Believe it or not, eCommerce has been around since the mid-1990s and has been on a steady growth incline ever since. Just before the infamous dot-com boom in 1999, global eCommerce managed to reach $150 billion. However, when the stock market bubble popped, many companies in the dot-com sector crashed and the industry took a bit of a knock.
Fast forward to the present and online stores are more popular than ever before. In fact, online shopping is slowly overtaking physical shopping as the more preferred option between the two. And with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, eCommerce popularity skyrocketed to new heights – and doesn’t seem to be coming down any time soon.
Naturally, it’s understandable why so many people prefer online shopping – it’s quick, easy, and much more convenient than traveling to a physical store (especially when there’s a scary virus going around).
So why are people still choosing to shop at brick-and-mortar shops when they can purchase items with the click of a button?
Unfortunately, eCommerce stores are still lacking a few important aspects of the shopping experience, such as instant gratification, immediate help from sales assistants, and, most notably, there’s no way to physically see or test a product out before purchasing.
The latter is especially a problem, as consumers want to ensure that they’re making the right purchase. No one wants to buy clothing in the wrong size, shoes that don’t fit, or an item that they haven’t properly tested out.
Luckily, technology advancements have come a long way, and slowly but surely eCommerce sites are bridging the gap between online and physical shopping. One of the ways this is being achieved is through Augmented Reality (AR).
What is AR Shopping?
Augmented Reality is no longer just for Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go. It is increasingly being used as a tool in daily life, particularly to enhance the shopping experience when purchasing from an online store.
Adding a touch of sensory product experience to online shopping, AR technology offers customers more in-depth and complete information about their products. Without leaving their homes, consumers can now participate in a virtual “try-before-you-buy” experience where they can preview products and simulate testing them out prior to purchasing.
From viewing scale models of furniture in your home to trying on clothing, consumers can visualize products in familiar settings when shopping online, further avoiding the need to visit a physical store.
And with more and more people turning to eCommerce stores, particularly due to the ongoing pandemic, it is becoming a necessity for every online shop to offer an AR experience where customers can engage with their products before committing to a purchase.
Is it the Same as Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality might seem like interchangeable terms, but they are actually very different. There are 3 distinct disparities between the two concepts, which are:
- VR is a fully immersive experience that transports you to an artificial world, where you often are not meant to experience reality. AR, on the other hand, simply augments the real world – which is to say that artificial creations are overlaid in real spaces.
- AR is a more portable technology that can be used via a smartphone or AR glasses. VR requires equipment that usually includes a headset and controllers. Furthermore, you’ll need to ensure that your physical environment is safe before using a VR headset – you don’t want to end up breaking a vase or knocking into the couch!
- AR is much more accessible than VR, as it requires less equipment, fewer safety precautions, and can be used on your smartphone.
How is AR Technology Applied to Shopping?
The most common ways that eCommerce stores are using AR technology are:
- Virtual try-on solutions: Buying clothing without trying them on first is very risky. And while online stores don’t have fitting rooms, they can provide the next best thing. AR solutions enable online shoppers to visualize how an item would look on them. This can work for clothing, makeup, accessories, and sunglasses.
- Preview placement: Particularly useful when purchasing furniture, AR can help consumers envision what a product will look like when placed in their home.
- Interactive user manuals: eCommerce sites that sell more complex products which require a learning curve to use can greatly benefit by providing consumers with interactive user manuals that offer on-page contextual support.
- Social media filters: If you’ve recently used Instagram or Snapchat, then chances are you’ve come across an AR filter. What began as a bit of fun soon evolved into a great way for brands to showcase their products to their target audience in an engaging and interesting way.
How Do eCommerce Stores Benefit from AR?
1. Increases customer engagement
AR is inherently interactive and interesting, which will attract and hook customers when on your site. Not only does AR pique customers’ interest when viewing products, but it also provides additional information they might need. And an informed customer is more likely to make a purchase and return to your store for more items.
2. Reaches new customers
An engaging AR campaign is more likely to be shared across social media by customers visiting your eCommerce site. And the further it spreads, the more potential customers you’ll reach.
3. Reduces return rates
Viewing a static picture of a product isn’t always the best way to determine whether or not something is a suitable purchase. So, it’s no surprise that many people tend to return items they bought online after receiving and reviewing them in person.
By providing consumers with a way to visualize and interact with a product – even if virtually – they’ll avoid disappointment and choose the items that suit them best, thereby avoiding a high return rate.
4. Increases shopping time and improves conversion rates
Research shows that conversion rates increase by 90% for customers engaging with AR when compared to those that don’t. Not to mention that interacting with AR functions will increase the time they spend on your site, which, in turn, will increase the likelihood of conversions.
5. Boosts sales
When a customer is able to see exactly how a product fits into their life – whether it be shoes on their feet or a new desk for their home office – they are more likely to purchase said product, as they are making a well-informed decision. Therefore, AR helps reduce the customer journey and increases store conversions, which means more sales.
6. More data on customer preferences
AR technology collects information about the products that your customers are viewing. This will help you learn about your target audience’s preferences, interests, and shopping behavior patterns, which can then be mined to deliver personalized advertising and marketing campaigns.
Do You Need Help Improving your Digital Marketing Strategy?
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