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The e-commerce world is changing fast. As we welcome new technologies to the online retail sector, it’s becoming easier than ever to recreate the experiences consumers traditionally have in a physical store.
From powering virtual try-ons to 3D product placements, augmented reality is transforming online shopping. Transporting browsers to new dimensions, AR can reinvent the shopping experience by merging a user’s physical environment with digitalized enhancements.
Whether you’re dying to try on the latest style from your favorite brand before purchasing or want to size up a new sofa in your own living room, AR can make it happen. Typically via smartphone cameras or dedicated headsets, the technology brings an interactive shopping experience straight to our doorsteps.
The e-commerce sector is filled with AR examples, from virtual try-on studios for fashionistas to 3D replicas of living spaces for home designers and social media filters that boost customer engagement.
Set to surpass $50 billion by 2024, industries are eager to adopt augmented reality and take customer experience to a new level.
AR examples: How brands are transforming e-commerce
With AR becoming more widely used on e-commerce sites, we no longer need to enter a physical store to trial our favorite products.
According to Statista, the number of consumers worldwide who use AR frequently will grow to 4.3 billion by 2025, up from 1.5 billion in 2021.
1. The virtual fitting room
One of the key barriers separating shopping on the physical high street from the digital one is the ability to experience products in their full form. In a physical shop, you can try on clothes and test makeup shades before you make the decision to purchase.
Enter the age of the virtual try-on. Using augmented reality to their advantage, brands can now project live images of their consumers on a mobile screen and test makeup colors and try on apparel with digital overlays of their products.
Sephora is a great AR example. After launching their own augmented reality-powered Virtual Artist several years ago, their online store and app now allow consumers to use their smartphone to try on foundation shades and lipstick colors before purchasing.
YSL Beauty is another example. Using either the online store or the app, consumers can try lipstick and lip gloss colors on themselves, through live or uploaded images, before purchasing.
2. Preview placement
While the virtual try-on suite is ideal for trying on clothes and picking the best foundation shade, AR also can help a consumer choose their perfect sofa.
Spatial AR is a growing trend for furniture retailers. Consumers can now place virtual pieces of furniture within their living space for an idea of how their next lamp, table or sofa will look.
“Not being able to make those calculations is a very common conversion hurdle that can lead to a loss in sales, but AR gives the online store owner the tools to avoid losing that potential buyer,” Azad Abbasi, Founder & CEO of Genius XR, wrote in a Forbes article. “It is thanks to this level of immersion that many brands are taking their online sales to a whole new level.”
IKEA was one of the first major furniture retailers to introduce AR to its e-commerce store five years ago. Last year, the Scandinavian retail chain debuted a new AI-driven app where shoppers can create a 3D replica of their living space, edit out existing furniture, and see how new pieces would look.
Amazon also introduced AR features to its online shopping experience in 2017 to help shoppers visualize products in their own space, and has since expanded its AR capabilities.
3. Interactive user manuals
If you’re selling a product that requires instructions, AR could improve consumer aftercare. It can be hard to fix furniture together with manual instructions, let alone a piece of software.
AR-powered interactive manuals allow a consumer to access instructions digitally and engage with them as virtual projections. Providing on-page support and visualizations of particular parts and methods, they’ve become a great way for users to understand more about how a product works.
4. AR social media filters
If you’re a social media user, you’ve likely seen clever interactive filters filling up Snapchat posts and Instagram stories. While most of these are used for fun, AR social filters also have been leveraged by brands to enhance product try-ons and sharing for a boost in online engagement.
Here are examples of brands using Instagram AR filters:
- Adidas Originals: Take a selfie or video as golden Adidas logos circle you.
- Kylie Cosmetics: Try on lipsticks from Kylie’s Lip Kits to see which shade best suits your skin tone before purchasing.
- Disney: Add Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse ears to your photos or videos, and tap on the screen to switch between different styles.
- Lego: Take a picture or video with your face embedded into a Lego Astronaut.
- NBA: Take a half-court shot from inside a virtual arena using your back camera.
What will the metaverse customer experience look like? Here, we explore examples and ways brands can benefit.
Comparing AR technologies
If you’re looking to boost your online shop, it could be time to incorporate AR into your site strategy. Not only has it been proven to raise brand engagement and boost social sharing, but can help position a brand ahead of the technological curve.
Before embarking on your AR journey, it’s helpful to know the types of augmented reality.
Marker-Based AR: Requiring a camera and a marker such as a QR code or specific packaging design, users can simply point their smartphone at the marker and view 3D digital overlays in a real-world environment. A great example comes from the Good Crisp Company, which uses its recognizable product packaging as a marker to trigger an exciting AR-infused experience.
Markerless AR: These augmented experiences are accessed via a link or app, making this type of AR a super addition to an online store or branded application. Markerless AR works by scanning an area around the user and placing the digital overlay on a flat surface, such as a road. Take Google’s AR-powered Jurassic World experience. You search for “dinosaur” or one of the 10 dinosaurs on the Google app or any browser and tap “View in 3D” to see a virtual dinosaur in a real-world location.
Location-based AR: This is a smart choice for brands that operate in the tourism sector or have multiple retail shops in different countries. Location AR leverages the user’s GPS and can overlay 3D experiences onto real-life environments to provide information about landmarks, interactive maps, and more.
AR in e-commerce is just getting started
As we step into a new digital high street, AR is set to dominate brand engagement and continue to improve the modern-day user experience. By 2025, revenue generated by AR and VR in the retail industry is expected to reach $1.6 billion.
The question is, where could technology go next? After the pandemic-driven boom in e-commerce, we suspect that AR/VR solutions are just the beginning for digitalized shopping.