We bet the array of your past experiences with online retail might not have been as good as you would have it to be. Ever felt bad because the newest gadget had just been released and you could not spot it yet in any of the brick-and-mortar stores, while the product’s catchy yet unresponsive photos online made matters even worse? Or, maybe it was one of your company’s products that failed to gain as much online interest as you would expect? We know it all too well.
However, online retail actually has a bright future, and one of the factors contributing to this the most is Augmented Reality. As Kimberly Cooper noted on venturebeat.com, “while VR shopping experiences thrust consumers into new worlds, AR provides a stepping-stone of sorts by enhancing the world shoppers already live in.” This is the key and the fundamental shift we all need to understand and embrace. What consumers will truly appreciate is companies providing them with detailed information and interactive options seamlessly blended with their everyday reality.
In their study “Improving the Shopping Experience with an Augmented Reality-Enhanced Shelf”, Jesús Omar Álvarez Márquez and Jürgen Ziegler state that a future-proof AR shopping experience, “besides providing information, should include features supporting more complex operations like product filtering and recommending.” We are now on the brink of an era where AR will make physical shopping as informed and interactive as online shopping, whereas online purchases will become as immersive and tangible as a visit to a real-world store is. We believe the ultimate goal of AR in retail is to take away all the barriers between virtual and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.
Owing to AR, it is now becoming possible for artificial intelligence (AI) to excel at keeping track of a user’s surroundings and real-world environment, while providing very efficient two-way communication.
Off the shelf
Let us now discuss some practical AR applications in retail. The most interesting feature of this technology is that it can bring benefits to customers and businesses alike. With such tools as the Virtual Shelf Promoter Display by Virtual ON or the recent AR in-store execution solution by Trax, retailers are able to engage both themselves and their customers in an immersive and personalized experience by capturing and digitizing their store shelves on the one hand, and providing the customers with fully customizable and innovative way of delivering informational or promotional message. Such an approach has a great potential to boost sales as well as customer interest and loyalty.
A lifelike experience
Another approach is the one adopted by MANDT VR, who focus on bringing various brands’ messages alive. What does it mean exactly? Well, to cut a long story short, this approach enables users of specialized apps to scan brand names, logos or banners using their smartphones in order to unleash a dazzling array of additional options, such as promotions, giveaways, discounts, etc. However, the best thing about all this is the possibility of scanning not only brand messages that are out there, for example at various venues, but also messages displayed on a TV or computer screen in real time. This enables businesses to make their campaigns far more gripping, engaging and interactive. Not to mention that it can become all the more easier for retailers to collect invaluable customer usage or preference data in an almost “by the way” manner.
We cooperated with MANDT VR in developing the AR Assistant app that automatically displays a virtual assistant and rich content on a smartphone screen right after the user points the phone at a given product available on a store shelf. However, the possibilities of the app do not end there, as users can also add their own tags to the AR content, and businesses can use this technology to virtually plot their brand messages or logos on any object or building available in public space, for example.
Pressing for it
Did we mention TV screen scanning? Yes, there are other players raising the stakes for the retail market of the future, and Documobi is certainly one of them. Our team cooperated with the company on their documobiFUSE patented mobile technology. It enables smartphone brand app users to scan both TV and printed commercials in order to access interactive mobile campaigns that can also display highly personalized messages and content in real time, while simultaneously measuring response rates. The app can be easily integrated with CRM systems, and businesses are able to provide their existing customers with personalized offers based on the history of their previous purchases and preferences. Of course, this allows the brand owners to capture and track the data they consider valuable for their current and future business activity. Another interesting feature is the app’s full and seamless integration with all kinds of mobile wallet and mobile payment systems, thus enabling businesses to increase footfall as well. Last but not least, the system also takes advantage of real-time localization and search recognition capabilities as well as full social media integration, which can make user experience even more pleasant and exciting. In a nutshell, this is a single solution that enables businesses to measure their customers’ engagement related to all forms of advertising campaigns, be it outdoor, TV, packaging or printed messages.
As you can see, the retail sector is teeming with new ideas for AR implementation, and the latter seems to have an ever-growing potential for changing our lives for the better. Speaking of which, is there anything better than meeting people with similar interests in order to engage in brainstorming and networking together? Well, that is exactly why we are going to the eRetail Europe event in Amsterdam this fall. Will you join too? Would you like to meet in person and discuss the future of online retail together? Please let us know in the comments below.