Any technology that’s able to bring in massive improvements in user experience will almost immediately be adapted by the e-commerce industry to sell products. Most technological innovations that drive incremental improvements will be packaged and sold as a niche product. However, a technology that touches and changes a core human experience qualifies as truly revolutionary. Augmented reality (AR) is just such a revolutionary technology. It superimposes digital information onto the physical environment, thus opening opportunities for novel consumer experiences. To enjoy AR-powered experiences, the end users don’t need any additional hardware (as in case of virtual reality). This makes adoption much easier.
Understanding the power of augmented reality
To truly understand how augmented reality alters core human experiences, it’s essential to understand the psychological impact of the technology.
A sense of ownership: When users interact with digital information superimposed on a physical object that they already own or are comfortable with, a sense of ownership is naturally built about the AR-projected product.
A part of a story: In experiencing augmented reality content, users find themselves to be a part of a story, built around a product. This is unlike any sort of marketing engagement and the impact on the user is equally massive.
Novelty: The newness of AR experiences attracts users, and they’re invariably charmed by the novelty of indulging in a fusion of the “real” and “virtual.”
How does AR revolutionize e-commerce?
Tangible products make for a major portion of global e-commerce sales. Still, e-commerce innovators across the globe are striving hard to overcome the biggest psychological barrier that consumers face while shopping for products online. Unimaginable large number of sales are lost or delayed indefinitely because of the shopper’s inability to confidently evaluate and envision the sense of using the product. Augmented reality bridges this gap significantly. By way of helping users visualize the products they’re considering, in the context of the physical space they’re going to be used in, it is a major boost to getting e-shoppers to feel comfortable and even enthusiastic about a potential purchase.
Let’s explore the impact of augmented reality on e-commerce.
Visualize the product experience before purchasing
Augmented reality apps go a long way in eliminating ambiguity from e-commerce purchases. They do so by helping consumers visualize the product in the context of the physical space they’ll occupy. For example, home-furnishings company IKEA has had enormous success with its IKEA Place augmented reality app for iOS and Android. Because many of its products are bulky furniture, IKEA needed a way to truly showcase its furniture. Its augmented reality app helps shoppers visualize how the furniture will look inside their living rooms! They can then easily switch products, alter product attributes such as size and color, and see how different furniture items and the room decor will complement each other.
In this manner, augmented reality can speed up the product search process for high-value and bulky products. Along those lines, Amikasa has a superb e-commerce AR app that lets shoppers design their dream homes using designer furniture from several brands.
Try out more options without investing time or effort
There’s always a limit to which a shopper will exert himself to try out different product options. Trying out elaborately designed premium suits, for instance, can be time-consuming. A great example of this is Sephora, a global cosmetics brand that launched an AR-powered application. The app allows women to see how the makeup will look on their faces without having to try any of it on the body. This is just one example of how AR opens up unexplored vistas for brands to engage audiences.
Simplifying choices without risks of post-purchase hassles
Products also have a strong “service” component to them. Consider wall paints for example. The product experience is complete only when the paint is applied to the walls. The amount of commitment that a user has to agree to is huge. To manage this, storeowners create “experience spaces” within their premises to showcase the product in action to the user.
Augmented reality offers them a tremendous opportunity to make e-commerce a hassle-free channel for selling, without worrying about the lack of imagination that generally prevents shoppers from purchasing certain products online. Tap Painter is a good example; the AR app lets users select the paints they want for their walls by seeing how the walls will look after being painted via the app’s AR module. This takes post-purchase dissonance out of the game and helps pave the way for several new product categories to be sold via e-commerce channels.
Virtual product aisles
For most shoppers, the single biggest motivation to shop at a retail store is the availability of products on neatly organized shelves and aisles. Augmented reality technology has paved the way for making the “retail aisle” experience available digitally.
Using a mobile application, an e-commerce retailer can create a virtual shelf with a variety of products, projecting it on the walls of a customer’s living room. Then, customers can simply point and click on the products they’re more interested in, to get more information about them, and to purchase them.
AR-powered digital marketing
Social media marketing is already big for e-commerce companies. AR offers them more opportunities to win the social media battle. Brands are already motivating consumers to create user-generated content via AR apps. At the forefront of this movement are apps offering branded filters. Several brands have already run successful AR-powered marketing campaigns by working with Snapchat, creating massive amounts of user-generated content in the process, which works as endorsements and word-of-mouth marketing when shared online. These brands can then share and promote this content to drive traffic to their e-stores.
Augmented reality is changing the way humans interact with their surroundings. A world of digital imagery and content superimposed on the immediate physical surroundings — that’s huge. Pioneers from the world of e-commerce realize the tremendous potential that the industry has in transforming how shoppers search for and understand products, before purchasing them.
Featured image: IKEA