As is the case for many industries, the future of retail is heavily intertwined with the rate at which technology progresses. This is due in part to the fact that customers are more interconnected, rely increasingly on their mobile devices, and that network-reliant touchpoints form the backbone of the customer journey in most retail environments.
Michelle Evans, a Forbes contributor, said that the way people buy things “is in the middle of a head-to-toe makeover thanks to the plethora of available technologies.” Of these, augmented reality makes the greatest use of the widest amount of technologies. This includes utilizing in-store beacons, digital signage, mobile applications, in-store wireless networks, and cloud computing services.
Here are a few applications of augmented reality that are already in retail locations around the world, and why they both have the potential to drive sales.
Visualizing Products in Real Time
One of the first applications of AR tech began in the early 2010s, and the technology is by no means new. IKEA, for example, implemented their AR catalogue in 2013, which used the proportions of a room to insert certain items of furniture in true-to-life size into the room using a mobile phone’s camera.
The bugs that existed in early AR applications of visualizing furniture in your home have been slowly ironed out. More recently, Vertebrae released the Axis platform, allowing more sophisticated mapping of environments virtually anywhere. This extends beyond just furniture, as the application can demonstrate products ranging from clothing to vehicles.
How this drives sales: Products that are known for being subject to scrutiny and periods of consideration, from lower-cost consumer goods to furniture, can benefit from the expression, “having a customer hold the product is half the sale.” Being able to see a car in their parking space or a TV in their living room is a way to engage customers when they aren’t at your physical stores, and encourage foot traffic to your stores.
In-Store Assistants for Assisting the Customer Journey
Augmented reality is obviously a visual medium, but it is also one that can interact with your physical retail stores in useful ways. Most prominently, this is done by using beacons to signal to a mobile application that a user is in a particular location.
One of the early adopters of Google’s latest development in AR is Lowe’s, who has created a virtual assistant that guides customers to the location of where certain items are in the store. Customers can also input a shopping list, which the virtual assistant uses to create the most efficient route possible through the store.
As you can see, this is a use of augmented reality that also incorporated your store’s wireless systems and Silicon Valley AI. This is what the quote at the beginning implies; these technologies work together synergistically to create customer experiences that limit drop-off and ensure conversions.
How this drives sales: It might be apparent how a customer who is being personally guided around a store is less likely to simply abandon their cart. The novelty of a virtual assistant going into 2019 is still strong, as most retail stores offer nothing comparable as of right now. What’s more subtle is the fact that a virtual assistant is on your side: additional product suggestions and upselling are two seamless features that have a high chance for conversion when presented within the app.
The 2019 Retail Infrastructure
There is still a significant amount of novelty in implementing augmented reality. Many consumers may initially see it as a gimmick, especially if it doesn’t function as intended. To deploy AR to your retail stores, you need to have the network bandwidth, digital touchpoints, beacon framework, and cloud computing integration to make it all happen seamlessly. Otherwise, it will be a hefty investment for little effect.
If you want to roll out augmented reality next year, the time to prepare is right now. Designing and implementing the necessary infrastructure is not an overnight affair. If you want to find out where to start, simply fill out our contact form to the right and we will get in touch with you regarding how your retail stores can prepare for the next transformation in this industry.