September 21, 2022

How are immersive technologies transforming e-commerce?

Businesses are looking to immersive technologies to improve customer experience (CX), design efficient workflows and refine their brand image. 3D and augmented reality (AR) have disrupted e-commerce, and there’s no going back. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Immersive technologies have found immense success in e-commerce
  • 3D and AR boost customer engagement, improve CX and drive sales
  • Immersive technologies produce valuable customer data insights

The first fully-functional AR system was created in 1992 to train US military personnel. A decade later, Volkswagen used an AR app to help technicians save time by visualizing their repair work in advance. Within a few years, immersive technologies like AR and virtual reality (VR) had made their mark in media and entertainment. Then, in 2017, the retail giant IKEA launched the AR app IKEA Place. 

The launch of an AR-based shopping app signaled that immersive tech had arrived on the e-commerce scene – and it was here to stay. IKEA Place demystified immersive technologies for the average consumer. Furniture shoppers could use AR on their phones to visualize IKEA products in their own homes, without leaving the sofa. The app allowed them to scale products based on their room dimensions, scrutinize fabric textures, and assess how the furnishings looked under different lighting. 

Through IKEA Place, IKEA was able to improve CX and boost sales across channels in a single stroke. Other e-commerce businesses took note of this breakthrough and are rapidly adopting immersive technologies for business success. This article will explore how immersive technologies are transforming e-commerce.  

How have 3D and AR redefined e-commerce? 

Immersive technologies have revolutionized man-machine engagement. Customers have a better shopping experience, shop more, and return fewer products. Businesses, meanwhile, can drive omnichannel sales from immersive experiences and gain valuable customer data insights. 

VR pulls customers into alternate virtual universes, while AR enhances the real world by superimposing digital renderings on the user’s chosen environment. But 3D, AR and VR are more than just fancy engagement tools for customers to play around with; drastically improved customer experience results in more engagement, increased sales, higher conversion rates and superior brand image

And that’s not all. Immersive technologies bridge the gap between the physical and the digital. 

Immersive technologies offer hyper-personalized CX

A bricks-and-mortar store offers a shopping experience consumers are familiar and comfortable with. Shoppers can browse the shelves at their leisure, closely examine each item, try on clothes and compare prices. 

AR helps build a similarly personalized experience when shopping online. 61% of customers say that they prefer to shop from websites that offer an immersive experience. 

Customers get a try-before-you-buy experience, which helps them make better decisions and reduce the number of returns

With AR, businesses can reduce return rates

Another challenging aspect of online shopping is making purchase decisions. This is especially true of the retail clothing industry, where product return rates are disproportionately high. 

With 3D and AR, customers get a try-before-you-buy experience, which helps them make better decisions and reduce the number of returns. In the case of Macy’s, AR helped reduce return rates to less than 2%. 

With AR, customer's can get a better look of a product's appearance and size, which helps to reduce product returns. Click in "See in your space" to see these boots in your home

Immersive technologies produce a wealth of valuable business data

Without immersive technologies, e-commerce businesses can only access customer behavior data from the two-dimensional world of webpages and screens. But with AR and VR, businesses can learn how customers interact with products in the three-dimensional world. This unlocks a treasure trove of valuable customer data that isn’t accessible through apps and websites.

Immersive technologies in e-commerce

The metaverse and the future of immersive e-commerce

The ‘metaverse’ is a virtual universe. It exists as a combination of multiple innovations that interoperate seamlessly. From NFTs to social commerce to AR and VR, the metaverse is designed to unite the physical and the digital worlds.  

Retail giants like Amazon, Warby Parker and Gucci have already developed AR stores for the metaverse.

Visual e-commerce in the metaverse is, therefore, an amalgam of everything physical and digital. And what better tool to enable this union than immersive technologies? Retail giants like Amazon, Warby Parker and Gucci have already developed AR stores for the metaverse. 

Certain to form part of the digital economy of the future, the nascent stages of e-commerce in the metaverse are already here. Amazon is the first to incorporate early metaverse technology into its marketplace, with its new AR shopping tool, Room Decorator, allowing consumers to use their handheld device to visualize home decor pieces in their physical space. This takes the guesswork out of shopping. 

Eyewear retailer Warby Parker, meanwhile, has created virtual fitting apps, which allow users to try on glasses from their catalogs. Gucci and Adidas are also working on metaverse stores. 

Where do we go from here?

The first step to embracing the metaverse is creating a 3D product catalog powered by AR. As more businesses follow suit, competition will increase as companies seek ways to reach customers with highly engaging shopping experiences. Meanwhile, data insights from customer AR interactions will help businesses optimize the customer journey further, making hyper-personalized CX a must-have. The road to the future is clear, and for many, the journey has already begun.

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