Retailers are only beginning to realize the benefits of integrating augmented realities into their shopping experience. What is augmented reality, exactly? We will discuss the basics of augmented reality and how vendors are optimizing it for the ecommerce industry.
Augmented reality (AR), is a technology that combines computer-generated input with real-world surroundings. AR can be used for many purposes, including sound, video, and graphics as well as GPS overlays and other visual effects. These devices can interact with the real world in real-time and respond to changes in their surroundings.
Although AR has been around for decades, new developments have allowed it to be used in mainstream culture. AR has received exposure through popular entities like the mobile game Pokemon Go and Snap Inc’s Snapchat filters.1
Snap even launched Snap AR, a platform that offers templates, courses and games to AR creators.2AR’s potential is not limited to entertainment.
AR has been used by companies in a variety of new ways. These include wearables that improve employee productivity and “heads up” displays for cars that display GPS information on the windshield. This allows drivers to focus on the road while they navigate.
Most AR uses are currently available via mobile devices, however, it’s anticipated that this will eventually change as wearables increase in popularity—these are things like smart glasses or head-mounted displays that allow the user to be hands-free
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Some of the main differences between augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) include the following.
Although often mistakenly or confused, there are important differences between virtual reality and augmented reality. Augmented reality uses computer-generated input to create real-world experiences. Virtual reality simulates a completely new environment.
Many e-commerce websites offer AR apps for smartphones that allow customers to see the item in their home before they buy it. Virtual tours of houses are offered by some real estate agents who use VR. Homebuyers don’t have to visit each property. Instead, they can see multiple options through a VR headset and choose which ones they would like to view in person.
Augmented reality is easier to access for the general public because it can be used with devices such as smartphones, laptops, and headsets. VR headsets can be costly and are required to experience the benefits of VR.
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Augmented reality utilized in e-commerce enables businesses to inform and connect with customers as well as continue to engage consumers after they’ve made a purchase.
The younger generation is looking for interactive shopping experiences. Gartner research revealed that 30% of Gen Z and millennial consumers are looking for more interactive shopping experiences online, with AR and VR technology. This is compared to 14% in older generations.
We’ll be describing some of the most common uses of augmented reality in e-commerce.
To trigger the experience, marker-based augmented reality requires a specific marker image. Markers can be QR codes, logos, and item packaging. The marker image is used to link the experience. It usually appears on top of the marker, rotates with it, and moves along with it. Once the user is no longer triggering the marker, the experience disappears.
This type of AR can be used by businesses to keep in touch with customers after purchase. For example, customers who ordered a product delivered to their home might scan a QR code on the packaging for a unique AR experience. Customers can interact with the product in new and exciting ways.
The location of markerless augmented reality is not important. To access the experience, users will need to click a link on a website or open an application. Markerless augmented reality processes the surrounding environment and places the experience according to geometry, usually picking a flat surface.
Warby Parker, a retailer of glasses, has developed an app that allows you to virtually try on glasses using AR technology. The program lets you virtually try on glasses and see how you look in a pair before deciding which ones to purchase.9 This is an example of markerless augmented reality.
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A superimposition-based augmented reality experience either partially or fully covers up the original view of an object with an augmented view. It’s a type of markerless augmented reality, which means it doesn’t require an image or marker to cue it.10 Object recognition is crucial in this type of AR, as the technology must first identify the original object in order to replace it. This AR is used in social media filters such as Snapchat.
E-commerce vendors can use superimposition-based AR to allow customers to see how a piece of furniture would fit in their house, for example. Open the app or link and point your camera at the spot you want to place the item. The item overlay appears on the screen. This allows the user to see if the item is right for them.
Augmented reality continues to appear in the retail industry in an effort to enhance customers’ shopping experiences. LEGO has previously launched products that combine AR technology and LEGO sets. Users could scan parts of the playset with their phone or tablet to gain access to different games and features associated with the toy itself, merging both physical and virtual play.
You can place items virtually in your space using the IKEA Place app. You can test out many furniture types, including sofas, dining tables and bookshelves. The furniture is 3D and accurate to scale. Users can also rotate the furniture to view how it would look in different positions. Wayfair’s mobile app uses AR technology to allow customers to visualize how the item would look in their home.
Armani offers a variety of virtual services on its website. One allows you to test out beauty products live with a camera, or upload a picture. You can try everything, from foundation and lipstick to mascara and eyeshadow. To see how the shades look on different skin tones, users can switch between them.
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AR integration is a new opportunity for retailers. Businesses have a unique opportunity to connect and offer enhanced shopping options by combining tech and e-commerce.
Privacy is also a concern with emerging technology. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says that AR could “continually collect, analyze and display personal data in actual time”. This may be a challenge to current norms. According to the nonprofit, AR will require social and legal changes in order for privacy and public space to change as more companies adopt it.
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