Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology has the potential to provide consumers with a more immersive online shopping experience, with a more immersive experience compared to the two-dimensional flat grids of product images that have characterized online shopping for the past two decades.
Technology is also making e-commerce more natural, intuitive and social, offering shoppers new ways to discover, learn about, interact with and purchase products in virtual, virtual store environments.
By 2024, there will be an estimated 1.7 billion mobile augmented reality (AR) users worldwide, an increase of 1.5 billion from 200 million in 2015, according to recent data by Statista, and a study commissioned by Snap from Deloitte Digital found They interact with products that have AR experiences that result in a 94% higher conversion rate.
“When we shop in a physical store, it is a 3D experience that we often enjoy with family or friends,” said Neha Singh, founder and CEO of Obsess, an augmented reality and virtual reality software platform for experiential shopping. “AR and VR now allow us to recreate that experience online.”
Virtual and augmented reality stores to explore and interact with
She noted that the technology also allows consumers to explore and browse virtual stores in the same way they would explore video game environments, navigating through different sections of the store and clicking on products and collections to interact and learn about them.
“Consumers are looking for immersive interactive experiences that they can enjoy in the safety of their home, on any device and at any time of their choosing, and AR and VR enable that,” she said.
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Augmented reality provides appeal to younger shoppers who are adapting to technology
For many, AR-enabled e-commerce offers consumers a more engaging and enjoyable online experience, but as with any new product, technology, or experience, consumers have a learning curve when it comes to AR and VR.
“It is clear that younger shoppers who have grown up and live most of their lives on their mobile phones and interact with each other and with brands through video games, esports and social media are the group most likely to embrace new technologies, but other generations are coming as well,” Singh said.
She noted that the pandemic has been a tailwind to AR/VR adoption, as more people globally are getting involved in video games, purchasing fitness technology at home, and trying VR headsets for the first time.
From its point of view, AR/VR technology offers a very entertaining and immersive virtual shopping experience that many consumers love once they try it.
“We expect AR/VR headset adoption to continue to increase as technology and user experience improve and as awareness grows, as they provide unparalleled immersive experiences,” she said.
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Giving consumers a better view of the product through augmented reality and virtual reality
Ashley Crowder, co-founder and CEO of VNTANA, which helps companies upload existing 3D designs or 3D scans and create e-commerce and web-based augmented reality experiences, said its customers have found that augmented reality gives consumers a better understanding of the product.
“You can see this product true to size by lifting your phone and seeing it on your desk,” she said. “This is great for something like bags, where the number one reason to return is size issues.”
AR and VR give consumers a way to experience and interact with brands and products online that was impossible in the past, helping to increase conversion rates and basket size.
Apparel, beauty and home are some of the many retail categories that fit into AR and VR-enabled virtual shopping environments, because people want to know what these products will look like on them, or in their homes, in real life.
Crowder noted that companies like Snap and Meta are investing heavily to make augmented reality work at scale on their platforms, which will provide new opportunities for companies to attract consumers.
“Snapchat continues to invest in face and shoe experience technology, and their studies show a huge rise in conversion rates,” she said. “I think people don’t realize how easy it is – the technology is there, it’s just a matter of seeing it on more websites and in more places.”
Start building small projects
Crowder said companies can start small with a tactical investment in augmented reality, the first step of which is creating 3D models of products ready for the web.
“Start making 3D products on your website with items we know work well — anything with a face that seems to work well at the moment — and when you have a 3D asset, it opens up all the possibilities for you to push that on on Facebook or Snapchat .”
For retailers who already design and manufacture with 3D modeling software, she added, they may even have digital assets that can be leveraged and converted into web-ready images.
“We have a lot of customers who start with their top 10 products, or they start with their lowest selling products and see if offering an augmented reality experience with them provides a boost,” Crowder said. “You don’t have to start with everything.”
AR delivers apps across retail channels
Singh noted that grocery and consumer chain shopping experiences leverage technology, allowing consumers to discover and interact with products and brand content in immersive and engaging environments.
I predicted that virtual e-commerce experiences that support augmented reality and virtual reality will become more and more popular in 2022, not just for categories such as clothing, beauty and home, as augmented reality has been used for a number of years enabling shoppers to experience virtually different looks See how furniture can fit into a room their livelihood. “In the new year, many brands across categories will invest in building immersive virtual flagships that allow shoppers to discover, browse and interact with products in the same way they would in traditional stores in real life,” she said.
Singh noted that forward-looking brands and retailers are already creating immersive e-commerce experiences and beginning to envision how their brand and products will appear in the metaverse.
They create their own unique virtual stores, islands, and other environments where consumers can discover their brand, products and collections.
“Many fashion and accessory brands are already partnering with gaming platforms to test demand for virtual products and with companies like ours to build immersive virtual stores that are hosted on their own sites today, but will live on across the metaverse platforms in the coming years,” she said.
Formulate a plan for the long-term success of augmented reality deployment
Crowder noted that automation will be a key component of a successful augmented reality strategy, especially for companies with more products that need to be offered.
“Creating an AR experience for ten products is one thing, but for larger product groups you need an automated system to do that,” she said. “We explain that it’s just like uploading a video across multiple platforms, the codec changes but you don’t think about it – that’s what we do for 3D.”
For long-term success, Singh said brands need to build experiential e-commerce into their budgets and create three- to five-year plans for AR/VR initiatives and should organizationally consider virtual selling and create line items for these investments.
“In the long term, technological advances will allow brands to offer real-time virtual environments in order to provide a highly personalized e-commerce experience that most people cannot even imagine today.”