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Augmented Reality is Changing the Face of Online Retail

Technology is at the heart of the eCommerce industry.  As an industry that depends on technology and innovation, eCommerce companies have to be on the lookout for the latest advances, like on-demand app development and others, that are going to shape the future of how business is done online.

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Augmented reality is one such technology that is starting to have an impact on the eCommerce industry. Some eCommerce brands are already experimenting with AR. We now see eCommerce companies using AR as a technology that can help them stand out from the competition; it is being used to deliver a more personalized experience to consumers, and companies are using it to provide shoppers with the ability to test and explore products in ways that are similar to the in-person shopping experience.

Bringing Reality to Online Shopping

Online shopping is already very popular, but there can still be issues that prevent customers from wanting to buy products online. Among the biggest problems for consumers is the distance between them and the physical product. A consumer may have interest in purchasing a product, but the inability to see it firsthand can leave them with doubts.

AR is the ideal technology to help shoppers with these concerns. Online retailers can now develop augmented reality apps that allow the consumer to test and experience a virtual representation of the product. They can even include features that allow the shopper to customize the product for their needs. Some apps will allow customers to create 3D models that can be placed in a real-world environment simply by using the camera and screen of a smartphone.

Augmented reality is already what technology shoppers want from an online shopping experience. In a survey from 2016, 71% of consumers said they would shop with an online retailer more frequently if they offered AR. 61% said they would prefer to buy from sites that offer AR over ones that do not.

For example, Ikea has integrated artificial reality with their app named Place. Shoppers can now use the camera of their smartphone to virtually place different home furnishings into their surroundings. The program allows users to interact with the projected images and envisions how they would look in various spaces. This helps customers find the perfect piece of furniture without having to return items that they imagined would fit.

Incorporating similar features into branded apps is a great way for companies to make the online shopping experience easier, more reliable, and less of a hassle.

AR as a Standout Feature

Competition is one of the biggest challenges for online retailers. Customers have more options than they could ever possibly encounter, and it can be difficult to find ways to make your brand stand out from the crowd. By adding AR to the online shopping experience, eCommerce businesses have an opportunity to set their brand apart from the competition.

Augmented Reality and Ecommerce Collides;

Photo Credit: Lift Mag

Converse shows how this can be done. The shoe brand launched an AR app for iPhone called The Sampler that allows users to virtually try on shoes. Simply by pointing the camera towards their right foot, the user can see what the shoe would look like in real life. This also helps to streamline the purchasing process, as customers have the opportunity to buy a pair of shoes they like directly via the app.

AR as a Useful Feature

While AR can help an eCommerce company stand out, brands need to do more than offer the feature as a novelty. Initial interest might bring more consumers to the site. However, if the feature isn’t useful, it won’t do much to help sell products.

One good example of smart use of AR technology is the DressingRoom app from Gap. Shoppers can provide the app with some basic information about their body. The program then creates a 3D model based on the user’s measurements. With this model in place, the user can virtually try on clothes to see how they look. This is just another way in which companies are making the margin of error smaller when it comes to online purchases.

AR and Personalization

AR has the potential to help consumers try and test virtual representation of products. However, it also can also help a brand create a more personalized user experience.

Once the shopper has installed the AR app on a device, it can collect, save, and analyze information. The company has increased access to the person’s shopping habits and preferences to create a more personalized experience. For example, a fashion company’s app can save information about the shopper’s size and style preferences. Later the app can make recommendations and upsell the customer.

It can also help shoppers make decisions more quickly. The AR app from Sephora, for example, allows users to upload images of their face. They can then virtually apply various makeup and skincare products to the image, giving a more accurate sense of what a certain product would look like. Once again, Sephora can help streamline the purchasing process and reduce the number of products customers return. When a customer can accurately envision what products suit them, they’re more likely to keep them.

Augmented reality is still a new feature on the eCommerce landscape, but it is expected to become much more common in the coming years. The brands that are going to have success with this technology are those that invest early and the ones that find new, innovative ways to use technology to improve the shopping experience.


Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.