Virtual reality (VR) is estimated to generate $1.8 billion for retail and marketing by 2022 and augmented reality (AR) already hit $3 billion in 2018. With e-commerce confident to become mobile AR’s largest revenue stream, 32% of brands and retailers plan to use AR or VR within 3 years and 45% believe AR and VR have the most potential to increase their customer experience.
Role of AR/VR in Retail
Augmented reality is especially attractive because of lower costs and comparatively easy integration with mobile apps. And consumer research suggests shoppers dig immersive experiences, we can clearly see that consumers enjoy shopping with AR by seeing the mentioned below stats
- 71% of shoppers are more likely to shop with a retailer more often if it had AR
- 61% of shoppers prefer retailers with AR over others who don’t have it
- 55% think shopping with AR is a pleasure
- 68% would like to spend more time in a store with AR
- 71% would return more often to a store with AR
- 40% would pay more for a product they experience through AR
- 72% have made impulse purchases because of AR
Customers say what they want and what they actually use doesn’t always sync up. VR and AR are particularly powerless to “one-and-done” behaviour.
A recent survey of over 1000 consumers by Elastic Path reveals 56% of shoppers feel VR has received too much hype in retail, and 38% say the same of AR.
Know your customer
Very often, shiny objects like AR and VR are adopted as a transformation for innovation’s sake. A digital agency and other visionary develop it without consulting customers.
Magic mirrors, for example, are a great option for the press but fail to impress actual shoppers. Even Macy’s admits customers check out their mirrors without checking out through them.
Many customers would rather choose technology to help them shop better and faster than simply “engage” with a novel digital experience.
Lots of people are using mobile phones in-store to access more product information, reviews and inventory. Image recognition paired with AR content can assist in-store shoppers to bypass clunky and complicated mobile navigation.
Once you’ve closed your basic experience gaps and if you have a budget look for where lost revenue can be recovered through AR or VR. Lowe’s estimated $70 billion in home improvement projects are on hold because customers can’t picture the end result, so they built a suite of visualization tools to close the gap.
Need to be more realistic about artificial reality
AR and VR are not new, and in retail/e-commerce projects tend to land in one of two buckets: virtual reality and reality (item in physical space)
For home improvement and home furnishing improvement, nearly every major retailer has an AR experience, including IKEA, Home Depot, Pottery Barn’s, Lowe’s, Amazon, Wayfair, Houzz, Target and Macy’s. Seeing products “in context” builds confidence in a purchase and can reduce returns — especially valuable for products that are heavy and costly to ship back or return to store.
Virtual try-on for clothes, shoes, cosmetics and jewellery may actually increase returns by creating false confidence and false advertisements.
Even browsers and mobile phones are not capable to reflect true-to-life colour and can also create a false impression when trying to match fashion items to skin tones and personal preferences.
There is a problem with footwear also, footwears may look slick through an AR app, but in real-life can be unfitting or breaks a sale for all but collectors. Clothes feel and hang differently, and it may also differ depending on variables that can’t be found out through even the slickest digital overlays.
Nowadays many clothes and apparel try-on apps can collect accurate body measurements even through selfie, but the actual problem lies with product data. Brands and retailers rarely take as accurate measurements across garments — it’s simply too time-consuming. A standard sizing chart is as accurate as any AR technology until this changes.
One tries before you buy use case that has stood the test of time. In the case of eyewear, the colour and fit are less significant than getting a feel for a style. Get Elastic covered EyeBuyDirect’s Wall of Frame over a decade ago. The virtual mirror has since been adopted by other eyewear brands and merchants with success, including Glassesdirect.co.uk (below) and Warby Parker.
If you want your AR or VR project to be successful it must add value to the customer; be it education, entertainment, or any type of utility — and encourage either a purchase, a repeat visit or positive brand impression.
Research indicates that customers are keen to explore brands and retailers apps, but the risk is customers quickly get tired of features that they don’t think will add any value. To avoid falling in the “hype trap,” ensure your project is designed to meet actual customer needs which solves a problem and addresses a real source of lost revenue.