity, taking baby steps toward adoption is not a recommended strategy.
Take this bull by the horns, so that you can reap higher digital profits and translate them into a not-so-virtual increase in your bottom-line.