The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses and economies of scale, and it has also enforced the importance of adopting new-age technology to keep the business going in any kind of situation.
The pandemic has brought about several changes, such as digitisation, social distancing, and the importance of sanitisation, all of which can reflect as long-term behavioural changes in consumers. Retail is one sector which has been hugely impacted by the closure of shopping malls, low e-commerce delivery and also the threat of people not going out to shop, even post-pandemic. In this scenario, reaching your customers, even if they cannot reach the store, is imperative.
According to ResearchAndMarkets, augmented reality in the retail market is expected to rise from $1.15 billion in 2018, to $7.95 billion in 2023, at a CAGR of 47.1 percent. This growth is truly exponential and fuelled by digital shopping experiences, rising smartphone penetration, and growing adoption of connected devices along with development in AR technology.
Even when customers purchase products online, sometimes they go to a brick-and-mortar retailer to see the physical products first. But these in-person trips to the store might decrease due to the circumstances and guidelines that unfold in the coming months, and also due to social distancing becoming a norm.
The retail industry obviously needs to innovate in order to survive.
This is where technology can play a major role - the application of AR needs to be incorporated into the customer’s shopping experience. It has benefits for both customers, and retailers, especially in the current scenario.
Increase in Consumer Engagement
Through increased smartphone usage, AR has emerged as an innovative tool that allows brands an almost unlimited opportunity to interact three-dimensionally with consumers on their mobile devices. According to a report, nearly 50 percent of consumers shop more on mobile than in-store. The augmented reality customer experience is a new digital experience that transforms the customer journey into an immersive, visually-interactive experience.
Employing the AR feature in the customer experience, retailers can help customers by giving them a trial-run of the product they wish to buy, which helps them make their minds up. It can further help boost their confidence enough to complete the sale, even if they are at home.
It gives the same experience one has while trying-out at the store, and this digital extension of the offline retail experience can lead to deeper engagement with the audience, which might help retain customers from home.
Better Safety & Hygiene
Most of the physical inventory that is touched or tried on at stores will have to be sanitised as a safety measure till there is a solution for the pandemic. In such a case, AR can lead contact-less and virtual try-on at stores to minimize touching of inventory before consumers make their final decisions.
For eg - sanitizing digital screens will be much easier and safer than sanitizing every jewellery or accessory piece every time it is touched.
Less Crowd But More Sales
The use of digital technology can go hand-in-hand with the idea of social distancing as this could enable a limited number of people to be in the store, all at the same time. A group of tablets with AR technology can help customers try-on pieces virtually without the need of having sales people attend to each of them.
This would also help maintain distance between them and guarantee safety at the same time. Advances in AR could possibly be a game changer for the retail market to attract more shoppers to buy virtually without seeing the product first-hand in a store.
In a survey conducted by AgilOne of more than 3,000 adult consumers in the US and UK, more than 70 percent of consumers said they expect personalised experiences with the brands they interact with. Personalisation is a major business differentiator these days. Any company in the retail sector that can tailor each customer’s experience to their liking will win more customers and their loyalty.
AR can let customers try on products and collect, save, and analyse that information to make ultra-informed purchase decisions within an immersive, individualized environment. The virtual experience is an enhancement over the real one, where it’s an endless hassle for shoppers to try on various items until they find those that fit best.
The bottom line is that digitisation is the need of the hour. As society continually changes with new realities like quarantining, only the most innovative businesses are surviving. It’s crucial to think of ways to bring your customer to your products, even if your customer never leaves their home.
Edited by Aparajita Saxena
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)