3D and AR
Augmented reality adoption in business: trends and forecasts
3D and AR

Augmented reality adoption in business: trends and forecasts

Written by

Rod Reynolds


December 4, 2023

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The way we live, work, and shop has changed radically in recent years. For consumers it’s a boomtime, as technology brings ever more convenience and immediacy to commerce – presenting brands with the challenge of how to keep up with changing expectations.  

Key takeaways:  

  • 61% of online shoppers prefer to make purchases on sites offering AR
  • Harvard Business Review: AR “an essential technology for retailers”
  • 6x increase in global immersive tech spending forecast by 2024  

For time-poor business leaders, it may seem that 3D and AR are technologies they are aware they need to integrate into their operations – just not right now. But rapid advances in AR and its increased adoption, coupled with changing consumer behavior, should prompt a rethink.  

From Snapchat filters to Pokemon Go, consumers already interact with AR on a regular basis – and not only in the entertainment sphere. 3D and AR is disrupting sectors from manufacturing to education, and revolutionizing ecommerce – changing how consumers expect to interact with brands while influencing purchasing decisions, improving conversion rates, and providing a wealth of new data insights for companies to utilize. Here’s why businesses are investing in AR so readily.

What is augmented reality?

‍AR technology superimposes digital information onto the users’ physical environment, enhancing or augmenting their perception of the world around them. Most commonly this involves rendering images onto the users’ surroundings via their smart device – but this digital content can include additional elements such as audio and GPS.

Applications vary widely by sector. In healthcare, AR allows surgeons to practice difficult or dangerous procedures before entering the operating theatre, while in architecture and design, AR can help professionals visualize the final product during the creative process, allowing them to step inside their room or building and even make virtual changes on the spot.

From logistics to advertising, brands are pioneering new ways of working using AR, so it’s no surprise 75% of business leaders now expect to integrate AR and associated immersive technologies into their operations.

Augmented reality in ecommerce

‍While the use of AR is diverse and widespread, ecommerce is one of the business sectors where its benefits are being most acutely exploited. Consumers can try on jewelry, clothing and sunglasses, just by looking at their smartphones, and visualize a potential new sofa or TV in their living room, to check for style, color, and fit, without ever leaving home.

You can see this furniture in your space by clicking 'See in your space'

The pandemic accelerated the use of augmented reality, but its increasing adoption was already well underway. In a 2019 Nielsen global survey, consumers listed augmented and virtual reality as the top technologies they were seeking to assist them in their daily lives, with 51% saying they were willing to use AR/VR to assess products. Given that IBM estimates the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly five years, it’s easy to see why the Harvard Business Review concludes, “Once a nice-to-have feature, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers.”

Consumer behavior and AR

‍The value of global ecommerce sales is estimated at USD6.3 trillion in 2023, representing around 20% of all retail sales worldwide. For businesses fighting for a share of this lucrative market, where should AR fit into their ecommerce strategy? The answer, as far as consumers are concerned, is right at the heart of it.

78% of people surveyed said AR is a fun way to interact with brands, while 74% said AR can bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds. Given consumers' evident appetite for the technology, it is perhaps no surprise that numerous case studies show an increase in customer engagement with products where AR visualization is offered.

Most tellingly, research suggests AR is no longer an optional extra. 75% of consumers surveyed said they now expect an AR experience when shopping online, with 61% preferring to make purchases on sites that offer AR functionality. With retailers reporting instances of conversion rates doubling or even tripling for products where AR is used, it becomes strikingly clear that those not investing to meet consumers’ expectations risk being left behind.

Augmented reality success stories

‍Here are just a few of the best-known examples of brands that have benefitted from integrating 3D and AR technology:

  1. Home Depot reported that its product visualization feature boosted conversion rates by a factor of 2x - 3x compared to customers who did not use the technology.
  1. US retail giant Macy’s reported return rates dropped to <2% for furniture purchases made using its AR/VR visualization feature (compared to the 5-7% industry average).
  1. Samsonite-owned eBags reported a 112% increase in mobile conversions, and 81% on desktop, when consumers interacted with 3D and AR-enabled products, boosting revenue per visit by 87%.

Looking to the future of immersive technology investments

‍Global spend on AR and VR is projected to increase sixfold by 2024. The major players in Silicon Valley have all significantly expanded their investments in AR, with Google already incorporating AR in its search results, and Meta and Apple releasing headsets that will take immersive experiences to the next level – both of which have been a major focus of the two technology giants’ marketing efforts in 2023.  

Businesses that have invested in 3D, AR and associated technologies have enjoyed tangible results, with one leading British retailer reporting a striking 22x ROI on its immersive tech rollout. Meanwhile consumer demand for the technology only continues to grow, fueled by its ubiquity, convenience, and ability to provide improved customer journeys.  

Facebook asserts that, “[there is] the possibility we are standing on the cusp of AR and VR as the next computing platform,” and the implications of that will affect every facet of the internet going forward.

Any digital interaction that currently takes place in 2D through conventional hardware will one day soon take place in the AR realm. With the impetus to invest in AR coming from both their competitors and their customers, businesses that fail to adapt will inevitably lose out in these competitive markets.

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