AR Brings The In-Store Experience Online

published by e-tailment,
October 27, 2020
written by Thomas Forscht & Judith Schlaffer

by e-tailment
Retail trends 2030. Interactive and emotional: Virtual Reality can help online retailers achieve higher conversion rates and lower return rates.

Augmented Reality has the potential to revolutionize retail, as confirmed by the "HandelsMonitor Mega-trends 2030+ ". Why only a few retailers using this technology and why online retail can benefit from this trend explain our guest authors Thomas Forscht und Judith Schloffer.

A recent Delphi-Study from HandelsMonitor has shown that more than 80% of the experts are convinced that virtual reality and AR applications will enhance the in-store user experience and include more interactions.

On the shop floor, products can be "augmented" by computer-generated experience.

As such, a retailer selling backpacks and camping gear may use a virtual campfire alongside sounds of burning woods and crickets to impress the client while his decision-making process. The client is exposed to a unique experience, leading to a purchase.

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Thomas Foscht is a Professor of Marketing at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz. He has been teaching and researching retail management and consumer behavior for more than 20 years while working closely with retail companies. Together with his long-term colleagues, university professor Dirk Morschett, Hanna Schramm-Klein, and Bernhard Swoboda, he is a co-author of the HandelsMonitor.
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Judith Schloffer is a lecturer at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz and teaches and researches in the areas of retail management and consumer behavior.

The mirror as a shopping assistant

Nowadays, only a few early adopters use augmented reality to get the customer's attention. An in-store AR solutionwhich is meanwhile broadly usedis the so-called Smart or Magic Mirror.

A Magic Mirror enables each customer to virtually try on a garment without looking for a suitable size or color, which may not be available in the store due to limited space. 

The mirror serves the function of a "personal shopping assistant," which provides personalized product proposals. It targets an enhanced user experience and, ultimately, an increase in sales.

AR in Apps and web browsers

AR is not limited to brick and mortar stores. Many apps are relying on augmented reality for an enhanced user experience. IKEA was one of the first companies to do this. It offered its customers the “IKEA Place” app. It allows customers to look at furniture in their own flat and, consequently, enable them to order suitable items online.

Cosmetics and beauty brands have used AR successfully in brick and mortar stores as well as in apps. For instance, Sephora makes it possible for customers to try out make-up via their "Virtual Artist "app.

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The French cosmetics chain Sephora lets customers try out make-up products both in-store and via its app.

3D Models support return rate reduction

A current trend is that the usage of AR is extending from mobile apps to webshop integration. Hence AR experiences become available through the internet browser - the primary online shopping channel. Through this integration, retailers can, among other benefits, offer 3D models on each product detail page. This integration will further support the growth of online retail.

Buying fashion items on the internet had always involved a bit of risk, as the customers may not be sure if the clothes will fit. The risk results in high returns of purchased items, not meeting customer expectations. These returns are the main cost driver for online retailers. Hence investment into augmented reality solutions, offering detailed photorealistic 3D visualization of the real-life fashion article, leads to a dramatic cost and CO2 reduction. 

Higher sales conversion through the enhanced shopping experience

Low sales conversion is still the main pain point for online retailers. The low conversion rate illustrates the need to do more to convince customers to purchase the selected products.

By implementing immersive technology such as AR into online shops, customers get more personal, interactive, appealing, satisfying, and unforgettable experiences that trigger emotions they know from brick and mortar stores. 

The integration of AR technology is seen as the main driver to increase consumers' trust levels in online shopping. It can increase the level of engagement – leading to higher satisfaction.

Offering online customers a seamless experience with which they can try on products before buying boosts customer engagement and satisfaction while increasing sales. 

PICTOFiT - The leading AR solution for fashion e-commerce

Reactive Reality works on virtual fitting rooms for mobile devices. Based on proprietary technology, it developed an AR solution that solves fashion E-commerce's biggest problem. The solution enables customers to experience the product online before the purchase.

When the smartphone becomes a dressing room

The PICTOFiT AR engine transforms your personal computer or smartphone into a virtual fitting room. It enables a customer to experience the product on their personal avatar, created by the user himself, within minutes.

Ultraprecise measurements show how the clothes fit on the avatar. This precision allows users to experience specific product aspects, like stretch, stiffness, flow, firmness, or adherence, in detail. Online shoppers can virtually try on different sizes and check out how they fit. 

Convert 2D pictures into smart 3D objects with artificial intelligence

Reactive Reality's solution is based on Photogrammetry and artificial intelligence (AI). It converts 2D pictures taken with any smartphone camera into a 3D model compatible with any standard Image rendering software.

The technology enables any retailer to convert 2D pictures into 3D AR objects without special equipment or training. Furthermore, it can be integrated into any mobile app or online infrastructure. 

AR technology is not limited to apparel. It can be used in many other areas. AR poses a unique value add and offers an engaging & innovative way of interacting with customers.