Qualcomm defines Augmented Reality (AR) as the superimposition of digital content on top of a view of the real world. Popularized by games such as Pokémon GO, the technology facilitates significant opportunities for brick-and-mortar stores. AR has already been adopted by a slew of retailers across diverse markets including travel, real estate, food, furniture, toys and fashion.
For example, HSN recently rolled out an AR design app for Frontgate and Ballard Designs that allows shoppers to virtually ‘place’ objects inside their homes. Customers simply scan a room with their smartphone camera as the app overlays the considered product in 3D.
Similarly, Coca-Cola has provided its sales associates with tablets to virtually showcase vending machines and coolers for in-person pitches, while online retailer Shop Direct and U.K. department chain John Lewis have worked with Cimagine to create AR- based in-home displays and virtual showrooms. This ‘try before you buy’ concept can also be extended to supermarkets and restaurants, with AR smartphone apps providing an overlay of information such as ingredients, nutritional information, product availability and online coupons.
“Fundamentally, the purchase of a product often hinges on imagining how it would look on you or in your house and wanting that product enough to make the purchase subsequently. Being able to visualize that process will make the product much more appealing,” writes Edward Lowe of the Huffington Post. “It is this curious synthetic of offline and online worlds that Augmented Reality can finally drive. It could be one of the defining trends of the next decade if adoption keeps pace as quickly as it has done to date.”
Although still considered a relatively nascent technology, Artemis Berry, VP of retail for Shop.org and the National Retail Federation believes AR is a “game-changer” for the retail industry. Professor Ko de Ruyter, Professor of Marketing at Cass Business School, expresses similar sentiments, noting that companies such as IKEA, L’Oreal and BMW have already added AR applications to their frontline service delivery.
“What our research shows is that AR is enhancing online and offline service experiences. The real-time and interactive blend of virtual and physical information results in a compelling experience of presence, where virtual objects become part of the physical world,” he explains. “Augmented reality has the potential to disrupt existing marketing practice. Embracing such consumer empowerment, organizations can gain the opportunity to enhance the service experience and enable personalization in traditional brick-and-mortar retail settings.”
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