The ability of augmented reality (AR) to place computer-generated images over real-world scenes in a seamless view is already helping drive sales and solve customer problems in the furniture retail space.
Research firm International Data Corp estimates AR and VR (virtual reality) spending will hit $18 billion this year. A recent report from research group Sonar, suggests 80 percent of generation Z customers are more likely to visit a store offering VR technology, which allows customers to try products in virtual environments (or even create entirely virtual stores).
“AR and VR are actively being experimented with throughout the retail sector,” said David Tal, president of Quantumrun Forecasting, a strategic forecasting agency. “Lego stores allow shoppers to point Lego boxes against an AR 'mirror' that then animates the box by having miniature Lego people build the Lego sets in front of the shopper's eyes.”
Home Depot has launched a trial that lets customers preview how their custom kitchen installations might look with VR headsets, Tal said.
Ara Parikh is a product marketing manager for AR/VR ad platform Omnivirt. She says her clients are looking for alternatives to banner ads to drive interaction with customers. “Brands are interested in using 360-degree AR and VR reality ad campaigns to enhance user engagement, driving up click-through rates and increasing sales.”
Companies looking to invest in AR tech for retail sales should consider whether they want to create a branded app for mobile, a web-based AR experience or ad — or both.
“Retail companies like Ikea, Wayfair and Lowe’s created augmented reality experiences through mobile apps to drive sales,” she said. “However, with the recent support of AR on mobile devices, customers no longer need to download an application to experience AR. We see this as a turning point in AR marketing because the barrier to view and interact with the AR advertisements are eliminated. Users will soon be able to see an AR ad while scrolling through a news article or browsing social media.”
Other retail companies have created apps to help customers assemble purchases, choose items to remodel a bathroom, or place furniture in their own homes.
“It’s has always been difficult to picture how a piece would translate from the showroom to the living space,” said Tim Lynch, whose company Psychsoftpc, manufactures VR workstations and high-end VR gaming computers. “Picturing dimensions and arrangement is problematic because retail space is so large that everything appears smaller than it is. AR solves that by actually allowing consumers to virtually place objects in the home and see how it fits without having the object delivered.”
Parikh points to a Lowe’s app called Measured, which lets customers virtually test items in their homes, then make an in-store purchase for pickup or buy directly online.
“It’s easier for customers to make a decision if a piece of furniture will fit in their space,” she said. “AR technology helps meet the needs of their customers while placing their branded products in the cart for purchase.”
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