In the coming years, augmented reality (AR) will undoubtedly have a huge impact in retail, footwear, and apparel - both online and in-store - for brands as well as consumers. Designed to bridge the physical and digital worlds, the use cases for AR continue to expand as retailers get more creative with their applications of the technology. Experiments from leading brands have shown the potential AR has to influence customers and the way they interact with products, but AR can also be used internally to improve the product design and development process. There are five ways today's retailers can use augmented reality to gain a competitive advantage.
The early stages of fashion design are an iterative process that require multiple rounds of review and revisions before determining the look that will eventually go to production. Using AR, today's fashion designers and product developers can review virtual product designs in a physical space at full scale. This gives them the ability to obtain real-time feedback from other stakeholders while also providing the flexibility to quickly iterate on sampling and aesthetic choices.
When it comes to connected store technology, AR is a huge differentiator for brands looking to improve the customer experience. Fitting rooms, in particular, can leverage AR technology to virtually show shoppers what certain items look like in different colors or patterns, saving them the hassle of trying on multiple pieces of clothing. Fitting room mirrors equipped with LCD screens are making this futuristic scenario entirely possible and providing a more interactive experience for brick-and-mortar shoppers.
Products themselves can also utilize AR experiences to provide shoppers with an interactive way to obtain additional item details – like where a garment was made, if it’s part of a sale or promotion, or if it uses sustainable materials. Shoppers can conveniently view this information on their mobile device and then share it on social media or other digital channels if they choose to. Retail brands can take this concept even further by gamifying these AR experiences to give shoppers more incentive to interact with their products.
A growing number of brands and retailers are incorporating AR experiences into their mobile apps to give shoppers a convenient way to visualize products at full scale using just their mobile device. AR provides online shoppers with the luxury of a virtual fitting room where they can "try on" different styles, without ever having to leave the house. The IKEA Place AR app, for example, lets shoppers scroll through a catalog of the retailer's furniture and then place it in their home at full scale to see how it looks and fits in the space. The same can be done with apparel or footwear to give shoppers a better sense of how a product would complement the rest of their wardrobe.
Outside of the usual shopping channels, brands and retailers should think outside the box about how they can use AR to get in front of new audiences or make a powerful statement. Creative marketing stunts that use AR can help brands break through the noise and provide consumers with a unique experience that can strengthen brand reputation when done right.
Take Audi’s quattro coaster AR app for example, where users can choose and resize a car model and then design a track for it to drive on in whatever location they’re in. For the user, it’s a fun, free activity to try at their convenience. For Audi, it’s a way to show new, highly detailed vehicle models to consumers without bringing them into a dealership. As retailers continue to innovate with AR, those that push the envelope will stand out the strongest to consumers.
Want to learn more about how your company should deploy AR? Download this article from the Harvard Business Review.