Augmented Reality for E-commerce: More Than Just IKEA
Going back to almost three years ago, AR for e-commerce was out of reach for most small to medium online retailers, being no more than just a luxury reserved only for global brands such as IKEA or L’Oreal.
The good news is that these days, as AR technology becomes more ubiquitous and more affordable to develop thanks to mobile tech advances, smaller e-commerce stores are able to leverage the benefits of immersive online shopping experiences. And this change comes just in time.
With the pandemic restrictions closing brick-and-mortar stores all around the world and causing a massive shift in customer demands, AR has been essential in bridging the gap between the physical and the digital and allowing people to confidently purchase items from the comfort of their own homes.
But is AR the best choice for your brand and customers? If you’re still on the fence about whether immersive technology can help you boost buying confidence and engage online shoppers, this article has been written especially for you.
To make your choice easier, we’ve highlighted the most popular real-world use cases and also the key benefits of using AR for your online store.
How e-commerce brands are using Augmented Reality
Compared to virtual reality, which immerses you into a completely digital environment, AR experiences focus on augmenting the real world by adding a layer of virtual information in the form of images, videos, text, or a combination of these. You don’t even need a special headset to engage with AR content — your smartphone or tablet will do the trick.
Most AR consumers have discovered this new technology through social apps, which allowed them to play with a wide variety of social media filters and share their creations with friends and followers. And who can ever forget the Pokémon Go craze, when people from all over the globe started to hunt around their cities to catch rare Pokémon.
However, when the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns forced us all to withdraw within the safety of our homes and practice social distancing, e-commerce brands started to see the real potential of augmented reality — not just a simple toy, but a practical tool that enables them to engage with consumers on a new level and increase revenues.
Now, AR stands as the key to reimaging online shopping in the post-Covid age and offering customers the transparency they so much crave. From preview product placement to virtual try-on and interactive manuals, here’s how AR solutions are helping brands drive customer engagement and increase online sales.
Virtual product placement
Since static product images don’t cut it anymore in online shopping, AR comes to offer customers the opportunity to transform their homes into virtual showrooms and get a real-time preview of a product before they purchase it.
Shopping apps like AR furniture let customers virtually place 3D models of furniture into their living rooms with the help of their smartphone camera. This way, they can check if the chosen items fit well within that space by viewing them from all possible angles. And the best part: no visit to the physical store is required and there are no unpleasant surprises when the purchased products reach their door.
From clothes and accessories to makeup and even eyeglasses (see video above), AR apps help businesses create “try before you buy” shopping experiences, mitigate coronavirus-related safety concerns, and increase consumer confidence.
Brands like Warby Parker, Adidas, and Sephora allow customers to virtually try products on their own bodies using their smartphone’s front-facing camera and purchase the item that fits them best with only a few clicks. People can now go onto an e-commerce website and choose what works for them and not for a random model, thus limiting the risk of ending up with the wrong products and going through the hassle of returning them.
AR user manuals
We all know those dull black and white user manuals that, more often than not, end up forgotten in some dusty old box in our garage.
To adapt to the changing needs of mobile-savvy customers, car manufacturers such as Hyundai and Mercedes have developed digital owner’s car manuals. These AR apps use graphical animations and text to help drivers become familiar with various features of their cars and access how-to information in case any problem appears.
Why your brand should join the AR bandwagon
The Snap Consumer AR Global Report revealed that up to 75% of the global population and almost all smartphone users are expected to become frequent AR consumers by 2025. These numbers clearly show us that AR technology is not just a passing trend in the e-commerce industry but on its way to becoming an indispensable tool for seamless brand interactions.
Here’s what other benefits of AR you should know about:
Enhanced customer experience (CX)
As the pandemic put a spotlight on online shopping, businesses have since been struggling to create engaging customer experiences that would reassure people of product quality and encourage them to make a purchase.
With the help of AR, e-commerce brands can enable customers to interact with 3D virtual models of actual products and even test how these items would fit in their homes/on their bodies. No picture or video could achieve that, let alone turn the whole experience into a captivating leap into the future. As shown by the Snap Consumer AR report, 55% of online shoppers believe that AR makes the shopping experience more rewarding and fun.
Augmented reality technology not only streamlines the decision-making process for consumers, giving them more confidence in their purchase (not to mention the brand) but also eliminates the stress and anxiety they might feel when ordering online.
Creating interactive AR experiences for online customers can help your brand achieve a 94% higher conversion rate, according to the Snap Consumer AR report.
Consumers who use AR when making purchasing decisions are attracted by the lower risk and personalization that a “try before you buy” shopping experience offers. You can leverage this opportunity not only to build strong customer relationships but also to engage and convert first-time buyers and get more out of your paid channels.
Reducing returns for online purchases is one of the primary concerns of e-commerce brands, especially now that more people prefer to order in the comfort of their homes.
Augmented reality technology enables online shoppers to make informed decisions based on realistic 3D models and virtual try-on, with 56% of customers saying that AR gives them more confidence in product quality. When the uncertainty associated with online shopping decreases so do return rates, improving customer retention in the long term.
Just one thing: don’t neglect user experience
In the early days, AR used to be quite clunky and cartoonish, which discouraged most consumers from trying it or using it seriously when making an online purchase. As technology advanced, developers were able to create more realistic AR experiences where digital content was placed accurately in the user’s surrounding environment, ultimately changing consumer perception.
To achieve the best results when integrating AR into your e-commerce platform, you’ll have to focus on designing frictionless customer experiences. For this, you should make it a habit to ask for feedback after each customer makes a purchase using your AR app.
Gathering feedback from customers can be as simple as sending a follow-up email asking how they rate their online shopping experience and whether they have any suggestions for improvements. Only be sure to include questions regarding general product presentation and how easy/difficult it was to decide between various items in the same category.
In the end, capturing customer feedback will allow you to use AR technology to its full capacity, meet customer expectations, and stay ahead of competitors.
AR for e-commerce: from toy to practical engagement tool
AR has come a long way since Snapchat created its first viral puppy filter and Pokémon Go users tried their luck catching Pokémon in some of the most inappropriate places like Area 51 or their neighbors’ private property.
Nowadays, AR supports e-commerce businesses in their long-term mission to close the gap between online and offline shopping and increase customer engagement through innovative solutions.
If you want to learn more about what augmented reality can do for your brand, don’t forget to check out our portfolio, where we showcase AR applications we’ve developed at Flint Tech.
Have an idea for a new project? Reach out to us and our AR wizards will help you turn your vision into reality.