Augmented Reality: When shopping becomes an experience

Augmented Reality: When shopping becomes an experience

Augmented reality is a big trend right now. But how can you benefit from this technology? AR allows users to experience items virtually and in 3D in the real world. 3D objects are generated by 3D visualization. For online retail in general and for your online store, a digital showroom like this can open up brand new ways of presenting products to customers and offering them a totally new and innovative shopping experience.

Table of contents:

  1. What is augmented reality?

  2. What’s the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?

  3. What’s the role of augmented reality in ecommerce?

  4. How does augmented reality work?

  5. Where is AR used?

  6. AR in marketing, online retail, and ecommerce

  7. What are the benefits of augmented reality?

  8. What does the future hold for AR?

What is augmented reality?

Strictly speaking, augmented reality (AR) means systems that enhance the real environment by adding 3D elements.

The basic principle is simple. Users view the real environment through AR glasses or a smartphone or tablet camera. New elements are then superimposed onto the display. These can be text, images, or graphics. Reality is overlaid with virtual objects and therefore enhanced. Or, to put it more technically, digital elements are seamlessly laid over the physical world. Augmented reality allows users to interact in real time and can address all five senses. It can not only be seen, but also heard, touched, tasted or smelled.

Augmented realities are already standard in some areas.

A simple form of AR is used in live broadcasts of tennis matches, for example, with lines that provide a 3D representation of the ball’s trajectory. Nintendo’s “Pokémon Go” was a pioneer of AR-based mobile games and a huge trend in 2016. Players can capture digital Pokémon on their smartphone display in their real environment. But it’s about more than just fun for gamers. This location-based game could help retail outlets lure more customers into their stores. Pokémon are placed virtually in or around stores to encourage players to visit. Today, the success of AR-based fun continues with games like “Space Invaders: World Defense” or smartphone apps such as “Star Walk” to discover the night sky.

What’s the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?

Aren’t AR and VR the same thing? Not exactly. Virtual reality (VR) simulates a completely virtual environment, allowing an immersive experience that’s independent of the real world. In contrast, augmented reality enhances the real environment by adding digital objects such as text overlays, images, graphics, videos, audio, 3D visualizations, animations, and 360-degree views. The main difference between AR and VR is that AR enhances the physical environment with digital elements, rather than creating a completely new environment.

What’s the role of augmented reality in ecommerce?

Innovative use of AR promises to usher in a profound transformation in the way customers search for, select, and purchase products. Therefore, augmented realities are becoming increasingly important in retail and ecommerce. There are already numerous practical use cases for augmented reality. Virtual try-on, for example. If you want to try on glasses online, you can upload a photo of yourself and the glasses are added to the image as a 3D object. AR can also help you virtually try on wigs or virtually try on dresses, rings, or other jewelry, or test the color of a lipstick, without leaving the comfort of your own home.

An additional benefit is that AR apps on mobile devices allow you to customize shopping even more. You can display more information about products. Prices and discounts, for instance, can be displayed directly on your smartphone via AR glasses or AR software and you don’t need to spend time researching them. This all makes your customers’ shopping experience pleasant, straightforward, and compelling.

How does augmented reality work?

There are two ways to implement AR in practice:

Optical see through: Here, users view reality directly through AR glasses or an AR app, with no additional video image.

Video see-through: With this approach, users don’t see their environment directly. It’s displayed in real time via the AR glasses as a video image or video stream.

To implement augmented reality, you need suitable software solutions for the content and applications. These run on smartphones and tablets for private users and on data glasses, AR glasses (e.g. from Microsoft or Google Glass) and head-up displays and holography systems for corporate customers. But the quality of the 3D models and a clear visualization are also of paramount importance for a positive AR experience. Users need only an AR browser or AR apps.

Where is AR used?

Augmented reality (AR) has become established in various sectors, including in education and healthcare, retail, real estate, and tourism. In business, for example, AR optimizes work processes for maintenance work and repairs. Staff can use 3D visualizations to complete virtual training, or they can create prototypes virtually. In retail, too, the technology is gaining ground. Virtual try-on of dresses, wigs, or jewelry are just a few examples.

Augmented reality has a wide variety of uses:

  • In video and online gaming

  • In education, such as in schools and universities

  • In the healthcare sector, for example when training medical staff

  • In the travel and tourism sector, by superimposing information about tourist destinations

  • In industry and business, for example for training purposes or for superimposing manuals when you’re working on a machine

  • In sports broadcasts to display ball trajectory or goal distances

  • Or in everyday life, for instance in car navigation devices with congestion warnings and information on alternative routes.

AR in marketing, online retail, and ecommerce

Especially in ecommerce and online retail, augmented reality provides real added value that even reaches into online marketing.

  • AR allows you to create interactive catalogs for clothing, accessories, furniture, and fixtures.

  • Product packaging becomes a source of additional sales and background information on your products, plus their supply chains and sustainability.

  • You can offer your customers vouchers and discounts to increase the entertainment factor.

  • You can create advertising campaigns and promotions that have more impact and allow you to interact directly with your target group.

  • Your viral marketing on social media is strengthened by AR and your campaigns have a greater reach.

Traditional retail also benefits: Augmented reality offers customers more incentives to visit a bricks-and-mortar location. Here, value is added by product information they receive on their phone while walking through the store. This intensifies the communication between companies and customers, enriching the shopping experience.

What are the benefits of augmented reality?

Augmented reality provides your ecommerce business with numerous advantages that can enhance and improve your customers’ experience. The option to project your products virtually or virtually try on jewelry and clothing has several positive effects:

More purchasing decisions and increased transparency

Increased transparency about products allows your customers to make informed purchasing decisions, and they are inspired by experiencing products virtually. In turn, this reduces the number of returns. Finally, your customers can view and experience the products more closely before buying.

Stronger brand and customer loyalty

AR creates unique shopping experiences that strengthen customer loyalty, supporting a sustainable connection between your customers and your brand. Spatial commerce makes shopping more exciting for your customers. They’ll stay in your store for longer and, above all, return regularly.

Targeted marketing and successful advertising

Creative AR campaigns allow impressive product presentations and provide viral potential for your content on social media. So the targeted use of augmented reality also opens up new possibilities for successful marketing and effective advertising in ecommerce.

What does the future hold for AR?

In spite of the still-high costs, AR has enormous market potential. And its future prospects are correspondingly bright. It is also expected that the costs for AR will become more efficient in the future, which will further promote use of the technology.

At the moment, you need technical expertise to use AR, but there are already platforms such as Shopware that allow you to implement it relatively easily. And the expectation is that this technology will become increasingly important across the board.