Augmented reality eCommerce (AR) and virtual reality (VR) might still be relatively new technology in the eCommerce space, yet these experiences are already resonating with customers, boosting online retail sales and conversion rates, and significantly enhancing the customer experience.

While it may seem trendy or futuristic, the time for AR/VR is upon us. Intelligent eCommerce companies will be quick to ask themselves how they can cash in on the craze.

What’s the Difference Between AR & VR?

While both AR and VR are useful and engaging technologies, they’re not the same.

Augmented reality is when graphics and content are superimposed on the user’s environment, usually via a mobile device. Typically in an augmented reality eCommerce context, AR technology helps customers experience exactly how a product featured in an online store would look in the real world. A great example is IKEA’s augmented reality app, which helps shoppers visualize how a sofa might look in their living room.

Similarly, Houzz, an interior design and home remodeling brand, also used AR technology to help customers get a sense of how products would work in their homes. The impact on Houzz’s bottom line was significant: consumers who had AR shopping experiences were 11 times more likely to purchase a product, and spent nearly 3 times as long on the Houzz app as those who had a traditional mobile commerce experience.

Virtual reality is a completely created, digital world (no superimposing on a real world environment). It’s an immersive technology, where the user can interact within the simulated environment. 

For example, Audi created a virtual reality exhibit, Enter Sandbox, to help launch their Q5. First, users would design their own driving course in an actual sandbox. The design was then 3D scanned and converted to a virtual reality course, which users drove via a virtual Audi Q5. 

The result? An instantly famous traveling exhibit and a viral video of Enter Sandbox that was viewed more than 25 million times worldwide on social media alone - significantly impressive content marketing.

So while VR and AR experiences differ technologically, both revolutionize the user experience, offering practical applications to customers.

Applying Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality eCommerce

There are a multitude of ways in which AR and VR technology will transform not only online shopping, but also brick-and-mortar store experiences, customer service, and even brand awareness and loyalty.

Benefits of ARVR in eCommerce graphic

Here are a few examples of concrete ways eCommerce brands can utilize this technology to both their own - and their customers’ - advantage.

Online Shopping Experiences

Arguably the area most significantly impacted by AR and VR, all industries can take advantage of these technological developments . . . 

  • Car manufacturers can allow potential customers to explore all of a vehicle’s interior and even exterior features without ever leaving their couches.
  • Home improvement, furniture, and interior design companies can demonstrate to customers what their products will look like in the customer’s actual home.
  • Fitness and sports companies can enable customers to try products before purchasing them, via virtual gyms.
  • Fashion and clothing brands might offer virtual fitting rooms, or augmented reality apps like Converse’s Shoe Sampler app, which allows users to simply point a phone or tablet at their feet, and instantly see how different models and colors of shoes might look on their feet. 
  • eCommerce-only businesses can bring real-life shopping experiences to a customer’s home.

Furthermore, Augmented Reality eCommerce technology can enhance product pages. Offering 3D renderings of products on pages where customers already search for, consider, purchase, and review products will help close sales and increase consumer confidence and satisfaction. How often have you purchased something online, only to return it when you receive it in person and realize that it isn’t quite right? 3D product pages can provide better clarity for customers.

Indeed, home improvement retailer Lowe’s has seen ample return on investment with this strategy: a 104% increase in average order values when shoppers view their products in 3D versus when they don’t.

In-Store Experiences

Like Audi’s Enter Sandbox exhibit demonstrated, unique and engaging AR and VR experiences can drive traffic to stores, showrooms, pop ups, etc. 

Augmented reality apps can also assist customers in-store. Imagine an app that you pointed at a product, and it instantly pulled up relevant product information, and similar or complementary products, as well as their in-store locations. No more buying a laptop and then having to track down chargers, a mouse, a case, etc. Just point your smartphone’s camera at the laptop in question, and the app can direct you accordingly.

Customer Service

What if, rather than a chat bot, a user guide, or even a step-by-step video, AR and VR tech could provide you with an interactive experience in which you learned how to use or even troubleshoot your new product? This is just the beginning of new customer service applications. 

Brand Awareness & Loyalty

Finally, utilizing AR and VR technology can increase and enhance brand recognition and loyalty. 

It opens up a variety of experiential marketing opportunities, which help to differentiate your brand. AR apps and VR experiences increase engagement, build buzz, and provide unique, standout interactions to customers. 

In today’s oversaturated market, that alone is incredibly advantageous. 

In Conclusion

Proactive eCommerce brands will take advantage of positive consumer response to AR and VR technology and develop their own engaging experiences.

AR and VR is still relatively new to the retail space, and can help companies offer unmatched experiences to customers, outperform the competition, and increase sales.

Learn more about how to build AR and VR into your digital roadmap. Schedule a call today to start the conversation

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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