Harnessing the power of augmented reality for eCommerce innovation

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Across every survey of the top trends in eCommerce for 2023, you’ll undoubtedly find one of the most promising technological developments to appear in recent years: augmented reality (AR). This tech innovation is driving sales and boosting brand awareness. According to market research, 38% of consumers already use augmented reality as part of their online shopping experience.

Clearly, the market desire is there. eCommerce shoppers prefer to interact with brands that can deliver hyper-personalized, customizable, and interactive retail experiences. Using AR, brands can provide the next level of eCommerce innovation. 

This article will look at how to use augmented reality to enhance your eCommerce pages. We’ll reveal the benefits of using AR for your eCommerce brand and show you how to implement AR technology on your site today. We’ll then explore the challenges facing the developing field of AR in eCommerce and what kinds of solutions are being developed as the technology evolves. 

How to use augmented reality to enhance your eCommerce platform

By all accounts, augmented reality is the future of eCommerce marketing and advertising. With augmented reality, brands can provide more sophisticated customer experiences. Customers can interact and engage with products in more advanced ways. Let’s look at a few uses of AR that enhance eCommerce experiences. 

Product visualization

Rather than scrutinizing and scrolling through dozens of flat images to try to understand how a product looks from every angle, customers will be able to view an interactive 3D product model. Users can launch an augmented reality mode to place the 3D rendering of a product within their real-world environment. This feature is key for customers who prefer to visualize how an object will look in their home or office space, for example. 

The IKEA furniture brand is a great example of the successful implementation of advanced AR product visualization. IKEA customers can browse the catalog, select specific items, and view them in the context of their real-world home environment. 

Enhanced customer experience

With interactive components, augmented reality provides an in-depth enhanced customer experience. Customer service queries will be aided by 3D visualizations of the situation when there is an issue with products. AR enhances customer service by allowing sales staff to answer questions about size and fit remotely. 

Customers can enjoy the gamification of product promotion and marketing, and engage in augmented reality challenges and activities. They can also interact more fully with 3D renderings of specific products and objects on the site. 

Simulated product testing

Augmented reality provides an invaluable resource for fashion, handbag, and jewelry brands. Customers can use AR to try on various options of the same item by exploring different color or pattern choices. They can see how a clothing item looks on them in the mirror without having to order and then potentially return various options. The same goes for makeup products and footwear. 

The American footwear brand Converse launched an augmented reality customer experience back in 2010 in a specific app. Using the app, customers could point their smartphones at their feet and see how specific Converse shoes would look with their outfits in different color options and styles. 

5 benefits of adopting augmented reality for eCommerce

1. Increase your reach

Studies show that 83% of adults prefer to purchase things with credit cards, and 32% report using their smartphones to buy something online at least once a week. Using augmented reality is a savvy method for tapping into the widespread popularity of online shopping via smartphones. 

Since potential customers or clients are already spending ample time checking their smartphones, browsing through social media, and interacting with businesses and contacts, AR is a great way to expand the reach of your eCommerce marketing strategy.

2. Higher conversion rates

According to research by the social media application Snapchat, brands can expect a whopping 94% increase in conversion rates when they provide interactive augmented reality experiences for potential customers. 

3. Stand out from the crowd with gamification

In the endless barrage of visual information and marketing content, it’s all too easy to lose potential customers and clients to information overload. Clever marketing slogans and imagery may not cut it when it comes to making a lasting impression, but providing an interactive customer experience that draws on the latest technology surely will. 

The gamification of eCommerce makes your marketing campaign fun, and customers will respond to this creative approach. Augmented reality allows your company to make a lasting impression and build on natural marketing as users share your standout augmented reality with their friends, families, and social networks. 

4. Prepare for the future

Adopting and embracing new and evolving technological solutions is key to the lasting success of all brands. With cutting-edge augmented reality applications already in place, businesses will be primed for success as tech continues to evolve. Ensuring the company is up to speed with the latest tech advances is a smart way to prepare for the future with foresight. 

5. Improved brand loyalty

Augmented reality tools and software provide fun and memorable experiences and allow customers to test out products and engage more deeply with services online. The ease and convenience of this in-depth digital shopping experience will inspire repeat visits. Customers who appreciate the ability to engage fully with products and services on offer before purchasing will become loyal customers who return to the same brand time and time again. 

How to set up augmented reality in eCommerce

Setting up augmented reality on your headless eCommerce pages is easier today than ever. The latest versions of smartphones come with presets that allow developers to sync directly with mobile browsers and digital storefronts.  

Augmented reality will soon be easily accessible via every smartphone. In the meantime, developers can start to include augmented reality previews, product views, and interactive experiences on branded product pages. 

Utilize 3D product scanning

The first step to preparing products for augmented reality viewing is to create a 3D scan of each product. Developers can use 3D scanning apps with in-app modeling capabilities to adjust scanned images and select SKU variants for each model. 

Several 3D scanning apps are already available, including Qlone, Vertebrae, and ThreeKit. The process is time-consuming, so start with evergreen products and best-selling classics. Any visitor will be able to access the images you capture, but for site visitors who have devices with augmented reality capabilities, your product can include a toggle or icon that activates the AR mode. 

When visitors click on a button that invites them to view the product in AR, your page can provide a QR code that instructs users how to access and install necessary AR viewers or software compatible with their specific device and user system.

Set Up AR With Apple ARKit and Google ARCore

Smartphones equipped with native augmented reality capabilities enable developers to sync up with established platforms such as Apple ARKit and Google ARCore. 

Using Apple ARKit, developers can create augmented reality experiences that users with iPhone 8 or higher and iOs 12 can access without complications. Users can view 3D models of products projected into real-world atmospheres through their smartphone camera. 

Developers targeting Android users can also access AR tools using Google’s ARCore to implement AR with one line of code. Users need to have OS version Q to access the Android Model Viewer or they can use a Magic Leap headset.

Establish customer-friendly AR interactions

Users should be able to easily share AR models and experiences via messenger and social media apps, email, and SMS. This will only help eCommerce brands gain visibility and popularity through word-of-mouth marketing. 

Developers should look for CRM software with features such as advanced app integration abilities. This will allow customers to seamlessly engage with AR tools and features on the product page by navigating between AR product views and the digital purchase page with ease. 

The challenges of adopting augmented reality for eCommerce

Since augmented reality is still developing when it comes to eCommerce brands and platforms, there are many issues developers will need to address. There is currently a lack of standards for the design and development of AR applications. Not only does this provide concerns about the quality of each app and its associated content, but it also raises issues surrounding user privacy. 

User privacy concerns

Users implementing the ability to test products in real-world environments may inadvertently be sharing sensitive information with bad actors, such as the location of a safe in their home or their home address. Users virtually trying on clothes before making a purchase can be subject to blackmail if bad actors overlay their bodies with incriminating AR imagery instead of the clothes they think they’re testing. 

As augmented reality becomes more widely adopted across sectors, developers can expect to see more stringent regulations in place. These will include regulatory security measures distributed by the US Department of Defense.

Physical harm and litigation

In addition, users interacting with augmented reality components may lack awareness about the actual environment surrounding them. This can result in physical harm and damage because users can get into or cause accidents or receive injuries. Brands may be at risk of litigation in cases where the risks are not properly expressed beforehand.

Final thoughts

Implementing augmented reality features, such as try before you buy, 3D product viewing, interactive customer experiences, and digital customization, will help brands make a lasting impact in the eCommerce marketplace. Brands that implement augmented reality features can expect increased conversion rates, customer retention, and lower return rates on unwanted products. 

Within the next several years, most consumers will have the latest smartphone models that will contain native augmented reality capabilities. As augmented reality becomes even more widespread, consumers, developers, and regulatory bodies will need to ensure that privacy and security concerns are addressed. 

We can expect to see more standardization of 3D viewing and AR development apps to provide higher-quality content across the board. Viewers will need to be educated on how to avoid physical harm while interacting with augmented reality 3D imagery. But these risks aside, AR is on track to become an invaluable aspect of every eCommerce endeavor in the very near future. 

Published June 27, 2023