If you have a smartphone, odds are that you’re already using augmented and virtual reality and don’t even realize it. Anytime you look at a Google map and see a real-life view of the world with directions or arrows appended over the top of it, that’s a light version of augmented reality. However, you may not realize the extent to which retailers of all sizes are planning to use these revolutionary technologies in commerce — and which of these ideas you can leverage to delight your own consumers! This type of innovation continues to disrupt the retail business, allowing those who master it to truly differentiate their products and services from their competitors. How can you stay ahead of the curve without being on the bleeding edge of adoption?
The Future is Now
Retailers everywhere are envisioning how to augment the physical shopping experience with the additional information that is available online. These details are often the best selling points for their item, but there isn’t enough room in the store to list detailed benefits and features. Digital reality doesn’t have that same limitation — you can overlay hundreds or thousands of words and additional images to entice your customer to do additional research in the hopes that they will make an immediate purchase. Pure eCommerce continues to be challenging for many retailers as customers still enjoy the tactile ability to touch and move a substantial product. This experience can lead to nasty surprises when the delivery truck rolls up to your door, causing costly returns. Augmented reality provides a way to view items directly in your home to see how they will fit, how they’ll work and more.
Virtual Experiences Equal Real Sales Dollars
Shopping on a small screen still isn’t a great experience, especially if a consumer is attempting to learn more about a particular product through reading specifics and viewing additional images. Browsing can be tough, with filters appearing and disappearing seemingly at random, depending on the app that you’re using. Retailers like Ikea and Amazon who spend the time to create a virtual reality app to buy large purchases such as furniture or housewares feels more immersive and “real” as you can view images from multiple perspectives, flip through various colors — all while you’re viewing an item exactly how it will fit in your living room or kitchen. Virtual and augmented reality experiences bring together the efficiency of shopping online with the tangible feel of a physical shopping experience to provide the best of both worlds.
With all of the excitement around augmented reality shopping, you may be wondering why you’re not building an app right at this minute to get started. Well, there are a few caveats. Sure, AR and VR are super cool — but they’re not totally functional yet, and adoption is lagging a bit. Virtual gear is either incredibly low-end (think Google Cardboard) or incredibly expensive (Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) and pretty darn clunky. Most consumers would be a bit embarrassed to wear these headsets in public, and the slight delay can cause slight feelings of nausea in some people. There are a few apps out there that are AR-ready, but the most effective ones are more simplistic than a full VR experience.
All that said, virtual and augmented reality are undoubtedly the future of retail. The question is when — not if — retailers and hardware developers will work out the kinks and create an experience that will be over-the-top amazing to drive widespread adoption. Want to see how you can get ready for this wave of the future? Make sure you’ve got all your data in one place, so you’re ready for the virtual revolution when it happens.