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. The experiments of 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 design and development process. These are five ways that retailers can use augmented reality right now to gain a competitive advantage.
The early stages of fashion design are an iterative process that require multiple rounds of reviews and revisions before arriving at the look that will eventually go into production. Using AR to converge the digital and physical worlds, designers and developers can now review digital product designs in a physical space at full scale. This gives them the ability to obtain real-time feedback from other stakeholders while also having the flexibility to quickly iterate on sampling and aesthetic choices.
When it comes to connected store technology, AR is a big differentiator for brands who want to improve the customer experience. Fitting rooms, in particular, can leverage AR technology to show shoppers what a certain item would look like in various colors or patterns, saving them the time and hassle of trying on multiple pieces of clothing. Fitting room mirrors equipped with LCD screens make this possible, providing a more interactive experience for brick-and-mortar shoppers.
Products themselves can also attach AR experiences to provide shoppers with an interactive way to obtain additional details – like where a garment was made, if it’s part of a sale or promotion, or if it was manufactured sustainably. When viewed by a mobile device, this information can easily be shared on social media or other digital channels. Brands can go 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 successfully incorporating AR experiences into their mobile apps to give shoppers a way to visualize their products at full scale using just their mobile device. This 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 could be a way to break through the noise and provide consumers with a unique experience that will improve brand reputation if 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, detailed car models to people without them having to come into a dealership. As retailers get more comfortable experimenting with AR, those that push the envelope will continue to stand out as torch bearers in a crowded retail market.
Want to learn more about how your company should deploy AR? Download this article from the Harvard Business Review.