Augmented and Virtual Reality in Retail

Enhancing Both E-Commerce and In-Store Shopping

With modern technologies, there is a range of practical applications across numerous industries. When it comes to using augmented and virtual reality in retail, stores have embraced such innovations to develop brand value.

Virtual Reality in Retail: The Buy+ Example

It’s no surprise that the e-commerce revolution has substantially disrupted the retail industry. That said, online shopping can’t always replicate the experience of browsing items at a brick-and-mortar shop. But, VR can help bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar experiences and e-commerce. 

Alibaba, the giant retailer, introduced a VR experience called “Buy+” not long ago. With it, shoppers used their smartphones in a VR headset to visit a virtual mall, and then browse and select products. Purchasing was even easier – it only took a nod to add the product to the cart. 

This degree of interactivity added a dynamic element to e-commerce. Although Alibaba’s initial efforts were primarily experimental, the proof of concept inspired Amazon to follow suit. First, Amazon is using virtual reality in retail with its pop-up shops deployed in malls.  Second, the company offers an AR app to test furniture in homes.

Augmented Reality in Retail: The IKEA Example

Online shopping may be popular among consumers, but it hasn’t overtaken the real-world experience just yet. According to one survey, approximately 72% of millennials still prefer to purchase makeup in stores. Beauty products are worth examining when it comes to purchasing habits because of their high degree of personalization. In other words, shoppers want to try, in real life, before they buy. Yet, the same percentage of surveyed millennials are open to trying on makeup through the selfie mirror of their smartphones.

Another category of product that requires a degree of real-world context to influence shoppers’ decision-making is furniture. An online picture doesn’t tell a consumer what a piece of furniture will look like in their home or office.

Recognizing this barrier, IKEA has developed an AR app that allows users to “insert” pieces of furniture and decor into their immediate surroundings. IKEA thus uses AR technology to improve the e-commerce shopping experience. When a customer can see what furniture looks like in context, they will likely feel more comfortable buying without seeing the piece in an IKEA store.

For products that cater to individual tastes like makeup and furniture, shoppers feel they need to see in person to determine whether a product is worth their money. Using augmented and virtual reality in retail takes away the usual product testing step before purchase.

AR Improves the Brick-and-Mortar Experience

As we’ve seen above, VR and AR have the potential to improve online shopping dramatically. However, they also improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Both aspirational luxury brands like Kate Spade and fast-fashion brands like Zara have used augmented reality.

At some Kate Spade stores, when shoppers pick a handbag off a shelf, an AR display will identify which handbag they have chosen. The screen then displays options for customizing the bag’s color and design. Shoppers won’t need to physically swap out different elements until they find the combination that works for them. AR helps Kate Spade shoppers shop more efficiently and with more personalization.

Other retailers offer applications that users can install and use on their own devices. For instance, fashion brand Zara presents customers with a mobile app that puts clothes on a digital mannequin in Zara stores. Zara’s app will likely increase sales, shorten lineups at the changeroom, and mitigate returns from dissatisfied customers.

It’s also worth noting that AR can help shoppers navigate large stores. Lowe’s, the home improvement store, now offers an AR app that provides turn-by-turn directions while shoppers seek out particular items. AR helps shoppers get from the shelf to checkout more quickly. In the future, AR may even be used to “highlight” things shoppers are looking for.

Brands can’t overlook the value of augmented and virtual reality in retail. It’s time to embrace these technologies before the competition gets ahead.

Ormuco for Better Use of Augmented and Virtual Reality in Retail

The examples above show how augmented and virtual technologies are changing the face of retail. Additional cases are likely to emerge to help brands stay relevant. Ormuco can help your retail brand develop AR and VR experiences, thanks to the company’s fast-processing platform.