Augmented reality (AR) is the technology that was first popularized by the Pokémon Go video game in 2016. AR is a powerful tool for retailers which can help reduce the friction that exists while online shopping. Using AR retailers can give customers the option of “trying out” their products from the comfort of their own homes. AR has even broader appeal than virtual reality since a headset is not required to use it.
One of the main pain points associated with shopping for furniture online is visualizing how the furniture will look in a customer’s home. Interior designers can do this easily but it is difficult for the average shopper. Using AR is a great way for a furniture or home improvement company to help customers see what a new piece of furniture looks like in their home before they buy it. Wayfair, for example, has functionality called View in Room 3D in its main mobile shopping app. Using only a smartphone, customers can see what Wayfair’s furniture looks like within their homes. The feature was created using Apple’s AR platform, ARKit and the functionality is also available to Android users leveraging Google’s ARCore platform. To provide a sense of how new this functionality is, Apple’s ARKit, which allows developers to create augmented reality experiences for users on iOS, was released last September and Google’s version called ARCore was only released in February of this year.
The Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Wayfair, Steve Conine said that “we knew early on that augmented reality had the potential to completely transform the way people shop for their homes, and as it’s quickly moved toward mainstream adoption, we’re excited to have played an integral role in shaping the experience for millions of shoppers.”
Last year Williams Sonoma, which also owns West Elm and Pottery Barn purchased Outward, a 3-D imaging and augmented reality software company for $112 million. Williams Sonoma’s CEO Laura Alber said “we see augmented reality as a transformative tool in improving the customer experience because it’s going to be able to help people better visualize”. Williams Sonoma was initially a client of Outward which helped the retailer provide customers with the ability to see a 360-degree view of a product on its website.
Target has also launched functionality on its mobile website to enable customers to digitally see products in their homes. The functionality called See it in Your Space was launched last year. Similar to other AR furniture shopping apps it allows customers to see what various furniture items look like within their own homes in a 3 D view. During the initial launch last October there were only 200 products that customers could digitally see within their space but Target plans to have thousands of products available for this feature by the end of 2018.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat also see the potential of this technology and have rolled out AR ads on their platforms. In July of this year, Facebook announced the ability to place AR ads in the newsfeed. Michael Kors was the first brand to launch AR powered ads in Facebook’s newsfeed. When a Michael Kors ad for sunglasses appears in users’ newsfeeds with the words “tap to try on” appearing at the centre of the ad, customers can tap the ad which then automatically launches the phone’s camera. In selfie mode the customer can virtually try on different sunglasses. Sephora has also launched AR ads on Facebook and Wayfair is launching an AR ad campaign on Facebook later on this year. The rise in the use of AR by retailers underscores the fact that great retailers are looking more and more like tech companies. Overall AR provides a more personalized shopping experience.
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