Augmented Reality – AR for short – will continue to gain momentum in the coming years. A lot of that excitement recently is thanks to Apple CEO Tim Cook saying that AR will be, “almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”
That quote comes from a Bloomberg Technology article that dives headfirst into the big bet Apple is placing on AR. The Bloomberg article cites a Global Market Insights piece predicting the worldwide market for AR products will command a $165 billion price tag by 2024.
It’s not just demand for physical technology that’s driving such an optimistic forecast, though. A huge driving force behind AR is eCommerce.
Why is eCommerce doing so much to push the widespread adoption of AR? The answer lies in the question to the biggest problem online retailers face.
Customers want to be able to physically handle, inspect and interact with a product before purchase. That’s physically impossible in eCommerce, and the act of going to a brick-and-mortar store is becoming less and less appealing to the younger generations.
Retail Perceptions predicts that the AR business itself will generate $120 billion in revenue by 2020. That means AR is already here, and yes, it is changing the way customers shop online.
What is AR changing?
More than anything else, AR changes a customer’s ability to interact with products before purchasing. If you’ve ever been stuck between two different products, read the reviews, asked around on Facebook, and watched YouTube videos of the products in use but still haven’t made a decision, you’re like millions of other shoppers.
AR is – and can be for all eCommerce sellers in the near future – the missing link in that buying process. It eliminates that final pain point before purchase when a customer is hesitant to buy a product because they haven’t interacted with it yet.
What’s interesting, though, is that the idea of AR isn’t new. As written in Forbes, “Consumer electronics have been on board with enabling ‘what’s the best sized TV for my space’ . . . for years. It could easily be the oldest application of AR in retail . . . You can even digitally test out paint colors on your walls without having to break out any paint.”
But will consumers actually use AR? Or is this something only the tech-savvy crowd will use?
The same Retail Perceptions article ran a study of 1,062 online shoppers across the US revealed the following information:
- 40% of shoppers would be willing to pay more for a product if they could interact with it through augmented reality
- 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer augmented reality, over ones that don’t
- 71% of shoppers would shop at a retailer more often if they offered augmented reality
This data was presented in October 2016, so it’s likely the numbers have only increased since then.
Is it viable?
This is always the biggest question when it comes to technology that’s supposed to “upend” any industry. Is it viable? More importantly, is it available at an affordable-enough rate that the vast majority of businesses will adopt it?
AR is definitely viable right now, but current uses aren’t quite where retailers would like them to be.
Take IKEA for example. According to Augment.com, IKEA’s app released in 2013 used AR to overlay 3D models of products on top of a real-time camera feed.
While that’s a step in the right direction from an eCommerce standpoint, retailers are looking for technology like that rolled out by Uniqlo. The Japanese-based retailer introduced AR into their brick-and-mortar locations to help customers shopping for clothes.
They installed an LCD screen from which you select the clothes you want to try on, then toggle through different colors until you find the right one.
That’s the style of innovation and practical use AR needs to provide for online-only sellers for this technology to truly upend the industry.
AR is having an impact on eCommerce right now, and it’ll only grow as the technology becomes more refined in the coming years. It will definitely change how customers shop online, and how retailers approach marketing.