How Augmented and Virtual Reality Are Changing Retail

On average, e-commerce shoppers abandon their carts 69.57% of the time, according to the Baynard Institute. That means retailers, especially those operating in the e-commerce space, need to make a change to ensure customers make it all the way through the purchase journey. Augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR), could be the answer.

In a piece for Forbes, Tim Merel, Managing Director at Digi Capital, predicted the AR and VR market will reach $150 billion in revenue by 2020, and, according to the PYMTS Virtual Reality in Retail Report, there will be 100 million AR/VR headset users by 2022. Recent studies have shown, 71% of consumers are more likely to shop with a retailer that offers an AR shopping experience, and 40% would pay more for a product they could experience ahead of time with AR. Many retailers are already taking advantage of this and have adopted AR and VR capabilities into their e-commerce businesses.

Examples of AR in Retail
AR is the most common method retailers use to implement product exploration and testing capabilities into their business. AR can easily tap into the world we live in to enhance our surroundings and overlay products or information onto what we already have in front of us. By using AR we can add information to our surroundings, learn about products, and see how they would look on ourselves or in our homes.

Sephora, for example, has implemented magic mirrors into their stores and mobile app that allow customers to see how different make-up types, shades, and brands will look on them. Similarly, ASOS, a UK-based clothing store, offers Virtual Catwalk using AR technology, so shoppers can see what clothing will look like in 3D, right in front of them. Additionally, ASOS offers AR technology that allows customers to view products on models of all sizes so they can see what clothing will look like on their own body types.

One of the most interactive uses of AR in retail came from Foot Locker, a store specializing in sneakers. When the limited-edition LeBron 16 King Court Purple shoes dropped in Los Angeles, Foot Locker used their AR app to create a scavenger hunt that led users to a location where they could purchase the shoes early. (The sneakers sold out in two hours.)

By allowing customers to try out their products and have a fun, interactive buying experience, these brands are not only leading customers to make a purchase, they’re also helping them make confident and exciting choices, which reduces the rate of returns.

Examples of VR in Retail
Use cases for VR in retail are a bit harder to come by, but they do provide the most engaging experience for customers. VR is proving to be a great fit when the retailer wants to fully immerse a customer in a new environment.

One delightful example comes in the form of a cocktail at One Aldwych Hotel in London. The menu doesn’t make any mention of virtual reality, but as soon as the drink is ordered, the bartender provides the guest with VR goggles that transport them to an immersive experience. Patrons fly over the Scotland Highlands to Dalmore Whisky, where the drink originated, then get a full tour of how the whisky is made. When the tour is over, the guest floats back down to the lobby bar, takes off the goggles, and is presented with the drink exactly as it was created in the VR world.

As VR headsets become more commonplace, uses such as this will be found in retail and e-commerce businesses at a much larger scale.

By incorporating AR and VR into the retail experience, businesses are setting themselves up for a more engaging, immersive, and positive customer experience across the board, resulting in more satisfied customers and fewer returns and cart abandonments.

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