It’s 2023 and it seems like before anyone realized it, the future arrived. Technologies that people once only dreamed about are now accessible to everyone at their fingertips. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, autonomous vehicles, CRISPR — the list of unprecedented technologies goes on and on. One of the most game-changing technologies for retail in 2023 is augmented reality. AR empowers customers with the ability to visualize and customize products in 3D when shopping.
Engaging customers through the shopping process is becoming increasingly competitive. With augmented reality, retailers can establish a new way to compete with an entirely new customer experience that leads to higher sales and increased customer satisfaction.
It’s not just about software.
AR is a software capability but it requires hardware to use. Increasingly tech companies will invest in products that bring AR experiences to life. Perhaps the most anticipated tool (rumored to be) launching as early as this year are Apple’s AR glasses. However, there have been several development delays in bringing them to market. In the meantime, smartphones will be the primary conduit for AR product experiences.
AR trumps VR.
Virtual reality, which is fully immersive and requires a headset, has long been used by consumers, particularly in the gaming space. However, it is largely impractical for retail use because of the extensive hardware requirements. Because AR is accessible from a smartphone, something the majority of shoppers already own, it is poised to become far more ubiquitous than VR.
Max Out Engagement
When brands offer AR experiences–the ability to put a product in one’s space virtually or do virtual try-on–shoppers are exponentially more likely to engage with the products. And the more time they invest in customizing and experiencing the product in immersive ways, they more likely they are to buy.
Innovate with AR.
According to a report from Mobile Marketer, retailers are slowly adopting AR in the buying process. Only 1% of retailers are currently using AR or VR (Virtual Reality) in their customer buying experience. For retailers that bring in most of their sales online, AR can help customers to have a more accurate understanding of how a product is going to look and feel in their space. Being able to communicate the details about a product through AR can help customers understand what they’re buying, making it easier to meet customer expectations, which leads to higher post-purchase satisfaction.
"I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you."
Find the right partner.
In the same report from Mobile Marketer, 52% of retailers said that they were just not prepared to start using AR and other new technologies. For most retailers, the photogrammetry, 3D modeling, and photography needed for all of their inventory can be a serious undertaking. Finding the right partner is important for having a successful ROI post-adoption. Threekit’s Virtual PhotographerTM platform can empower your team to generate tens of thousands of photorealistic images from a single design file, on demand.
Ease consumer doubts and accelerate sales.
Customers want to be able to know that the product their purchasing will fit their needs. For furniture, that means customizing a product to match existing decor. IKEA released the IKEA Place app, which allows customers to visualize furniture in their space with real-time customizations. Having this power at their customer’s fingertips with AR means that retailers can see a decrease in returns and fewer wasted logistics costs.
It’s only just beginning.
The AR market is a rapidly growing industry with an estimated market value of $50 billion by 2024. AR has the potential to impact every corner of the economy, ranging from medicine to automotive to entertainment and more. Facebook recently acquired Scape, an AR company that’s building a digital 3D map of the physical world. As big tech continues to invest more and more in AR, we can expect to see AR becoming a more integrated element of life.
Offer AR in-store.
AR is quickly being adopted by some of the world’s largest markets. In Japan, 66% of consumers want offline stores to offer AR experiences. AR has been integrated into the in-store shopping experience in Japan since 2009. With AR, consumers can have an enriched shopping experience in which additional product information can be superimposed onto the retail space. For big box retailers and department stores, consumers can navigate through a shopping list or see potential product pairings.
Increase buyer confidence.
AR has the unique ability to communicate details about the look and feel of a product that traditional photos just can’t match. With AR, customers are better able to make confident buying decisions, which leads to increased satisfaction and strong customer loyalty.
Customers will pay more for convenience.
Online retail accounts for 11% of all retail sales. When customers shop in-store, they’re able to see, touch, and feel your product selection. This experience tends to become flattened online, which can lead to less confidence in the product and more frequent returns. Using AR, however, customers who are shopping online can not only regain elements of the in-store shopping process, but are able to go a step further by experiencing how a product will appear in their house, on their kitchen counter, or on their shelf. For online retail, that means higher margins on existing spend and a higher quality, more hands-on experience for customers.
AR is informing the future of retail.
Most people tend to associate AR solely with the entertainment industry. But the reality is that AR will become a more and more integral part of life in the coming years. Retail is expected to account for 5% of AR use by 2022. Threekit’s AR can help retailers increase conversions by up to 40%. That can mean tremendous growth for your business that will only increase as AR is used by more of the consumer base.
Investment in AR is growing.
According to IDC, global spending on AR/VR in 2020 was estimated to be up to $18.8 billion, up 78.5% from 2019. Businesses across the globe are trying to find ways to stay competitive as consumers are looking for richer engagement points in the shopping experiences. From 2019-2023, the global VR/AR market will see a 77% compound annual growth rate.
Consumers are using AR more.
The customer’s path to purchasing changes constantly. In 2020, 32% of consumers are using AR while shopping. AR presents a unique opportunity to engage customers and to focus the consumer on the selling points of your product. Every opportunity to engage a customer also presents opportunities that can lower the overall customer’s satisfaction. AR is bringing in extremely high satisfaction levels with 73% of mobile AR users reporting high satisfaction levels.
Mobile AR opens the door.
Since Apple and Google launched their respective ARKit and ARCore platforms, tens of thousands of AR apps are being used every day by over 1 billion people. As Tim Cook said, engagements with AR will become everyday events. As people become more comfortable using AR, retailers have to innovate and keep up with how the market is changing.
Cater to every customer.
Gartner estimated that over 100 million consumers used AR to shop in 2020. In a traditional retail space, if 100 million people walked through the store, most would have a similar shopping experience. With AR, retailers can customize how each user experiences a product. With targeted offering in the retail space, AR shoppers are able to have a more impactful, personalized shopping experience.
"AR is going to become ubiquitous to the point of becoming an integrated expectation of the buying experience. Brands that want to connect with customers today and tomorrow need to move now on AR."
Ben Houston - Founder, Threekit
Advertisers know that AR sells.
According to Vibrant Media, AR ads are enabling brands to bring their products to life right in front of consumers. The travel, automotive, and entertainment industries are expected to see big benefits from augmented reality campaigns.
American consumers are beginning to expect AR.
In 2020, 83.1 million consumers in the US used AR monthly. That accounts for 15% of the population. Years ago, brands were mainly able to engage with users through print because of the large user base. At some point, consumers would read a magazine or pass a poster on the street. With AR usership increasing, it’s a perfect time to start capitalizing on the growing AR user base for both marketing and point of sale product engagement.
AR usership is growing.
With 83.1 million consumers in the US using AR monthly, AR usership is expected to grow to 17% by 2022. AR is a thrilling way to see and interact with rich information about the world, and the user base is expected to continue growing as more companies begin to adopt AR.
Key demos understand AR.
70% of consumers between ages 16 and 44 are aware of AR. What’s impressive about this figure is that AR has just become available to most consumers only a few years ago. We’re seeing an adoption rate that is allusive to the early days of ecommerce.
No install required.
With ARKit and ARCore becoming available to most smartphone owners, AR has been quickly integrated into many apps. What many brands don’t know is that most web browsers ship with WebVR and other 3D technologies. That means integrating an AR or VR experience into your online store doesn’t require users to have any additional software installed other than their browser. With Threekit’s 3D Configurator, your online store can offer 3D product customizations that work on every device, everywhere.
AR helps consumers understand a product.
AR is a great medium for showing highly detailed 3D models of your products. Compelling imagery is a must-have for selling products online. With 3D models of your products in AR, consumers can know exactly how their product will work for them, with their specific needs and space.
AR helps consumers make buying decisions.
After consumers have selected which products will work for them, making the choice of what product to purchase is an area that AR can significantly influence. For brands that have an in-person onboarding process for their customers, using AR and VR can compel customers with real-life, vivid imagery that drives them towards buying.
Grow your conversions with AR.
Using 3D technologies in your online shopping experience can increase your conversion rates by up to 40%. Using AR can give customers the confidence to buy, increase their post-purchase satisfaction, and reduce return rates.