AR Places Consumers at the Center of the Shopping Experience

April 15th, 2019 | Cattleya

Consumer decision-making is driven by both emotional and rational considerations. As consumers, we’re not only caring about needs, prices or availability, but also about how we feel during shopping.

AR technology has a unique ability to place the consumer at the center of the shopping experience, stroking our ego and making us feel good.

We live in an interactive world where information about products and services is never further away than a few clicks, but that information is rarely contextual, in the sense that our phones will display the same information at home, at the office or in a shopping mall. Regarding the latter, Augmented reality helps retailers to provide interactive content in context, as the camera understand its physical surroundings and curates the information about products and brands.

Along with upcoming 5G & AI, there is no doubt that AR is already playing a significant role in today’s New Retail, not only to create a WOW effect, but more fundamentally for engagement and utility. Focusing on AR in retail, let’s take a look at three existing use-cases, AR + supermarket, AR + furniture and AR + fashion&cosmetics.

 

1) AR + supermarket

Supermarkets are one of the most traditional retailers, looking nearly the same as they did 50 years ago. With their shoppers growingly choosing e-commerce across multiple devices (mobile, voice assistants, etc), the supermarket chains need to remain connected and relevant. Augmented Reality provides the perfect bridge between the real world and digital content.

 

Example 1: Tesco

The Reality Engine AR platform is accessible via the Tesco Discover app. By scanning Tesco product labels, magazines, and in-store POS, the app enables millions of readers to discover more about the provenance of Tesco products, interact with editorial features, purchase products and engage with in-store experiences. Currently, most of the content is 2D but this goes to the right direction.

 

Example 2: Coolhobo shopping

Coolhobo uses mobile Augmented Reality (AR) in stores to inform, guide, and reduce effort, while making the shopping experience more fun, entertaining, and social. We have partnered up with supermarkets and shopping malls to provide shoppers with three core functions: Augmented Store, Augmented Products, and Augmented Lifestyle.

 

Augmented Store: is an indoor search tool used to locate items easily. All that a user needs to do is to type in the desired item and follow the virtual assistant who will locate with a few centimeters accuracy and optimize the shortest possible shopping route. If there is interest in promotions, new products, or special offers, we’ll make sure to display them on the way. Finally, for special requests (ingredient free, organic, etc.) we apply visual overlays to highlight those specified items.

Augmented Products: Each SKU can be recognized by its packaging or barcode. Once a product is recognized, product information provided by the brands/retailers or generated by other shoppers can be delivered to consumers in creative and engaging ways. This information may include the brand story, grading for food, cosmetics, and alcohol, ingredient classification, shoppers’ comments, and a recommendations system, all helping consumers to make a smarter purchasing decision. What’s more, we have also designed various styles of AR scenes and games for different products to create a memorable experience, blending the real and the virtual.

Augmented Lifestyle: Shopping should be fun, that’s why new AR experiences are released every two weeks. We aim at creating immersive, engaging, and fun AR experiences to be played and shared while in store.

 

2) AR + furniture

We’ve all been there: Buying some home decoration with the wrong size, color, or when it just doesn’t look the way we imagined it, regardless of shopping online or at a physical store. When designing or decorating your home, one of the key things is the ability to visualize a piece of furniture in its intended space. AR technology allows buyers to contextualize a product and has the added 3D value of spatial understanding i.e. how the product fits in different corners, colors, or rotations within their homes.

 

Example 1: Houzz

With the enhanced “View in My Room 3D” tool from Houzz, products appear in true-to-life scale which enables users to walk around their selected product in order to get a closer virtual look at how its surfaces will appear in their room’s light. In addition, the tool now features a shopping list that helps shoppers keep track of the items they have previously checked, making it easier to use Houzz and get inspired to shop from the comfort of their home.

 

Example 2: IKEA

Some customers weren’t confident about buying in the past, so this APP is aimed at making that experience easier for them. Furniture is correctly sized down to millimeters with the possibility to walk right up and get a close up look at fabrics and colors. Of the 2200 items that can be tried for size, most are larger items found in the living room, such as sofas, coffee, and dining tables.

 

3) AR + fashion/cosmetics

This may be an embarrassing case we’ve all faced at some point: Though we finally chose a nice-looking shirt, honestly, we felt too lazy to try it on in a fitting room, considering it all too laborious. It directly lowers the customer’s satisfaction when they are made to wait a long time for a dressing room to become available. Besides, the firm and rigid mannequins in the shop are not vivid enough to reveal the true beauty of the clothes.

While for online retailers, it’s another challenge for them to be able to let shoppers try before they buy. 

So how can AR help to shop for fashion or cosmetics?

 

Example 1: Virtual Fitting Room

Virtual fitting rooms are developed based on AR technology. Standing in front of it, visitors can try on products without actually wearing them. It measures the person's height and body shape and displays the person wearing a virtual garment (or other clothes, shoes, accessoriesetc.). This technology combines mirror with AR and enables customers experimenting with any colors and product types while saving their time. It also improves conversion rates and reduces returns for clothes, jewelry, cosmetics and other products that may be tried on.

 

Example 2: Jingdong Mall

Testing makeup has been an issue for many online consumers given that it’s difficult to judge just by seeing photos of products without knowing how they will actually work on their own faces.

JD.com ’s online Styling Station, an upgrade from its previous AR makeup platform, uses AR to allow shoppers to virtually try on makeup from leading global brands on their own faces with real makeup effects, such as matte and pearl lip colors, online before buying. It’s also available for blush, colored contact lenses and eyebrow pencils.

AR technology of JD.com not only solves online cosmetics testing problems, but also enables potential customers to share their photos with friends, which in turn helps drive customer traffic and increase conversion rates for brands.

 

Example 3: ZARA

Zara decided to bring fashionable looks to life in stores by bringing AR fashion shows at more than 120 stores worldwide, featuring the fast fashion brand’s best looks on top international models. Consumers can simply point their phones at the window display or special podiums set up throughout the store to view an AR fashion show experience.

This gives customers the chance to see how the clothes will truly look and move in real life. If you like what you see, shoppers can purchase the outfits as a whole or item-by-item with the touch of a button in the app or within the store.

 

Summary

Augmented Reality offers a digital solution for both online and offline retailers by impacting the emotional and cognitive aspects of the shopping journey. As the natural bridge between E-commerce and physical retail, AR offers a fabulous opportunity to attract, engage and increase conversion. As a nascent technology, AR is still evolving extremely fast, so those examples represent only the early stages. Once the full potential of AR is unlocked, we will live in a new world which will disrupt every aspect of our physical life, retail included.

Since 2018, we are converging toward this new world (sometimes referred to the AR cloud, spatial web or spatial computing). We are releasing the first experiences with partners in China this year before opening our APIs to existing apps for retailers, brands and physical places. In the coming years, Mixed Reality (or Extended Reality) will also be deployed on smart glasses and web browsers to let everyone anchor their information to the physical world.

And enjoy this augmented world!