eCommerce growth is nothing new to retail, but with the coronavirus pandemic, brands are having to quickly evolve to meet the needs of consumers. Many reports are showing eCommerce growth for essentials and even sales comparable to BFCM but other industries are going to need to help customers shop in a new way as we all learn to adapt to our new way of life.
Since 2016, we’ve seen increased use of AR by retailers. If you haven’t checked out AR in the last few years, you may be surprised by how much it has improved (in large part thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and mobile device technology). There has been a large improvement with how brands are using it to create engaging user experiences, and how much shoppers want AR. For example, an Accenture survey found that 61% of consumers said they were interested in using augmented reality to help them better determine how clothes would fit when shopping online.
The Accenture survey also found that consumers want to use AR for more than just fun. That means, in contrast to past uses of AR by retailers – primarily promotional (e.g., pop-up shops by Airwalk that created virtual sneaker showrooms on the street), consumers are now interested in AR as a helpful eCommerce tool to deliver a better shopping experience and help them shop smarter. This shift presents a great opportunity for forward-thinking eCommerce merchants!
"Rebecca Minkoff has been using 3D models on their product pages since Fall of last year. They found that visitors who interacted with a 3D model were 44% more likely to add a product to their cart and 27% more likely to place an order than visitors who didn’t. And when visitors viewed a product in AR, they became 65% more likely to make a purchase." Source
Try before you buy
One of the biggest challenges for eCommerce retailers is convincing consumers to buy without touching, trying, smelling, or seeing the product up close and personal. While there still is no “Smell-O-Vision” solution, today’s AR technology helps bring some of that in-person experience online. Additionally, augmented reality shopping can help reduce returns by giving customers a way to “try it” or visualize it in their life/space before they purchase.
For example, beauty and fashion retailers like Bumbleride, Warby Parker, Sephora and ASOS have been successful applying AR to help customers make purchase decisions. With Warby Parker’s mobile app, customers can take a selfie and virtually try on different glasses. The app also takes measurements of a person’s face to help the customer choose glasses that fit properly, and also makes it easy to “buy now” once a decision is made. Sephora’s Virtual Artist app allows shoppers to upload a photo and try on different make-up looks. ASOS has launched several AR tools, including “See My Fit” that allows customers to “try on” outfits on models with body shapes similar to their own, and Virtual Catwalk, which allows customers to use their mobile phones to see models as if they were walking in front of them.
After implementing 3D models in their store, Bumbleride saw a conversion rate increase of 33% for strollers and increased time on page of up to 21%. Source
Ikea Place, Ikea’s mobile app that enables consumers to “place” furniture into their rooms to see if it will fit a space and how it will look, might be one of the more successful retailer applications of augmented reality shopping to date, with 3D images of furniture showing up to scale, and mimicking realistic fabric texture, shadows and lighting. Ikea’s mobile app also now enables consumers to easily find a replacement for a favorite chair with visual search – consumers point their camera at a piece of furniture and Ikea makes suggestions for similar pieces. In addition, furniture marketplace Wayfair recently upgraded its mobile app with features including “Interactive Photo for View in Room 3D.”
AR the right way
As with any new technology, there’s a learning curve of how to apply augmented reality shopping successfully. Some key best practices to have on your radar if you’re considering implementing an AR tool for your customers include:
- Ensure consistent UX: As with your eCommerce UX, the user experience for an AR tool should be consistent across devices, for example, on desktop and mobile. Sephora Virtual Artist had an issue with this, with the mobile app providing a more user-friendly experience than desktop.
- Simplify the UX: You don’t want the AR experience to make buying more complicated or turn customers off. It should be intuitive and easy to use and make the shopping experience more engaging, not less. For example, if a customer has to input lots of measurements or take too many photos, they may walk away.
- Be authentic: ASOS got called out by consumers and the media for using clips to make the clothing on their models fit “better;” this meant users didn’t get an authentic representation of how the clothing really would look on their bodies.
- Be upfront about user privacy: Consumers uploading photos of themselves or their rooms may feel uneasy about where those photos are going – are they being stored or used by the company? Retailers need to be transparent about privacy policies to make consumers comfortable participating in an augmented reality shopping experience.
What you need to get started
Technology companies are starting to offer ways to make AR easier and cost-effective to implement. In the case of Shopify, retailers can offer AR views and interactions with their products on mobile, with Shopify AR and 3D Warehouse. See more examples of Shopify AR
How to do it? You’ll need to hire an expert to create 3D models of your products. These are built from CAD drawings or from multiple images, as well as measurements; then upload 3D models of your products and then link them to products in your store. Shopify integrates pretty seamlessly with the product gallery in 3D Warehouse. Shopify AR enables customers to launch an AR viewer on their mobile devices so that they can “place” items in their rooms as they view a room through their camera. On desktop, via an iframe integration, customers can view 3D objects in a 360-degree view.
In addition to an AR room viewer, 3D product models built for Shopify AR can be used on product pages as “product customizers,” allowing shoppers to change product colors, features, etc.
If you’re already on Shopify or Shopify Plus, it’s worth checking out how you could integrate augmented reality shopping into your customers’ experience. However, it’s important to make sure the experience fits with your brand and enhances rather than hampers the shopping experience -- which requires a good deal of planning, design and technology expertise. Also, working with an expert will make the overall process smoother and avoid costly mistakes.