Increase Your Customer Engagement and Grow Your Sales by Creating Unforgettable Augmented Reality Experiences

Brands and retailers are always looking for ways to provide their customers with better experiences so they can build relationships and get those customers to return again and again. Web-based Augmented Reality for retail (Web AR) has proven to be a fantastic tool for engaging with customers and giving them experiences they will remember and want to share with others.

What is Web AR?

In short, augmented reality overlays a computer generated image onto the real world. It is usually viewed with a person’s phone using the camera. Web AR is completely web-based augmented reality, meaning there are no third-party tools — like apps or specific software — required to view it.

This type of augmented reality is what briefly made the game Pokemon Go a huge hit. Unlike the game, however, Web AR doesn’t require viewers to download anything. It all happens without the use of apps, specific software or markers that signify where the Web AR objects are supposed to go. Generally, Web AR technology will detect a flat surface and “place” the object on that surface without having any kind of marker. (This is why you may also see it referred to as markerless AR.)

Prior to the Covid-19 epidemic, companies were starting to explore AR, but many of them were still relying on the technology being tied to an app that customers had to download. Now that the pandemic has made in-person shopping less attractive and online shopping even more attractive than it used to be, both online and brick and mortar retailers are starting to use AR technology more.

Let’s look at how augmented reality for retail creates a fantastic experience for shoppers.

1. Helps shoppers visualize items.

By far the most useful way augmented reality shopping helps customers is that it allows them to see items in their own homes before making a purchase. When online shopping, they are able to “put” a chair they see on a website right into their living rooms to see how it will go with the rest of their decor.

And it’s not just for online shopping, either. When in-person shopping, customers often don’t buy big-ticket items right away. They may need some time to think about a purchase, especially if they aren’t sure about how it will look in their homes. A salesperson can give a customer the Web AR link and ask them to view the object in their home while they think about buying it. Seeing it in their homes will help them make a decision about the purchase.

While not usually web-based, another use for AR in the retail industry is allowing customers to try on outfits, accessories and other wearable items like make-up. Allowing customers to browse items like glasses by seeing how they’ll look on their faces will help them make a more informed decision when shopping online. It’s even been used to help consumers visualize different paint colors on their walls so they can choose the perfect hue.

2. Cuts down on shopper dissatisfaction.

When customers are able to virtually see items in their homes, it leads to greater satisfaction with final purchases, cutting down on customer dissatisfaction and returns. Many returns stem from customers not liking the way something looks in their homes when they receive it. Giving them the ability to visualize it first will increase the likelihood that they’ll be satisfied with their purchase.

3. Makes shopping more fun.

Some brick and mortar stores have used Web AR to add an element of gaming to the shopping experience with in-store scavenger hunts. Customers find markers like QR codes throughout the store and scan them to reveal virtual objects and clues. Completing the scavenger hunt can lead to a prize like a big discount on their purchases. This is a fantastic way for retailers to introduce lesser known items to shoppers by featuring them in the scavenger hunt.

Meanwhile, online retailers have used Web AR to introduce a social media element to shopping. They allow groups to shop together online in a virtual environment where friends can virtually try outfits on and have their friends comment and vote for which one they like best.

4. Teaches shoppers (and salespeople) about products.

Because you can add annotations to Web AR objects, it is an ideal way to teach both shoppers and salespeople about a product. When shopping in-person, salespeople can scan a QR code to open annotations about the features of a product that customers are viewing and show customers the features in an engaging way. Seeing the annotations virtually floating around the object is better than just reading them off the box.

Imagine how much a product would stand out among competitors in a retail environment if the salesperson could scan a QR code and call up annotations for consumers to look at.

Or, shoppers could simply scan the code themselves and do the same thing if no salesperson is around. They could also open annotations on virtual objects to learn about them as they view the object inside their own home.

5. Gives customers new ways of interacting with your brand.

Web AR doesn’t just need to be used to facilitate purchases. It can be used for after-purchase interactions, too. Put a QR code on your packaging and ask customers to scan it for an exclusive experience.

A cereal company that has a fun mascot, for example, could give customers access to a Web AR version of it so they could see the mascot in their homes.

6. Lets customers troubleshoot their purchases easier.

Most purchases come with an owner’s manual that has instructions on how to use it and a troubleshooting section for fixing minor problems. With Web AR annotations, you can overlay that owner’s guide and troubleshooting section onto the actual product itself so customers can learn how to assemble and use it faster and do minor fixes easier.

Some car companies have even started using it for letting people know how to fix their own engines.

7. Allows B2B customers to envision items that are far too large to see before purchase.

In the B2B realm, often what is being purchased is far too large to bring along on a demo trip or it hasn’t even been built yet. Web AR can assist B2B retailers by giving them a way to show customers what the finished product will look like and how it may fit into their business setup.

Markerless Web AR is a highly useful tool in retail for both online and in-person shopping. It provides customers with a way to interact with physical products and learn about them before they commit to purchasing them and increases the likelihood that they’ll be satisfied with their purchases once they’re made. As a rising number of businesses start using Web AR, expect to see it pop up more and more in the future.