AR or Augmented Reality has long been touted as the future of the shopping industry. Imagine, you get to buy a dress online and try it on virtually, saving you the hassle of getting it delivered, trying, and returning. From the seller’s viewpoint, it may save you the money that’s spent on returning and redelivering an order. Moreover, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, allowing consumers to try on things is rather risky. This is what makes me wonder whether AR-based shopping, which we contemplated as the future, is now the present.

Interestingly, if you’re wondering if AR is only meant for online businesses, the answer is a huge no. Let’s again go into the visualization: you step into a retailer store and see a dress but the trial room has a long waiting queue. But you can still try it on using an AR tool or glasses. Or you could scan a store for your desired products in real-time while sitting at home!

Whether the store is online or offline, there are many ways AR tools and techniques can be employed to solve many, many problems faced by both the retailers and the customers.

The Benefits of AR to the Retail Industry

AR to the retail market can be considered as substantial as the internet to a computer. You might at first think that you may still do without it, but with use, realize that it makes the experience worth it. AR can significantly enhance your consumers’ shopping experience without worrying about getting in contact with some virus, or about damaging a product while trying, in addition to enjoying the overall experience.

The following are a few of the benefits that AR offers to the retail industry:

AR Enhances User Experience

If you’re still wondering what AR exactly is, have you used those Instagram or Snapchat stickers and filters that make you look like a dog or wherever? That’s a classic example of AR that’s already making the user experience superb. For a retail store, online or offline, you don’t really need to guess. Your customers could be trying hundreds to thousands of dresses or shoes without even moving from their office chairs. Moreover, they don’t get bored so they’re almost not leaving your website or app for a long time. Also, AR can assist customers as well as human staff, thereby enhancing user experience.

AR can Reduce Operational Costs

You can count the reasons on your fingertips:

1. In the case of online businesses, reduced return/exchange costs
2. The requirement for in-store staff reduces
3. Low product damages

AR can serve as Data Collector and Analyser

Using AR technology can help all kinds of retailers get proper information about customer behaviour, like interests, sizes, choices, requirements, and more. This can help you personalize your app per the consumer, thus enhancing customer engagement and loyalty. With advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), this aspect will get better and give businesses using AR a competitive edge.

AR can offer Personalized Product Ordering

Like I mentioned, AR is smart. It can save consumer data to process it and make the entire experience a lot more personalized without any hassle. Your online or offline store won’t have to keep asking the customers their preferences – you don’t have to ask, they don’t have to go through the monotonous, repetitive cycle.

AR in Existing Retail Markets

In today’s day and age, AR is already being used by some of the OG’s in the retail industry. These include Ikea, Converse, American Apparel, Locaste, and many more. These stores are
using AR-powered apps that allow customers to check out in-store items. Moreover, AR is also being used in the furniture industry – the customers can scan their room area to virtually check the setting of the furniture, whether the size is accurate or the design is appropriate.

In fact, research suggests that at least 73% of shoppers prefer using multichannel for retail shopping, while about 20% want to shop exclusively online. AR can enable you to build on the user experience by integrating POS, QR payments, facial recognition login, and more.

AR’s impact on the Future of Retail Markets?

If you believe the latest Forbes report, over 69% of online shoppers want to create AR-based mobile apps in the coming year. Moreover, a significant 61% of these would want to shop from stores having AR mobile apps, which clearly shows how consumer behaviour is changing with respect to the advancing technology. This implies that even if some retailers don’t want to shift to these platforms, they will still have to just like they moved their business online.

Further, I don’t see any reason a retailer should be trying to skip or overlook this because of the above-discussed benefits of AR. Not only does it reduce costs, it increases customer engagement and satisfaction, and gives you multiple windows of opportunity to reach more targets.

To think of it as a customer, let’s go on another future-flash. Imagine walking into a store, wearing AR glasses, and reading the store through them. You look at a product, and everything about it displays in front of you (yep, that’s augmented reality in action!). Plus, you don’t really have to touch anything or ask for assistance from the staff; the AR technology of the store also tells you the discount offers they have or the upcoming sales that you’ll need to keep in check. More or less, it’s like those online games we play, lest everything would be real but enhanced.

The Future is indeed here

The meaning of Augmented Reality or AR isn’t hidden between the lines, it’s quite literal in the sense that it enhances reality. Popular social media apps had already stepped on the bandwagon before it even became known by the masses. They were giving you dog and cat stickers, letting you look at your baby, younger as well as older selves – twisting and augmenting reality – it doesn’t really count as virtual.

In addition to all the benefits we’ve discussed, AR is user-friendly. You can boost your sales magnificently by investing in this technology. And with the existing use of AR, we can arguably say that the future is already here.

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