How to Give Your Customers the Ultimate Online Shopping Experience with Augmented Reality for Ecommerce
Brands and ecommerce stores looking to stand out from their competitors have increasingly turned to augmented reality (AR) technology to give customers a more immersive and engaging experience.
Even more important; it has been reported that 61% of online shoppers prefer to make purchases on sites that offer augmented reality online shopping experiences.
Hidden Creative in the United Kingdom conducted a study where they advertised a toy to 200 parents using both traditional ads and with AR. They found that 45% of parents wanted to purchase a toy from viewing the traditional ads versus 74% of parents who experienced the ads as immersive AR. Furthermore, most parents were prepared to pay two pounds more for the toy when they viewed the AR ads versus the traditional 2D ads.
Clearly, AR works.
What AR is
You view the computer generated content on a screen. Nowadays, that would generally be your phone. While you view the real world with either your front-facing or back-facing camera, the computer generated AR objects would appear on your screen overlaid onto the reality you are seeing.
For example, if you had your phone’s camera pointed at a real table in your home, AR could show you a computer generated image on your phone’s screen of a lamp sitting on that table.
AR vs VR
You may have seen AR mentioned along with virtual reality (VR), but there are some distinct differences between the two.
As we’ve discussed, AR is when computer generated material is superimposed on top of reality and viewed on a screen. VR, on the other hand, is when the entire environment you are viewing is computer generated and it’s viewed using a special headset to completely immerse the viewer inside the virtual world.
When using VR, a person has to either stay in one spot or be in an empty space with no real-world obstacles they could bump into while interacting with the virtual world. It completely takes them out of reality and places them in the computer generated world. We don’t have virtual reality shopping yet, but someday we’ll probably get there.
When you talk about AR, it is important to remember that there are different types of AR and they all have their various advantages and disadvantages.
Types of AR
This type of AR generally isn’t used in ecommerce because it relies on markers, which customers obviously won’t have in their own homes. It’s best used in places where people can visit, like a museum, for example. Visitors could scan a marker beside a relic and the AR could bring up a 3D model to show what the relic looked like when it was new.
Some types of AR use GPS coordinates as markers to decipher what should be shown on the screen. Pokemon Go famously used this type of AR to tell users where to find Pokemons.
This is the type of AR most commonly used for ecommerce because it doesn’t require markers and therefore customers can easily use it in their own homes. Shoppers can use it to see what a chair would look like in their living rooms, for example. Often, markerless AR comes wrapped in an app. IKEA’s augmented reality app, for example, shows customers what the company’s furniture would look like in their homes.
However, markerless AR does not always need to be contained inside an app. Web-based markerless AR does not require an app or any other type of download. Customers can access it via a link or by scanning a QR code and the AR object is displayed using only a browser-based transparent background in conjunction with a person’s phone camera.
Augmented Reality in ecommerce
In addition to these practical purposes, AR is also good for making better connections with customers.
More brand recognition
Better brand interaction
Memorable brand experiences
Psychological aspects of AR in ecommerce
1. Sense of ownership
3. Old-fashioned wonder
4. Reinforced judgement
5. Social aspects
Practical benefits of AR in ecommerce
Allows shoppers to “try” before they buy
Many shoppers will try out different colors of the same product and AR can let them choose different colors and different sizes to look at all from the comfort of their own homes. They can rotate the object, see it from all different angles and get to really know it before committing to buying it.
Lets shoppers try it on
Cuts down on returns and bracket shopping
When shoppers can see what something will look like on them before buying, it also helps reduce “bracket shopping.” This is the practice of buying the size that you think you’ll need, plus one size above and one size below, and then keeping the one that fits best and returning the other two. Or, buying products in multiple colors and keeping only the colors you like. With AR, there is no need to make these excess orders and returns.
Makes user manuals more interactive
How AR can help your ecommerce store
Increase your customer engagement
Even if you’re not the only one using AR, though, having it still motivates customers to interact and engage with products more, increasing the chances that they’ll make a purchase.
Attract new customers
Increase conversion rates
How to implement AR in your ecommerce business
Clarify why you want to use it and figure out your goals
Get into the tech specs
Like most things, AR isn’t simply a plug-and-play technology. It runs the gamut from incredibly realistic to incredibly bad. Some AR doesn’t actually give you a fully rendered 3D object to virtually manipulate, but just gives you a 2D image to work with.
Some AR will be able to detect a flat surface and place an object easily while others will need customers to practically stand on their heads to get it to work properly.
You’ll need to decide if you want the AR to be app based or web-based among many other decisions. Spend some time and do some research into it so you’re prepared.
Realism of the objects in AR has a big impact on the technology’s perceived helpfulness for shopping. Research organization Nielsen Norman Group conducted a small study and found that when participants used AR where the objects looked “cartoonish,” they saw it as more of a novelty to play with than a tool. The more real objects looked, the more helpful shoppers viewed the AR tool. (It should be noted that in this small study, the participants didn’t equate poor AR quality with poor product quality.)
Once you do have your AR set up and ready to go, don’t just rely on people discovering it for themselves. Promote it and try to get people using it.
Promote your new tool
Create a demo video
Display clear instructions
Make it shareable
It’s not a matter of if AR is going to become mainstream, but only when. Ecommerce sites that get started now will be ahead of the curve in providing this useful shopping tool to their customers and reaping the benefits.