Changes in Retail World with AR: Best Practices
AR is not absolutely new, it has been used for more than 10 years in many industries. But the further development of AR promises so many benefits both for the consumers and for retailers. After the launch of ARKit by Apple and ARCore by Google in 2017, 20% of customers expect retailers to use the AR application (data from DigitalBridge Research, September 2017). Moreover, more than a half of all consumers are disappointed with the retailers and think that they mostly fail to use the new technologies already available to them (in AR and VR). And 69% of consumers expect retailers to launch AR applications until Spring of 2018 (in acordance with DigitalBridge Research, September 2017). Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in an interview to Vogue in October 2017 said about AR in retail: "Over time, I think [these features] will be as key as having a website".
In fact, many retail businesses created their first AR applications long ago. One of the examples is Topology Eyewear. Their app allows customers to try on glasses in AR, and it helps to choose the right option without even visiting the store and physical fitting. Thus, AR can be a perfect way to increase online sales for all these retailers while there will be no need in physical fitting of thir goods.
Another example is Converse Shoe Sampler. This company launched its application in 2010. If their customers wanted to try a shoe, they could just point the camera at their feet and the application could overlay the model of the shoe. Their e-commerce platform is now linked to AR application.
The early success of AR in retail and e-commerce can be found in IKEA catalog. The main idea was to fill the gap between the Clients' wants and needs and the reality of the products (furniture) in the exact interior. We all know that it is hard to visualize the new furniture at home while shopping online or even offline. How will this new table or sofa look in the exact space of my house? Will the size fit this corner of the room? There are a lot of questions we usually ask and sometimes we just can not answer, and AR helps to find the right decision. First, IKEA launched its catalog with 3D models and AR application in 2013, and the customers could point the right place for the furniture in their homes in real time. In 2014 IKEA simplified the application: the customer could place the catalog where he or she would place the furniture and understand whether it was the right choice of model, size, color and other features.
After IKEA many furniture retailers pioneered to launch AR applications in their businesses. They understood the main advantages of the use of AR and increased the efficiency of marketing activities after all. Among them are such companies as Anthropologie and Wayfair. In the last versions of Anthropologie and IKEA AR applications (October 2017) the customers can see how a new table or chair might look in their rooms, they can choose even different samples of fabrics and colors.
After the furniture retailers, some early adopters of AR technology can be found in fashion industry. For example, L'Oreal Makeup Genius application uses AR to let the customers try-on beauty products on their phones. Now it has more than 20 million downloads. Sephora, Charlotte Tilbury and Rimmel have followed L'Oreal. To enable trust and transparency, the new trendsetters in AR say that retailers will provide augmented content in the store for where the goods come from, what are the main ingredients, where do they come from. Storytelling on brands will also take place. The next step of AR application development in fashion retail is done in runway shows, when during the fashion week people can see not only the front or back of the product, but the whole one from different sides, and to study the details of the garment with the help of AR application.
At the end of September 2017 Burberry became one of the most innovative brands in fashion retail. They introduced a new AR feature to its iPhone application, which gives the customer an opportunity to overlay the illustrations by the artist Danny Sangra on the background of their shots from mobile device and to share them with friends in social media.
AR is not just entertainment, it gives very important data for the business which can be analyzed and interpreted to increase sales and efficiency in the whole marketing complex. Tim Cook predicts a significant role of AR in 2 years in online shopping experience. Some companies already work on building enormous data-bases of different goods, and Apple tends to support them much. In the nearest future there will be new AR applications when your camera will be able to catch any dress on the woman on the street and to get all necessary information about it from the cloud, and to find where to buy this or similar product. This is just another way to make retail business after all!