We are all shoppers in the retail world.
Sometimes, you require consultative experiences where a sales associate helps you to find what you are looking for. But sometimes, you know exactly what you want and just need an easier way to shop. Different customers have different needs and as retailers, it is important for you to reach them wherever they are – in-store, online or on mobile. To keep up with the innovative solutions out there, customers need to be constantly delighted with new experiences and one of these innovative experiences that are gaining popularity is augmented reality (AR).
In a store setting, augmented reality presents an interactive experience in a real-world environment. Products can be “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information. Think of a store that sells backpacking and camping products. A virtual campfire could be projected – along with the crackling sound as crickets chirp and owls hoot. The natural elements could be brought into the mix as well – think of the sky changing from clear and starry to thundershowers or even snow. Apart from impressing the customer with this unique experience you will have them thinking about buying the warmer, water-proof gear.
IKEA has also used AR quite effectively. If you’ve been to their stores, you know it is an immersive experience. You walk through modular rooms set up with IKEA furniture and home furnishings. This allows the customer to see the actual assembled products in a contextualized setting. But what if I wanted to know how a couch would look in my actual living room? Enter the ‘IKEA Place’ app. This AR-powered mobile app made it possible for consumers to view 3D and true-to-scale models of furniture in their home via the app and then simply order online.
Cosmetic and beauty brands have used AR in-store with success as well. Sephora allows customers to see how makeup might look on them without ever having to apply and clean off any product via their “Virtual Artist” technology.
Taking AR to Next Level with Smart Mirrors
AR continues to push boundaries in retail and one of the latest innovation that gets talked about are Smart Mirrors, and they are slowly becoming a popular concept. We have seen people using them in their homes for workouts or even as a central hub for information, similar to a personal assistant. But, their application in a retail environment is what excites me most.
The reality is online shoppers are used to streamlined, curated experiences that are almost friction-less from start-to-finish. Unfortunately, the in-store experiences are often the opposite—lineups and limited product selection continue to drive customers online.
But what if smart mirrors help address this? What if you could see how clothes look on you without you physically trying them on? What if this experience wasn’t limited to apparel, but extended to accessories like belts, hats, etc.? Smart mirrors have the potential to create unique experiences for retail consumers and can benefit merchants in many ways:
- Driving Foot Traffic: Shopping doesn’t have to be limited to the store only. If a smart mirror is strategically placed in a mall, consumers can walk up to it and find what they’ve been meaning to buy from their favorite store. They can select their size, do a virtual try on and if they like it, they can securely pay right on the spot for the merchandise at the screen. This can be instrumental in driving foot traffic to your store and gives you additional opportunities to interact with customers.
- Time Savings: Consumers are shopping more quickly these days and look for ways to make their experience more efficient and meaningful. According to an analyst brief by 451 Research, 56 percent of the consumers surveyed have left a store without purchasing anything due to long lines. Smart mirrors can help remove some of the friction and time-consuming activities from the experience. The merchant can add efficiencies to their staff by reallocating resources to other department or areas that might need help.
- Clicks-to-Bricks: With more online retailers opening physical retail stores, the idea of ‘clicks-to-bricks’ is taking center stage. Many brands such as Warby Parker, Bonobos, etc. have opened retail locations after building momentum with their online-only model. By using this AR-powered technology, these merchants can have a large impact with a small footprint. Their stores can be smaller and still cater to all types of customers by providing them a combination of traditional and new retail experiences.
- Unlimited Virtual Inventory: With smart mirrors, consumers can virtually try on as many pieces of clothing as they want without needing a fitting room. These mirrors can act as a reflection of the retailer’s full inventory and provide consumers with immediate insight in without sorting through shelves of clothes. This improves the overall customer experience and encourages customers to also purchase styles or colors they might not have considered before.
- Pushing Offers, Upselling & Loyalty: These mirrors can also be used to push offers, discounts and even upsell on products to the consumers. This provides merchants another opportunity to effectively interact with their customers and build loyalty.
Future of AR in Retail
This is just the tip of the iceberg for AR, smart mirrors and their application in businesses. As this technology develops further, use cases in other industries are bound to come up sooner than later. AR technology has been at our fingertips for many years, however, its application hadn’t found its way into the everyday shopping experiences of consumers until now. Every consumer is different and businesses across the globe want to make sure they find relevant ways to attract them. Sure, many consumers still like to touch and feel products before buying them, but there are many others who would like a new shopping experience that allows them to save time, virtually try out many styles and even take advantage of offers and discounts without even stepping into a fitting room. Creating these unique customer experiences is the key to growing your business.
How would you use AR or smart mirrors in your business? Tell us in the comments section below.
Chris Tyghe is Vice President of Strategic Development at Ingenico Group, Canada