Picture this all-too-frequent scenario: a customer orders a shirt online from a retailer and they excitedly receive the shipment days later, but the product doesn’t look or fit as anticipated. E-commerce dominates the world of retail as consumers rely more and more on convenience. However, brick-and-mortar shopping still has a notable advantage – it gives consumers the ability to experience a product in person, leading to a heightened sense of purchasing confidence.
With 96% of Americans shopping online, savvy retailers can adapt their online experience to include sensory experiences that consumers crave. By implementing augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) into the online shopping experience, retailers can show consumers products in the context of their daily lives to provide a more immersive experience and give them assurance that they are purchasing the right product.
Consumers Are Excited About AR/VR in Retail
According to a study by Adtaxi, consumers are on board for the implementation of these technologies. Ten percent of U.S. consumers said they have used AR or VR while shopping in 2018, and another 45 percent said they would like to try it. These technologies have the potential to drive more informed and confident purchases - which means fewer returns with 30% saying they would never visit a clothing store again if this technology could help them shop clothing fit with confidence. Brands and retailers need to consider the ways they can enhance their customer experience (CX) online to compete with the sensory experience in-store shopping provides.
Leading Brands Are Mastering These Technologies
Many companies are already implementing AR and VR into the shopping experience to enhance their business strategy in a customer-centric way.
- Pottery Barn rolled out an AR room design experience called the 3D Room Design App. The interactive tool allows customers to drag and drop Pottery Barn items into their home to see how furniture and décor look and fit in their space.
- Volvo introduced a full virtual reality test drive on mobile devices called Volvo Reality. Through this application, customers get a feel for being in the car and taking it out on the road. Their virtual reality videos include different landscapes, inviting the buyers to experience a real-life journey in the comfort of their own home.
- Nike is rolling out its latest AR initiative called Nike Fit. The feature, powered through the shoemaker's mobile app, will use a smartphone camera to take a detailed scan of a person’s feet. In less than a minute, Nike will be able to recommend ideal shoe fits and sizes for each individual.
As customer expectations continue to rise, retailers must continue to make their e-commerce experiences individualized, convenient and accessible or customers will move on. Retailers today should be focused on using technology to proactively service customers, helping them shop with confidence.
But not every retailer has resources of Nike. That said, there are ways for brands of all sizes to test out this technology. Some may choose to work with digital consultants who are experts in transforming the CX using these tools, others may hire internally to increase customer innovation initiatives across the company. No matter which route a company takes, partnering with the right people and thinking creatively about how to leverage these technologies will differentiate a business from the market and keep it coming out on top.
-Ed Kirchmier, vice president, Retail and Consumer Products, OZ
Ed has over 30 years of experience in consulting and IT, having previously served Andersen Consulting, AppNet, CommerceOne, Ryder System, Inc., and Carnival Corp. A digital innovator, Ed connects not only people, but data, trends and experiences. He goes above and beyond for his clients to collaborate and solve their business pains through a customer lens. Ed has worked with many industry-leading companies, like Allstate, Apple, Cendant, Burger King and Royal Caribbean, to help solve their digital innovation challenges. Ed received his B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).