Augmented Reality (AR) is Improving Efficiency in Global Retail

For a while, AR was mostly associated with entertainment such as video games and social media AR filters known as masks, but now it is proving to be a powerful tool for medicine, education, science, logistics, and other fields. Retail is one of the sectors that hugely benefits from implementing AR.

AR is becoming more and more popular among brands and retailers which work with furniture, clothes, footwear, accessories, and beauty products. With the help of AR, they are trying to tackle problems connected with production challenges, financial efficiency, shifts in consumer habits, and sustainability. Currently, one of the key opportunities that AR offers to retail is the ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience, where consumers can use their smartphone cameras to superimpose a virtual object on physical environments or themselves.

Currently, one of the key opportunities that AR offers to retail is the ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience, where consumers can preview and assess how furniture will look in their homes, how clothes, shoes, and accessories will appear on their bodies, and how makeup and hair coloring products can enhance their faces and heads. Customers can use their smartphone cameras to superimpose a virtual object on physical environments or themselves.

The pandemic has boosted the popularity of online shopping. Consequently, for eCommerce, AR try-on is essential to increase sales, because people buy more when they feel confident in their choices.

👉 Brick-and-mortar stores can implement AR try-on too. In this case, the technology is hidden inside a physical virtual mirror, which lets shoppers try on AR garments or makeup in an easier and more fun way. In terms of clothing stores, with these devices, firms can use valuable retail space for something better than fitting rooms and customers can save time and energy while trying on more items.

👉 Smarter manufacturing
In the future, AR try-on may become a solution for smarter manufacturing and reducing humanity’s negative impact on the environment. Businesses can achieve this by using AR try-on technology to showcase concepts of products that are not yet produced.

Customers will request items they like, allowing retailers to predict the exact demand for each products, dramatically reducing product overproduction for items that eventually never get sold and end up in trash, polluting the environment. For example, in fashion retail, around 2,150 pieces of clothing are thrown away each second in the US alone.

Also, enterprises can apply AR to optimize retailers’ warehouses. German logistics provider DHL is already using augmented reality to increase employee productivity. At some DHL warehouses, staff wears smart glasses that help them find the best routes to the items they need to pick up. The devices also show information about an order, so workers do not have to carry scanners or papers. DHL reports that the innovation helps to speed up the logistics and reduce errors, which also saves time.

👉 Today, retailers are faced with finding new ways to build and preserve relationships with their clients. Contemporary consumers want more personalization and perceive shopping as an experience rather than a mundane, unemotional exchange of money for goods. AR is an great tool to enrich the shopping experience and enhance marketing. 

For example, retailers can build an AR experience into windows of a physical shop, like Christmas at Harrods last year, or into an indoor kiosk to entertain customers interacting with it.

AR Games
Firms can also leverage AR for gamification, which may be a separate marketing solution such as when video games resembling the mechanics of Pokémon Go are utilized similarly in warehouses to help customers navigate offline stores.

AR on Social Media & NFTs
AR Filters for social media platforms have already been a popular marketing solution for a long time. Their popularity proves that consumers enjoy engaging and playing with AR, and with its development, marketers can deploy even more AR solutions. For instance, companies can offer exclusive virtual-only items such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to customers as a part of a loyalty program.

Besides, it looks like more people will migrate to the Metaverse in the future. Retailers will need to reach that audience too, and AR is a great way to start experimenting with the possibilities of creating products and advertisements for the digital world.

To get inspired, one can look at brands and companies that successfully prove AR as a force for revolutionizing retail.

IKEA Studio is an app that helps customers assess how furniture will look in their apartment or office before buying it. Powered by AR, it enables users to place digital 3D models of items from IKEA’s catalogue anywhere they want with the help of their smartphone camera. The app can scan space and show a very accurate picture of how a product will fit in a room in terms of size. All 3D models look highly realistic, which makes the process enjoyable and truly useful.