Augmented reality (AR) has already changed the way we shop, but could it be about to herald an even greater shift? Augmented reality ‘portals’ could soon see customers walk into an AR store that is projected in front of them, meaning they can pop to the shops from wherever they are – be that at home, at work, or even at the beach.
It may sound like a scene from a sci-fi movie, but this could be our reality in the near future according to Sunken Blimp, an architectural design studio which specializes in creating spaces in multiple realities, such as AR and virtual reality (VR).
The company posted a video on its TikTok account that showcased exactly how the portals could look.
A viral video
The clip shows a narrator wearing an augmented reality (AR) headset on a beach, viewing reality normally before an accessible portal comes into view.
The portal is the entrance to a virtual store layout belonging to furniture retailer Serendipity Furniture, which the narrator enters and can be seen walking around. The portal gateway back to the beach is still accessible.
In the narrator’s words: “This might be the future of e-commerce and architecture. Look at this, this is the portal into Serendipity Furniture store, which is a furniture store that uses inspiration from sea creatures and seashells. You can go into this portal and suddenly you’re in the space... full on immersive.”
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The narrator continues to explain how the AR technology would work with the viewer’s physical reality.
“Currently, I’m walking on the beach looking around and you can see the different furniture pieces and explore all that and see what’s on the menu or catalog,” he explains. “But when you look back, that’s the portal again for you to come out and walk back to the surface. You can experience this portable portal into whatever store you’re walking into.”
The video has since gone viral, with more than 1.2million views, 1 million likes, and generating more than 11,000 comments.
AR’s untapped potential
This prediction echoes research conducted by Snap in October 2022, which highlighted the “huge untapped potential” of AR for retailers.
The social media company, which owns Snapchat, found that brands are still failing to grasp what consumers want from AR when shopping.
According to Charged Retail, Snap surveyed more than 25,000 people across 11 markets, in partnership with market researchers Ipsos. The data revealed that 94% of brands still think that the main attraction of the technology for people is using it for fun.
But the study found that, in reality, only 54% of respondents listed fun as their main driver for using AR, with 55% listing shopping as their top reason for engaging with it. Furthermore, 79% of those surveyed stated that they were interested in using AR to visualize potential purchases in their own spaces, while 57% revealed they’re more likely to buy from brands that allow virtual try-ons using AR.
Transforming the way we shop
“250 million Snapchatters engage with AR every day,” said Snap head of UK business solutions Fintan Gillespie. “This technology is transforming the way we shop, and it isn’t an opportunity way off in the future – it’s happening right now.”
Importantly, the data revealed that 82% of brands believe that using AR in their sales strategy allows them to offer a smooth customer experience, helping to drive sales. But it also revealed the gap between the 77% of respondents who expressed a desire to use AR to interact with products before buying, and the 48% of brands offering such experiences – seemingly confirming the scale of the technology’s untapped potential.
AR portals can be an original marketing piece and a great engaging sneak peek into 3D environments of virtual stores. Users can evoke products (through augmented reality CTAs) into their unique physical environment and view them life-sized.
However, walking around a life-sized 3D environment (such as a shop) requires a significant empty space around the user to avoid tripping over or hitting a wall – so the customer experience is unclear.
Until AR glasses become mainstream, we see AR portals as a complement to 3D virtual stores on screen. These allow for full 3D walkarounds, interactions with life-sized products through augmented reality and arguably a more social buying experience that includes several people.
To find out how you can use 3D and AR with your business, contact Enhance today or book a free demo.