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5 Ways Augmented Reality is Transforming the Retail Industry

Virtual reality has featured for decades in high grossing sci-fi movies like the Matrix. However, real VR and AR tech has proven to be a surprisingly hard sell to consumers. Now, this is changing, largely thanks to a new wave of augmented reality apps that are breathing new life into modern retail.

As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, online and offline retailers are starting to use interactive retail technology to enrich customer experiences. Here, we’ll look at how.

Augmented Reality and the Rise of Virtual Fitting Rooms

When shopping for a new wardrobe, not everyone feels comfortable using in-store fitting rooms. As a result of Covid-19, some governments are even mandating that clothes stores shutter fitting rooms completely.

Thankfully, it is still possible for fashionistas to take new outfits for a test drive, using augmented reality apps.

- Augmented reality apps like Avametric, make it possible to try on wearable apparel virtually.

- In-store and online, apps allow consumers to mix and match outfits to their exact body shape using virtual 3D rendering.

- AR fitting room apps can be used by consumers online, in-store on consumer smartphones, or integrated into smart fitting room mirrors.

As well as making shopping more interactive, AR apps like Avametric reduce product returns. This is thanks to the fact that consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions, even when shopping online.

Using Augmented Reality Apps for Smarter Inventory Management

As well as making shopping more interactive, augmented reality apps can help retailers manage their inventory more effectively.

In many cases, retailers stock several variations of the same products. However, limited space in-store can limit how many variations of a product retailers put on display. Interactive retail technology solves this problem.

Now with AR and other forms of interactive retail technology, retailers can place scannable QR codes on products that help people quickly access extra product information.

- Once scanned, QR codes can let consumers know what other product variations are in-stock.

- Scannable QR codes can be used to help in-store consumers instantly access online product reviews.

- When shopping for bulky items like white goods, consumers can use interactive apps to check things like home delivery options.

According to Retail Dive, 58% of consumers already search for extra product information online while shopping. Retailers can, therefore, use AR apps and QR codes to quickly provide this information and lock-in sales in the process.

Interactive Retail Technology Helps Brands be More Social

As already discussed, Augmented reality apps like Avametric, help make shopping more interactive. However, the same apps can also be used by retailers as powerful marketing tools.

Right now in 2020, selfie sharing apps like Instagram have over 1 billion monthly users. Marketing savvy retailers can take advantage of this, by allowing consumers to share augmented reality selfies with their followers.

- When using augmented reality apps and virtual changing rooms, consumers can take selfies of themselves digitally trying on new garments.

- After taking selfies, shoppers can share these with social media followers, along with tags directing people to retail store locations and websites.

- Many brands like Framesdirect, Topshop, and De Beers, already allow consumers to share AR selfies that feature discrete product information and branding.

Using AR for 3D Furniture Shopping

It’s not just major fashion retailers that are starting to use augmented reality to make shopping more interactive. Already in 2020, furniture stores like Ikea allow customers to use augmented reality to superimpose 3D furniture renderings over images of home interiors.

Everyone hates falling in love with a new sofa or dining table, only to realize that new purchases clash with their existing decor. Now with apps like the Ikea catalog app, consumers can shop smarter.

- The Ikea catalog app allows consumers to match potential furniture purchases with their existing home decor.

- Users of AR apps like the Ikea catalog app can check the real dimensions of pieces of furniture, to ensure pieces physically fit in different home areas.

- AR apps can be used to incentivize extra add-on purchases, by suggesting accessories like rugs, throw cushions, mirrors, and table decorations.

Augmented Reality and Smarter In-Store Navigation

Modern retail stores and supermarkets can sometimes feel like retail labyrinths. With several departments, aisles, and hundreds of displays to navigate, finding specific items isn’t always easy. Now, though, retailers like Walgreen's are using AR to solve this problem.

In several Walgreen’s stores, customers can use AR apps on tablets embedded directly into shopping carts, to more easily navigate stores.

- Walgreen’s customers can search for specific items and have apps direct them to item locations in-store.

- As well as making it easier to find products, apps can serve consumers with special offers and promotions relevant to their product searches.

- In-store navigation apps can help with Covid-19 social distancing, by easing customer congestion and reducing the amount of time consumers spend in-store.

AR Gives Consumers More Control over Shopping Experiences

As of 2020, there are hundreds of new augmented reality apps coming online, all of which help retailers enhance customer experiences. In every case, though, apps need to have a specific practical purpose.

In-store navigation apps won't always be suitable in smaller retail outlets. Different fashion items like shoes and jewelry, also need slightly different AR apps to those that can superimpose full outfits over consumers.

Given the above, it is advisable that retailers looking to start using AR invest in the development of custom AR apps specific to their products and brand. Not off-the-shelf apps with limited or generic levels of functionality.

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