'Try before they buy' - AR will revolutionise retail in a post-Covid world

  • Augmented Reality (AR) is already helping to create exciting new ways of shopping, such as virtual make-up or try-on apps, to give a customers a realistic idea of what the product they’re thinking of purchasing will look like.

    AR uses real-world environments and physical objects to trigger computer-generated enhancements over the top of reality in real-time.

    A report by global research firm Gartner suggests that by the end of 2021, “at least one-third of enterprises will have deployed a multi-experience development platform to support mobile, web, conversational and AR development.”

    With coronavirus restrictions continuing to force customers away from the high street and onto personal devices, AR is allowing retailers to digitally recreate the traditional shopping experience so they can engage with customers as if they were present in the store.    

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    Ciaran Bollard, CEO of global eCommerce platform Kooomo explains: “It’s no surprise that Gartner has included AR as one of the top ten strategic technologies expected to ‘drive significant disruption and opportunity over the next five to 10 years’.

    “This is especially pertinent with the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, as retailers need to try new methods to entice and interact with customers who are unable to visit physical stores in their local area.”

    Many sub-sectors already taking advantage of AR include fashion and homeware with virtual changing rooms and 3D placement for white goods, furniture and interior design.

    Sephora's Virtual Artist applies AR by scanning your face and lets you digitally apply numerous styles with different lipstick colours, eyeshadows, false eyelashes, and foundation colours.

    Retailers that successfully integrate AR into a seamless omnichannel Customer Experience (CX) by helping shoppers to visualise how a product would look or fit before purchase will have a significant competitive edge in today’s fast-paced, digitally driven eCommerce landscape, Kooomo’s Ciaran added.

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    “AR is the virtual equivalent of ‘try before you buy’ and by letting consumers effectively test products online before committing to purchase, this will redefine the customer journey in 2021 and beyond,” he said.

    “What was considered a ‘nice to have’ feature in an omnichannel strategy is now a ‘must-have’ in the wake of the pandemic and will be crucial for retailers looking to expand their customer base and maximise sales.

    “Immersive technologies are proving to be extremely valuable in helping retailers overcome the challenges of coronavirus by building greater brand loyalty with isolated and disengaged customers - we even decided to employ technology that allows us to develop virtual showrooms on our platform earlier this year.

    “Therefore, we expect to see many more brands prioritising investment in AR and associated integrations as part of their eCommerce strategy over the next few years.”

    RELATED: Measuring the impact of Covid-19 on e-commerce

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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