The advancements in technology are disrupting the way businesses connect with their clientele. The retail industry has always been at the forefront of experimenting with the emerging technologies to build delightful experiences for their customers. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are the buzzwords in the tech world today; and retailers are trying to leverage these new-age technologies to revolutionize the way they engage and connect with the modern-day customers. Most of the e-commerce brands offer one-day, and even same day delivery to woo their impatient shoppers. However, online platforms are still unable to match the brick and mortar shopping experience for the lack of providing the buyers an actual feel of the products. Retailers, hence, are experimenting with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for bridging this gap.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – Same or Different?
If you thought AR and VR are one and the same, you are mistaken. Virtual Reality is a simulated environment wherein a real-time situation is re-created. VR makes you feel that you are in that situation or location, offering you a 360-degree view of the place. Travel websites, real estate and gaming benefit from VR. It sometimes becomes difficult to separate what’s real and what’s not in VR. But in Augmented Reality, there is a clear separation between what’s real and what’s virtual, as it accentuates a situation virtually, but you are clearly outside the scene. Both technologies are closely interrelated. While VR blocks out the real world by putting you in a simulated world, AR only adds virtual elements into the real world. What ultimately draws the line is whether the technology puts you totally in a simulated situation (VR) or is only enhancing the real situation (AR).
Augmented Reality (AR) and Future of Omnichannel Retail
One of the most recognizable implementations of augmented reality today is seen in apps, which overlay images with the help of the smartphone’s camera. Brands that are targeting the younger markets have been swift in adopting AR for delivering engaging experiences for their customers. Demonstrating the flexibility of augmented reality, high-end fashion stores are employing AR to display clothing or make-up on the customers without the need of physically trying anything on. Several well-known footwear brands have brought similar functionality in their smartphone apps.
Virtual Dressing Rooms
Shopping for clothes at a crowded store is nothing short of torture; but shopping online could be a bit of a hit-and-miss experience. This has led to the birth of interactive mirrors, which let you try out different outfits virtually, explore patterns and colors, and even different sizes. The recent one to be rolled out is the MemoryMirror, which uses AR to show how clothes would fit, and enables customers to change outfits with just a swipe of their hand.
Augmented Glasses the Future of Eyewear
Smart glasses have become smarter today. AR specs are ultimately approaching the prime time, and a horde of start-ups are getting into this space. AR glassware isn’t just about having a camera on your face. These glasses foster fitness tracking and together with reality are powering the next-gen of smart eye-wearables.
Eye Tracking in VR/AR
Eye tracking is a big thing today. In virtual reality, there’s a shift toward next round of head-mounted displays with embedded eye tracking hardware as standard.
Eye-tracking provides an intuitive experience for the customer in selecting options and negotiating virtual spaces within the VR environment. Today, market researchers in retail are leveraging virtual reality with eye tracking for assessing how store layouts and in-store displays perform with customers. It enables them to choose the best shelf location for their products of various kinds and also in testing the designs for a new store with minimal resources and cost.
What if your favorite brand lets you try out a dress virtually and then also offers customization? AR can achieve perfect customization, whether it’s for a dress or for furniture. You can upload your room image on the AR enabled mobile app and get customized versions of furniture based on the size of the rooms.
AR will also let you experience real-time shopping by offering virtual assistants who take you through a tour of the store. You can focus your camera on any particular product to see its details. Further, you can clear your doubts too in real-time, which makes shopping more interactive and enjoyable.
In the recent years, AR has moved from being just a concept to a reality. There are several AR applications which are being used today by people and several applications are under developmental phase. Augmented reality has its foot in the door, and it would change everything. Although AR still requires a lot of enhancements, hopefully soon we will witness more interesting facets in the retail industry.
Most retail enterprises are looking to maximize the functions and features of AR technologies for enhancing enterprise workflows and processes. It is not a gimmicky technology anymore, a perception which may have misguided the industry for a while now. Its application in the retail industry would be far-reaching, enabling us to experience the internet in the world around us.