So, you’ve got an online business selling products or services to clients locally and, perhaps, abroad.
The retail sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, as shops closed and footfall disappeared, many businesses turned to online shopping to drive sales.
However, some businesses are taking this a step further and have begun to experiment with how new augmented reality (AR) technology can work hand in hand with and retail shopping to offer a customer experience, which can more closely match the high-street.
Coronavirus and AR: A safer way to shopWhilst many countries are hoping they are nearing the end of the coronavirus pandemic as restrictions are eased and global vaccination rates rise, for some the effects of the pandemic are far from over. Whether it be underlying health issues or personal preference the thought of entering a crowded retail space may be uncomfortable for some for months to come.
Though online shopping is nothing new, AR gives a more personalised experience alongside dealing with issues that online shoppers face (sizing concerns, bad lighting and simply whether or not you actually like the product you’re looking at).
As more brands branch into using AR those who are uncomfortable shopping in-person are able to experience the same as those who do shop in-store, whilst still feeling safe and protected.
Sofas to sneakers: The brands implementing AR appsMany brands began to introduce AR apps before the pandemic began, and some brands are on the path to bring AR to their customers now.
Furniture powerhouse IKEA has long used different technologies such as online planning services to give consumers a chance to bring their interior ideas to life before buying, back in 2017 the company launched its first AR app paired with Apple ARkit technology to let customers see what a piece of furniture may look like in their home. Earlier this year IKEA relaunched its AR app under IKEA Studio, which now captures entire rooms and their measurements to plan out your home.
Another brand taking its first steps into AR is Hotter shoes in the UK. The company has spent the last year investing a total of £370,000 in AR and new technology.
This has culminated in the launch of Hotter’s AR experiences app, which allows customers to try on and test the fit and design of a pair of shoes from the comfort of their own home, with the firm reporting a rise of 40% in transactions since the app was introduced.
The end of the high street?It’s been stated that the high street has been dying for years, and AR could be the final nail in the coffin. In 2013 Yihaodian, a Chinese grocery website created 1000 virtual stores overnight to rival other supermarkets. Using AR, they created stores that you could walk around with through your phone, and anything you bought was delivered straight to your home.
Whilst the UK has not reached that stage as of yet, with the way technology is evolving and stores existing without staff needed to run them is the future of AR and ‘shopless’ shopping really that far away?
AR is entering our lives in way we may not have imagined 10 years ago, and it’s important to remember that the technological advances in different forms of AR are only just beginning to evolve. From fashion retailer ASOS launching an app that shows customers clothing on different body types, to Royal Mail introducing a scanner to show just how much it will cost to send a parcel its clear to see that even the smallest of things are getting the AR treatment.
While the coronavirus pandemic may have accelerated investment in AR, it's clear that the technology was already garnering a lot of attention amongst online retailers. While it still remains prohibitively expensive for many businesses, as the technology continues to mature and development costs come down, could we see more online sellers seek to exploit its benefits in the future?
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