Retail shopping experience is all set to take a giant leap with augmented reality (AR), a technology that enhances the perception of reality for consumers, and gives them the power to make the right choices.
Retailers are exploring AR's potential to boost sales as it blurs the line between virtual and real world, thereby helping them to reach out to more shoppers. Specifically, AR is being used to give customers a virtual feel of products as they walk into a retail store, and this makes it easy for them to know where they should go to buy the product they want. In this sense, retailers are showcasing their products differently and are taking customer interaction to a whole new level, with an aim to standout in a crowded market.
Further, it helps retailers to get matched with relevant customers, even those who were beyond their grasp earlier. For example, a runner practicing in an unfamiliar area realizes he needs a shoe immediately. All that he has to do is open a AR app that will not only direct him to the nearby store, but will also display the models available in that store. This helps him to decide what he wants and where it is, so he can just walk in, pay for the shoe and continue with his run. For the retailer, AR has helped to make the first contact with a new customer, who would otherwise not have come into the store at all.
Due to these advantages for both shoppers and retailers, many leading retailers have already started experimenting AR in their new stores. Here is a look at how some major retailers are using this technology to offer a digital experience of the real world for their customers.
Yihaodian is the largest online grocery store in China, and it is looking to expand its presence by making the most of AR. To this end, it has built more than 1000 virtual stores in parking lots, famous landmarks and other public areas that see high footfalls. These stores come to life when a customer opens the Yihaodian app, as they can navigate through different aisles in this virtual store to select the items they want. Once done, they can pay through their cell phone, and the items will be delivered to their homes.
Topshop, a leading women's fashion retailer, has partnered with Kinect to create AR dressing rooms, where shoppers can try on their choices virtually to get an idea of how it looks on them before buying. These AR rooms are sure to please customers who are in a hurry or tired of trying on clothes.
Furniture retailer Ikea is experimenting with AR in their catalogs to help customers see how a particular piece of furniture would fit into their home or office. They can even look at it from different angles or experiment with different colors to choose the perfect fit for their decor. Such an experience helps shoppers to make better buying decisions and lesser disappointments while for retailers, it is one more satisfied customer who is sure to come back for more shopping.
Shiseido, a Japanese personal care company, helps women to find the right shades of makeup by having a makeup mirror in its stores. This mirror takes the image of a shopper, and allows them to see how a particular product will look on them before committing to a purchase.
From the above examples, it is clear that AR is the next wave of technology that is likely to transform the shopping experience for consumers. For the retailers, it improves their sales and helps them to connect with the right shoppers.
The future of shopping sure looks exciting!