March 15th, 2017

Taking e-commerce to the next level with AR

The E-commerce explosion in the retail sector has made everything from furniture to clothes available with a click of a mouse.

Now that the shopping has been made easy,retailers are focussed on making the buying experience as real as possible. They have realised that the bulk of their revenue, be it online or offline, is tied directly to the experience that they provide online. And that is where Augmented Reality (AR) steps in.

Thanks to AR, E-commerce can travel beyond the confines of the screen.

So what exactly is AR and how is it different from Virtual Reality (VR)? Putting it simply, VR is all about an ‘experience’ in the digital world. Whereas, AR is about having digital elements in the real world. Augmented reality overcomes the challenge of merging physical experiences with digital content. This merger can create a rich user experience for customers as they shop for the perfect product. It’s creative, innovative, and it works!

Through AR powered apps, retailers can enhance the shopping experience in multiple ways. For instance, if a shopper sees a sweater they love the look of, but isn’t fond of the colour, they can point their own smartphone at the product, and then display and watch the sweater change colours. At the same time, options to view customer reviews and additional product details—and to even buy the sweater online, rather than there in the store, in the colour and size of their choice— can pop-up alongside the display. This allows the store to grab that purchase even when the stock in the store might not have matched the consumer’s desired choice. Secondly, it has an extended reach, without actually extending the footprint.

We have seen that online furniture shopping is continuously increasing in India. One challenge with this channel of sale is the lack of a real size feel of the product. With AR, this challenge is converted into strength with the user being able to visualise a life size sofa in the exact location he wants to install it by just pointing his Smartphone onto the location through usage of an AR-based marker. This helps retailers extend the retailers reach, with an enhanced user experience without necessarily adding more physical stores.

For instance, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea added an augmented reality function to its 2014 catalogue, allowing customers to see what products will look like in their homes.
The app feature that makes the catalog stand out is the ability to view products within your home. Using the catalog as the marker after downloading the app, consumers can view their desired end table or bookshelf in spacial context before buying it. How cool is that? We could have never imagined that a real shopping experience will be possible sitting at home.

As we move to a blend of online and mobile shopping for our convenience, AR can be seen taking over every shopping app. What will be interesting to see is how retailers come up with innovative ways of using AR!

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