How and Why Retail Brands Should Use Augmented Reality

Many brands are beginning to understand the definition and impact of augmented reality (AR). The ability for AR to be significantly more engaging than any other technology by creating a multisensory experience can help brands develop a deeper relationship with consumers. As a result, the gaming and entertainment industries are adopting AR solutions at a rapid pace.

But the retail industry has also been leveraging AR for more engaging consumer interactions. In fact, Marketing Dive reports that the combined spending on AR and virtual reality (VR) in the retail industry will grow roughly 238 percent annually, which would make it the top industry for AR and VR spend by 2020.

What does this mean for retailers? It’s time to get strategic about mobile applications and start thinking big about AR. To get started, brands should look to their customers before developing or optimizing existing solutions. Pulling from a recent exploratory research study that we conducted, there are specific insights into consumer perceptions and use cases for AR that can also help brands embark on this initiative.

Specifically, the results showed it may be less important for consumers to actually understand AR in order for them to comprehend its potential use. For example, most consumers find that AR can be used for the following:

  • product trials or experiences;
  • to help people by saving time or by improving a process; or
  • to entertain and make an experience or process more fun.

If an app doesn’t satisfy one or more of those use cases, it may be less relevant to consumers and more difficult to get them to use it. This is especially true when it comes to retail-oriented apps, as consumers aren’t expecting a game and are likely looking to understand how AR will help them in their shopping experience.

The online shopping experience is where most respondents mentioned they would like to try using an AR tool. Consumers like the idea of trying something out or seeing a product without having to go anywhere — or at least before going to a store to purchase it.

One female respondent stated, “I would definitely use augmented reality to try on clothes or other purchases online. This would be an ideal add-on to the online buying experience.”

Results also showed consumers are more open to trying AR-related solutions from brands associated with technology, home improvement and retail. In fact, several specific retail brands were mentioned in consumer responses, including Nike, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ikea, and Amazon.com.

So as AR’s application to retail heightens, software developers will need to get more creative with the technology in order to continue to provide both consumers and brands with immeasurable value. Benefits brands can expect to get out of adopting an AR solution include the following:

  • an easier way to control and improve the brand experience;
  • increased brand engagement and an improvement in customer retention; and
  • a new source for understanding consumers.

However, consumers still have specific questions and concerns when it comes to AR, including the needs it solves, how it applies to their daily lives, and privacy and security considerations. These concerns are always a barrier when it comes to connected technology. As a result, be sure to provide an easy-to-read and digestible product description that also highlights any privacy or security concerns.

Ultimately, any brand can try to incorporate AR into their marketing or product strategy. However, retail provides more of an opportunity than other industries. Retail brands that have learned this and already developed solutions have gained a competitive advantage, or at the very least have raised brand awareness and engagement.

To see additional examples of ways to apply AR and to take a deeper dive into the results of the exploratory study we conducted, download the full report below.

Download Report