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Opinion

Part 2: How augmented reality will power the new e-commerce

This is the second article in a two-part series on augmented reality. Click here to read part one.

Augmented reality (AR) can merge a variety of digital product collateral such as images, models, videos and sound and represent them in new ways for a consumer to engage with in the real world.

There is already a clear trend with 81 per cent of consumers making their purchasing decisions via the web, according to Gartner. AR helps to provide even more information to help with decision-making.

A full view of the product

By producing a digital 3D-replica in a real life environment, customers are able to view products from all angles in the context of their own environment. Eventually creating 3D assets for this purpose will be considered a standard process, like taking product photographs for e-commerce.

Ikea has been a pioneer in AR for product visualisation, using it to transform their popular catalogue by projecting their products into the homes of their customers by letting users place the physical catalogue in a spot where the customer intends to put their furniture. Then using the Ikea AR app their choice of furniture is projected through the app.

Lego have also introduced a Lego Digital Box, an AR application where all the shopper needs to do is hold up the box towards the screen in the store to visualise the finished product.

Reducing returns through augmentation.

Fashion Designer Rebecca Minkoff and co-founder Uri Minkoff partnered with an AR startup called Zeekit to help consumers connect with their brand. By uploading their photo and then picking out clothing items, customers can ‘try on’ different sizes to see how they fit.

It particularly helps minimise product returns, with Minikoff believing that Zeekit could help reduce headaches by more accurately predicting which size dress or pants look best on a given customer. According to Minikoff, the “industry standard for returns is 20 to 40 per cent”, leaving a lot of room for improvement.

For Ikea, the issue of returns is even more important. Even when customers are armed with precise measurements, trying to imagine exactly how that beautiful new sofa will look in their living room is not an easy task.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that 14 per cent of Ikea customers end up buying furniture that doesn’t fit in its intended location. Thanks to AR, this number of returns can be reduced.

Creating an edge over competitors

Jerome’s, a furniture company in San Diego, California, has started using AR to gain an advantage over its competitors by launching “See it in your home” tabs on particular product pages.

Since its inclusion in early 2016, Jerome’s has seen a 65 per cent increase in conversion rates for consumers using the app compared to those who do not. It has also increased the time consumers spend on its website, nearly quadrupling the time to 15 minutes for AR app users compared to four minutes for other web visitors.

Future technologies

As 3D models and AR become the norm in retail, there is a strong interest in what is next in this space to keep ahead of the competition.

One technology is an AR sensor called the “Structure Sensor”. It is a compact 3D sensor designed to attach to a tablet and can capture a 3D model of a living room or any other object.

Think of the way we share 3D spaces with someone today, but instead of photos or videos, the sensor quickly creates a 3D model. It allows products to be precisely positioned and viewed in real world environments while also simplifying the creation of high-fidelity 3D models with high-resolution.

The bottom line

AR is perceived as the technology for the future and is making its way in the marketplace. Some of the top brands have already embraced the new technology and are using AR to provide exciting customer experiences.

This is the second story in a two-part series on augmented reality. Click here to read part one.

Rupert Deans is the CEO and founder of Plattar.

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