Inspired by the recent Becks Green box project event I attended, it got me thinking about the wider effects of augmented reality for online retailers and the way this could shape and change online and offline shopping habits in the very near future.
So firstly what is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment (such as a camera on a mobile phone) whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.
Traditionally this technology has been used to overlay information such as maps, venue locations or event information either accessed through a mobile device or webcam. Due to recent innovations in scanning technology, real objects and people can now be scanned and placed into AR apps. This gives the ability to have, for example, three dimensional images of objects placed into a room.
With enhancements in technology such as smart phones and tablets, AR has evolved dramatically and can now be accessed anywhere, having previously been confined to desktop PC and webcams. This means users can have AR experiences almost anywhere; this improvement in mobile technology has opened up AR to the rest of reality.
So what’s the impact of this for retailers and how can AR be integrated into their marketing campaigns?
One of the biggest hurdles for online retailers is allowing their customers to get a real sense of what the product looks like, how it will feel, the size, shape and colour of the product. Current methods for display take on two forms, photography and video. Both great in their own right but rarely replace the in store experience of seeing the product first hand.
With great advancements in AR technology we now have the ability to scan anything from products to people to produce 3D photo-realistic models. Customers can then view these models from any angle giving them as close to the in-store experience as possible from their own home! Combining this with AR apps means a customer can simply print a marker directly from the retailers website or tear off a marker from a magazine and download the app. Placing the marker in their home and viewing it with the app they will be able to see what the product would look like, to scale, with a 3D photo-realistic model. Imagine buying a new sofa or a bed and being able to try out different positions, designs, colours and getting used to what it would really look like in your own room. With the added benefit of a ‘click to buy’ feature this is going to be huge!
There are key benefits for in-store applications of AR as well, for example awe-inspiring installations where markers viewed through an app jump out of the floor or appear around the retail space. Not only creating a new and innovative buzz but also a great space saver allowing people to view products in different styles, materials, colours and sizes or even virtually trying on clothes without actually entering the changing room. This creatively takes multi-channel retailing to the next level.
Installations can also be informative and provide the necessary information for the consumer, for example whilst viewing their new sofa through the AR app it can overlay all the information relating to the product such as cost, delivery time, etc thereby reducing the in-store point of sale material required.
Applications are not only restricted to online or in-stor. Major brands are embracing the world of AR catwalk shows and interactive AR clothes, like this fun rock paper scissors T-shirt! The way I see it we’re really are only limited by our imaginations.
As with any marketing strategy AR applications need to be done well and combined as part of a wider marketing strategy. A shining example of how this can be achieved is the artfinders application. Users can use the artfinders website to create and share virtual galleries of their favourite paintings. The artfinders AR app, uses the phones GPS to identify when the user is near a gallery that is displaying one of the paintings they have in their virtual gallery. Whilst in the gallery the app then searches to see if the gallery sells a print of that masterpiece, if not it will connect you to a website which has that print for order and will allow you to click to buy and have the print delivered to your home – amazing!
I truly believe AR will shape the future of retail on and offline and for those with the creative insight to lead the charge they will deliver a truly innovative and eye-popping user experience.
Digicave is a Brighton based company who have pioneered 3D photo-realistic scanning and freeviewpoint media and showcase some great examples of this technology in action.