Augmented reality: retail conversion rate saviour?

Creative Digital Agency Hitsearch reviews the role of AR in the online retail space, and the benefits of investing in the technology as part of a UX and CRO strategy.

Tablet device displaying an augmented reality image

Overview of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, often abbreviated to AR, is a combination of real and computer-generated worlds. The process involves adding extra-layers of digital information to a real-life image to enhance the viewing experience through the use of sound, images and text. As technology advances, Augmented Reality is slowly becoming more and more commonplace in the physical retail and digital marketing world, perfect timing for an industry shattered by lockdown restrictions and the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Role of AR in online UX and conversion strategy         

With software developers continuing to refine AR applications, the line that once separated virtual and real-life is becoming increasingly blurred. It’s clear that retail businesses who are using AR are likely to offer a better customer experience to those who don’t. By applying Augmented Reality to their potential customer’s shopping experience, retail brands are succeeding in moving users further down the sales funnel. We’ve found three examples of retailers who have successfully integrated AR into their online retail sites to enhance customer experience and strengthen conversion rates.

Try before you buy

When your site allows customers to try on products virtually, it eliminates a need to visit a store and generally makes the overall buying experience a lot quicker and easier, with most people more willing to spend money on things they have ‘tested’ on themselves first, especially if it’s make-up accessories or clothing.

L’Oréal has recently invested in ModiFace, an Augmented Reality system that enables you to try shades and styles of make-up, both online and instore, before you commit to buying the product. ModiFace works seamlessly as a smartphone app, with users now able to simply hold their smartphone to their face and experiment with products. With a few simple taps, you can see exactly how a certain shade of foundation, colour of lipstick or pigment of eyeshadow will look with your complexion.

Interior Imagineering

As well as the fashion and beauty sectors, furniture and homeware retailers are also using Augmented Reality to allow a consumer to see how a certain piece of furniture may sit in their home. Furniture retailer DFS now allows customers to visualise their chosen sofa in their chosen home space before they commit to making what can often be a major purchase, all from the comfort of home.

Virtual fitting rooms

Returning an ill-fitting item is not only an inconvenience for the customer but can also cost a retail company massively. In order to eliminate the lingering inefficiency of not being able to try clothes on, online, Augmented Reality has now appeared in the form of virtual fitting rooms. Stores with the virtual fitting room function on their apps, will allow users to try the item on their own body shape, before buying. Whilst virtual fitting rooms are still a work in progress, they are something that are definitely worth considering if you’re thinking of incorporating AR into your retail store’s online experience.

Utilising AR in a COVID-climate 

AR’s ability to provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience instils a confidence in consumers that they are making the right purchase and can also work to reduce returns rate as the customer has technically already tried the product on, albeit virtually. Visualising products in real-time from the comfort of their own homes is an attractive prospect for a lot of online consumers, especially in a post-COVID world.

Augmented Reality can boost consumer relationships with a brand and give retailers even more of an opportunity to interact with their target audience. According to Crunchbase, 71% of consumers said they would shop with an online retailer more frequently if they offered AR to their customers, with 61% choosing a retailer that does offer the Augmented Reality experience over one that doesn’t. This insight alone indicates the power of AR in attracting and maintaining a loyal customer base – an objective surely held by every retailer affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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