The global pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and shop, accelerating both existing and emerging technological trends. As businesses adapt to the current landscape, we examine why augmented reality is the new normal.
- 75% of business leaders anticipate using AR or VR by 2023
- 61% of online shoppers prefer to make purchases on sites offering AR/VR
- Harvard Business Review: AR “an essential technology for retailers”
- 6x increase in global AR/VR spending forecast by 2024
It’s easy to think of augmented reality (AR) and 3D imaging as futuristic concepts, that leaders are aware could be tools to use in their companies, but are still a long way off.
Rapid advances in augmented reality, and its increased adoption coupled with changing consumer behavior tell us it’s time to lay that misconception to rest.
From Pokemon Go to Snapchat lenses, consumers are already interacting with augmented reality on a regular basis – AR and 3D is no longer just mere entertainment – they have become crucial technologies now used in different sectors.
Augmented reality technology is revolutionizing e-commerce and changing how consumers interact with brands. One of its major effects is its ability to influence purchasing decisions for potential customers.
It is a huge tool for increasing conversion rates and providing a wealth of new data and insights. Here’s why businesses are choosing to invest in augmented reality.
"Augmented reality will pervade our entire lives."Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality technology imposes digital information onto the users’ physical environment, augmenting their perception of the world around them, which involves rendering images onto the users’ surroundings, via their smart devices. Companies are already experimenting with overlaying elements, such as audio and GPS.
The way it’s being used in different sectors vary, for example in healthcare, augmented reality can help surgeons gather vital information about a patient during surgery. In architecture and design, it can help professionals visualize the final product and even enhance the creative process to the point where a person can virtually step inside their room or building, and make changes in real time.
From logistics to advertising, companies are pioneering, so it’s no surprise 75% of business leaders anticipate using augmented reality by the end of 2023.
Augmented reality in e-commerce
While the use of augmented reality is now being used across many sectors, there is one exception; e-commerce. Augmented reality could boost sales potential in e-commerce, for example, consumers could try on jewelry, clothing, or sunglasses, by simply looking at their smartphones. Augmented reality could even help render a potential new sofa or TV for a customer looking to buy furniture for their living room.
How augmented reality can do this is by checking for details such as style, color, and fit straight from the retailer’s website, and then provide that information to the consumer.
The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the advantages offered by augmented reality. With shops shut worldwide and consumers prevented from shopping in-store, it is now a good opportunity for retailers to explore the virtual realm. The adoption of augmented reality is more than just a response to extraordinary times.
In a 2019 Nielsen global survey, consumers were already listing augmented and virtual reality as one of the top technologies to assist them in their everyday, with 51% saying they were willing to use AR/VR to assess products.
Adding to this, IBM estimates the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping, and Harvard Business Review concludes; “Once augmented reality was a nice-to-have feature, it has now quickly become an essential technology for retailers.”
Consumer behavior and augmented reality
What do customers really think of augmented reality?
- 78% of people surveyed said augmented reality is a fun way to interact with brands, while 74% said augmented reality can bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds.
- Multiple case studies show an increase in customer engagement, where augmented visualization is presented in products.
Furthermore, research suggests augmented reality is no longer an optional extra.
- 75% of consumers now expect an augmented reality experience when shopping online, with 61% preferring to make purchases on sites that offer AR functionality. Retailers have even reported instances of conversion rates doubling, even tripling, for products where augmented reality was offered.
The conclusion is that those who are not investing to meet consumers’ expectations risk being left behind.
Augmented reality success stories
When consumers interacted with 3D and AR-enabled products:
- Home Depot reported that its product visualization feature boosted conversions 2 to 3 times compared to those who did not use it.
- US retail giant Macy’s reported return rates dropped to <2% for furniture purchases. (compared to the 5-7% industry average).
- Samsonite-owned eBags reported a 112% increase in mobile conversions and 81% on PC, boosting revenue per visit by 87%.
Looking to the future of innovative investments
Global spend on AR and VR is projected to increase sixfold by 2024. This technology enables less intrusive manufacturers to catch onto emerging trends, like wearables.
The major players in Silicon Valley have all expanded their investments in augmented reality, with Google already incorporating AR in its search results, and Facebook reportedly developing an augmented reality-enabled smartwatch. Apple is expected to release dedicated AR devices as soon as 2022, and with its track record in popularizing consumer tech, AR adoption will only accelerate.
“By 2030, we will be able to enter digital environments that appear completely real to all our five senses.” Ericsson Consumer Lab
Businesses are already seeing tangible results from their investments in augmented reality, with consumer demand expected to continue to grow.
Facebook asserts that “[there is] the possibility we are standing on the cusp of AR and VR as the next computing platform,”. The implications of that will affect every facet of the internet going forward.
Any digital interaction that currently takes place in 2D through hardware, will soon take place in the 3D augmented reality realm. The impetus to invest in AR comes from both competitors and customers, and businesses that fail to adapt will inevitably lose out in these competitive markets.