For a long time, the conversation in retail has centered on creating digital experiences that match the face-to-face experience shoppers expect in brick and mortar stores. Augmented reality is very exciting martech because it makes it possible to provide shoppers with an experience previously unavailable in any setting.
For example, consider couch shopping. Anyone who has ever purchased a couch – or any piece of furniture – knows that a couch that looks absolutely perfect in the store can turn out to be absolutely the wrong size, color, or style when placed in your home. Try as you might to envision your actual home setting while shopping, bad couch decisions do get made.
Ikea is using augmented reality to let furniture shoppers see how items will appear in their actual homes. The augmented reality uses the images captured via a smartphone’s camera with digital overlay representations of the merchandise: users can see if the black leather Kivik sofa really works in their family room before they buy.
Have Your Customers Ever Played The Sims?
In 1991, a massive firestorm destroyed Will Wright’s home. While he was recovering from that horrible experience, he decided to create a virtual dollhouse – a digital environment he could create and edit as he saw fit. That dollhouse became The Sims, which debuted as a video game in 2000. 16 million copies of The Sims sold, making it the world’s best selling game. Since that auspicious start, The Sims has been continued to grow: the game’s latest release is scheduled to debut next week.
Shopping for a couch using Ikea’s augmented reality app is a lot like playing the Sims. It feels comfortable and natural for any player to use; there’s a familiarity to the experience that lies entirely outside of retail. Users are shopping, but it feels like they’re playing.
Augmented reality allows for extremely personalized, highly targeted recommendations – the decision to provide these via a skilled human salesperson, the way Stitch Fix does, or via algorithm, Amazon style – is one each retailer is going to have to make for themselves. Customer expectations are certainly being shaped by augmented reality; the fashion industry has been leading the way in this arena for years, prioritizing customers’ ability to see what apparel and accessories would look like on.
If you’re wondering if augmented reality would be appealing to your customers, you’ll want to take a look at your website analytics. Device usage data will show you what percentage of your customers visit your website via a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device. Augmented reality technology works best on tablets and large screen smartphones. If a significant percentage of your customers are using this technology, augmented reality is worth exploring now; if that’s not the case, you’ll still want to keep an eye on this technology as the AR enhanced shopping experience becomes more mainstream.