Augmented Reality (AR) refers to the superimposition of any virtual object over the user’s real-time space. For example, if you want to virtually ‘try on’ a dress to see how it looks on you, using augmented reality technology can help you by putting a picture of the dress on you (or instead, an image/ video of you). It enhances your experience through digital imagery by placing it in your actual environment.
The main drawing point of augmented reality is that it’s done in real-time. You don’t have to wait for a software-generated image to reach your mailbox after one day. Instead, you can use it while you’re shopping or otherwise. In this case, we’re referring to the use of augmented reality in e-commerce. In 2020, the Global advertising revenue from AR technology was $1.4 billion, yet so many are unaware of it.
Augmented reality is also often confused with virtual reality — wherein the latter, the user’s experience is limited to their screen. With augmented reality, the user feels their experience in their own environment, making it much more effective in the consumer sphere. Now that we’ve discussed augmented reality, let’s understand exactly how it fits in the e-commerce sphere and how user experience can be dramatically improved.
In e-commerce specifically, there are three types of augmented reality technologies being used — Marker-based, markerless experience, and superimposition-based AR. In marker-based AR, the technology is dependent on a marker being present. E.g., in the case of a QR code, you would scan the QR code, and it would directly take you the user experience it’s meant for. It’s commonly used in deliveries where the customer can superimpose the product’s image in their real environment.
In markerless AR, you don’t really need to scan anything or depend on anything to have said experience. The technology makes use of your environment to create that experience for you. E.g., most eyewear applications these days give you the option to do a 3-D try on directly on their website. A highly beneficial feature ad drastically reduces the number of returns over time.
In superimposition-based AR, the technology doesn’t rely on user input per se. Instead, it depends on object recognition technology and then superimposes the product’s image in that environment. It’s advantageous in cases where people are buying furniture, clothes, etc.
There are many benefits of using augmented reality technologies in e-commerce, especially compared to virtual reality technologies. One of the most significant barriers in the e-commerce industry is that buyers are very hesitant to purchase products online.
The contributing factor is that they are not sure whether the product that is being will actually be that way in reality. Augmented reality will help get rid of this purchasing barrier. It’ll also reduce the number of product returns in the long run, which eventually saves a lot of product wastage and revenue loss.
E.g., companies like Google are already using augmented reality and e-commerce customers, which have gone to show that customers are more confident in their decision to purchase the product. It drastically improves the user experience as well, right from shopping to final purchase. Interactivity and vividness were found to be the key drawing points in this case. As retailers have a unique opportunity to form relationships with their consumers, it’s something that they should adopt as soon as possible.
Many brands are taking advantage of the use of augmented reality in their stores. A great example of this in the cosmetics industry is Sephora. All their online websites use AR to help customers try on different shades of lipsticks, lashes, and other eye products so that they know that it would be an excellent fit for them before buying it. Even in their tutorial section, they allow the customer to upload a picture of themselves. With the use of artificial intelligence technologies, they provide suggestions on which shade would suit them best.
Even in the case of IKEA, a furniture brand, they make use of AR technologies for their e-commerce store. The customers have the option of seeing whether a particular piece of furniture would fit their room and how it’ll look when placed in the room without having to buy it or get it delivered. This is an excellent example of superimposition-based AR and shows how investing in such technologies can only help the company increase revenue over time. Many studies have also indicated that these experiences are perceived higher than usual web-based applications because they offer the consumer the kind of information they are looking for.
Recently, MOSCOT, a fashion brand, also partnered up with Vertebrae, a VR technology provider. They introduced a combination of 3D and AR-based eyewear try-on options in their online store. The beta testing phase showed incredible results, indicating that the time to use such technologies is right now.
The best part about augmented reality technology is that it constantly collects data from the users, which can be used to provide a better experience next time they come around. This results in a seamless experience over time. That being said, there are more significant concerns than accuracy in the market at the moment. A study indicated that 5% of the general public are worried that policymakers and technology providers don’t account for cybersecurity and regulatory concerns while approving the product for use.
In addition to that, many are concerned that companies simply don’t have the financial backing to invest and improve such technologies. This could result in them missing out on potential returns over time yet. While some companies might be hesitant for this reason, others simply hesitate because of the lack of resources in terms of skills and expertise available at the moment. This is why most companies question whether they need to outsource these tasks or hire in-house developers.
Market restructuring is also required in such cases because the primary question remains whether or not the user data is being stored carefully. We can only expect the general public to adopt these e-commerce trends when companies are forthcoming in using their data. But as more e-commerce brands start adopting it, it might lessen the user’s hesitation in due time.
In conclusion, it’s clear that for augmented reality to be adopted, implemented, or used, the user’s experience is vital. Unless and until the e-commerce consumer is more open to the idea of using such technologies and knowing exactly how it works, along with how their data is used, they will not get involved. Such technologies are a great way to build a relationship with the consumer and stay ahead of the curve in today’s competitive market. It’s best if companies if ride the wave now rather than regret it later.