The stage is set for Augmented Reality

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eBusiness Institute Team

Augmented Reality is no longer just a potentially exciting new technology – some of the world’s most successful online retailers are now leveraging it to reduce returns and enhance shopping experiences.

There are some telling statistics that help shed light on why some consumers are still a little hesitant to shop online.

30 percent of all products ordered online are returned – equating to around $1 trillion. By comparison, brick-and-mortar stores only experience 8.89 percent in returns[1]

25 percent of eCommerce returns – $250 billion’s worth – are because customers don’t think that the product they received looked how it did online[2]. This percentage increases to 50 for larger ‘expensive’ items like white goods, lamps, furniture, kitchen appliances and electronics.

So, what if there was a way for online retailers to reduce returns to brick-and-mortar levels?

Read on to find out why Augmented Reality (AR) might finally be the answer.

AR is beginning to match its potential

It would be somewhat misleading to describe AR as ‘new’ technology.

AR has, after all, been around for some time now, and brands have been trying to leverage it – with mixed success – to elevate shopping experiences and accelerate consumer purchasing decisions for over a decade.

AR technology has, though, now advanced to such levels that it can genuinely be described as ‘one of the next big things in eCommerce’.

The likes of IKEA, Wayfair, Burberry and John Lewis have all committed to making AR part of their respective eCommerce strategies[3]. Etsy has just released a new AR app feature to help consumers shop for wall art and decor[4].

Some of the world’s most successful online retailers – like Burberry – are making Augmented Reality a big part of their eCommerce offerings – Image source: Charged Retail

What is AR? And what can it do for your business?

Augmented Reality is the rendering of digital images or data onto real-world objects and settings like a kitchen, sitting room or bathroom.

For example, AR can impose an image or animation of a product – such as a lamp or sofa – onto a picture of your sitting room, to show you how it might look.

AR considerably speeds up consumer purchasing decisions and builds trust in a product or brand because of its ability to help visualise products in live environments consumers are thinking of buying them for.

And it’s not just a question of aesthetics and assessing whether an item will suit decor: AR also helps people see with their own eyes – in real size – whether a large piece of furniture or white goods will actually fit in an intended space.

Imagine how much stress could be removed from the process of buying a washing machine if you knew for sure, thanks to the power of optimised AR, that it will definitely slot perfectly in your laundry or utility room?

Think of the time and effort that could be saved if you didn’t have to go into a physical store to check if a coffee machine would be suitable because AR allowed you to visualise it in your own kitchen.

97 percent of consumers say that they have abandoned a purchase because a service wasn’t convenient enough[5] – and AR can go a long way towards increasing convenience and saving time.

AR helps build consumer trust in products and the brands selling them – Image source: Swiss Tomato

Great content increases conversions

We know that online shoppers no longer consider interactive content that improves their experiences as a ‘nice to have’.

They now demand great content that provides clear information, engages them and even entertains.

AR, if executed well, definitely fits into the category of ‘great content’, with 63 percent of shoppers saying that AR improved their retail experience – resulting in a 30 to 200 percent increase in conversions, depending on the industry[6].

It’s worth remembering, too, that 86 percent of shoppers are willing to pay more if they enjoy a better experience. Positive experiences that are enjoyable, memorable or exciting also build brand equity that can – and should – lead to customer loyalty and repeat sales.

Uses of AR beyond eCommerce

AR spending is expected to reach $60 billion by the end of this year[7].

It could potentially impact so much in our lives, from how we learn new things to how we collaborate and make decisions.

For instance, AR healthcare providers or Pharma OTC (over-the-counter) companies could bring new therapies to life by creating rich, interactive experiences that show how new drugs and medical devices interact with the body.

Engineers and architects can use AR in modelling. Product designers will use it to demonstrate their concepts or visions. Trainers will be able to use it, for example, to show an operative how to properly use a machine to its best effect.

And employees and managers in physical retail stores could use AR to visualise the plan-a-gram and identify low stock or out-of-place products.

Brands like John Lewis recognise that AR will improve online shopping experiences and could help significantly reduce returns – Image source: Charged Retail

In conclusion – Make AR part of your eCommerce strategy

There are so many potential benefits to AR, from real size visualisation to enhancing processes; and from faster capability development to creating more engaging consumer experiences. 

All of which could, ultimately, improve wider service levels, customer satisfaction, brand equity, loyalty, online sales and profitability.

eCommerce is an ideal setting for AR and could help online retailers differentiate themselves or outperform the competition through improving shopping experiences and significantly reducing those dreaded returns.

But, as with any single activity, AR is not the answer to everything. Don’t just throw money at it or let it fall into a silo looked after by one team. Instead, factor it into your broader eCommerce and retail strategies – and, if necessary, build the capabilities in your team so that the business as a whole learns how to use AR to its optimum effect. 

Please contact us to find out how we can help make AR a powerful part of your wider eCommerce strategy.

This article was written and created by the eBusiness Institute team.

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Our team has considerable experience and expertise in successfully delivering strategies, capability building and creative assets for brands that understand the importance of Digital Transformation, Product eContent, Data & Analytics, Retail Search and Retail Digital Media (RDM) to eCommerce sales success.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how the eBusiness Institute could help your organisation gain a competitive edge through these activities. 

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Sources

[1] https://www.invespcro.com/blog/ecommerce-product-return-rate-statistics/

[2] https://www.invespcro.com/blog/ecommerce-product-return-rate-statistics/

[3] https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2020/03/16/top-retailers-using-augmented-reality-apple-john-lewis-ikea-lululemon-asos/

[4] https://www.housebeautiful.com/shopping/best-stores/a32896504/etsy-app-augmented-reality-tool-wall-decor/

[5] https://www.similarweb.com/corp/blog/whats-going-on-with-tesco-reviewing-the-british-grocery-space/

[6] https://www.cloudways.com/blog/augmented-reality-in-marketing/

[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2020/07/04/what-leaders-need-to-know-about-augmented-reality/#db5b92c6cd92

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