AR or Augmented Reality is a relatively new technology that is slowly finding its place in the retail world. It involves integrating virtual elements like labels and directions with real-world entities like stores and venues. And with Apple and Google offering platforms like ARKit and ARCore respectively, the AR market is expected to grow into a $198 billion industry by 2025. One of the largest benefactors of this growth will be the retail industry, with 75% of customers already expecting retailers to offer an augmented reality experience.

AR cuts the waiting time

The ways in which AR is transforming retail are several. A major deterrent to shopping at stores is that customers are unwilling to wait in line to try out new products, even if they really need them. Some brands like Lacoste have included an AR experience within their app to allow users to try on shoes before they walk into stores to purchase them. Sephora has also come up with an app to show users how their makeup products might look on their faces. Brands like TopShop and Timberland have created virtual fitting rooms in their stores that allow people to see how clothes looked on their bodies without actually trying anything on.

See it as it is

Trying to purchase a home product in-store might not always give a user an idea of how it would fit or look in their homes. Companies like Ikea have developed AR tech that lets users pick items off their catalogue and place it at locations in their home to see how it looks. On similar lines, Home Depot has released an app to show a user how a paint colour looks in their room, after taking into account the lighting conditions and shadows that exist.

Ability to reduce stocks

Effectively bringing the store to the one’s couch at home, these technologies might eventually lead to the end of physical stores. This will further help lower costs, as the costs associated with physical stores like rent, wages, etc. will cease to exist. While it might yet be too early to call for the end of physical stores, AR will allow stores to maintain increasingly lower stock levels, until the point that stores are left only with a few pieces on the shelves to maintain the brand image and show off products in the flesh for the few customers who demand it. However, some companies like Zara and Timberland have chosen to use AR to improve their in-store experience with digital enhancements, instead of making physical stores obsolete.

Top categories for AR

Both consumers and retailers appear to consider AR the next big thing in retail. With its rapid growth in retail, some sectors have begun using it more than others. 60% and 55% of shoppers want to use AR to shop for furniture and clothes respectively, while the percentages for grocery, shoes and jewellery stand at 39%, 29%, and 25% each. Short of actually holding a product, AR will allow e-commerce customers to experience its every detail, and is expected to significantly reduce the substantial losses that e-commerce companies face while processing free returns.

In reality though, AR is still a few years away from being implemented in mainstream retail. Apps are still battery intensive, choppy and not very reliable. Nevertheless, the future appears quite bright and exciting for this new technology.


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