Augmented Reality: Reshaping and Revamping Online Retail

By Kate Hellig, Junior Account Executive

“Let’s meet for brunch and then spend the afternoon shopping.” Brunch? Yes, absolutely! Spend the afternoon shopping? No thanks! Those four words have me running for the hills: the crowds of people; constantly feeling rushed; not finding anything that catches my eye. And don’t even get me started on queuing for the changing room!

For me, it’s online shopping all the way: the convenience (not laziness!); the accessibility; the choice. And, quite clearly, I am not the only one. In a study performed by Orbelo, there are roughly 7.8 billion people in the world and it is predicted that more than a quarter (26%), or 2.05 billion of them, will be online shoppers by the end of 2020. Furthermore, a report by global professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal estimates that 17.2 million British consumers plan to make their switch to online shopping permanent as perceived risks of contracting COVID-19 at physical stores redirects spending into online channels.

Online consumerism is not only here to stay but is on the rise. With this comes increased competition as retailers look at ways of developing new engaging, interactive online experiences that go beyond just click and collect or delivery: the next level experience for shoppers, enticing them and drawing them back. Cue AR.

Augmented Reality (AR) is being used by retailers to take their online shopping experience up a notch to establish an advantage over their competitors. To remain competitive and profitable, it is no longer enough just to have an online presence. An online shopping experience must now be personal and interactive to help ease buyer uncertainty and drive profit through consumer satisfaction.

You can only imagine my delight in this world of AR coming to life from the comfort of my own home. It’s essentially bricks and mortar shopping but remotely – far removed from heaving crowds and deafening background music.

Ever made an online shopping mistake because you didn’t notice the pair of trousers being listed as high-waisted before clicking “pay”? No longer an issue thanks to ASOS’s Virtual Catwalk. Want to make sure your coveted IKEA sofa will look good in your lounge? Never fear, there’s an app for that now. Even the wine world is upping its game with Living Wine Labels combining history, virtual integration and good wine (19 Crimes Red Blend – 110% recommend and not just because of the Irish-accented label talking to me).

And it’s not just consumers benefitting from AR. Retailers are reaping the rewards of AR as well, which include better product exposure, improved online sales, increased customer loyalty and reduced returns.

Although AR is still in its infancy, the technology is already becoming integral for major retail brands and it’s becoming clear that the time for retailers to invest in it is now. This new wave of immersive shopping is setting new expectations for today’s digital customer. In fact, 71% of consumers say they would shop more often with a retailer if they used AR and, by 2025, it’s predicted that AR will be common place.

I wholly expect this trend to not only continue but to be developed even further in this sector as more shoppers utilise online shopping and competition between retailers heats up. So, while sitting in the comfort of my lounge, wishfully “trying on” Gucci footwear that I most definitely cannot afford, I eagerly await the emergence of the future exciting online retail AR ventures that will no doubt give me further reason to stay put and shop online!