This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.
The exciting world of 3D and AR technology has begun to transform the retail experience. What was once restricted to only those fortunate enough to try out this innovative technology (which usually involved a large headset) can now be accessed by the greater public, mainly through smartphones or similar technology. Although it is still not widely used across retail sectors, many brands have begun the process of implementing this technology into their everyday commerce strategies for customers, and it will likely become ubiquitous in the years to come.
What is 3D & AR Technology?
No need for those movie theatre glasses here! 3D (three-dimensional) and AR (augmented reality) technology has popped up in retail relatively recently, but interest in the technology already exists, as 66% of people say they are interested in using AR when shopping. 3D and AR go hand-in-hand, as AR provides an interactive 3D experience to users and can illustrate objects in real-time while in use. It acts as an overlay of digitally augmented elements that can appear in the environment around us.
One of your first introductions to AR might have been through Snapchat Lenses, which allows millions of users to familiarize themselves using (and enjoying) the technology. However, AR has appeared in other spaces, such as in the gaming industry, for many years.
Who’s Already Using 3D & AR Technology?
Many retail industries use 3D/AR technology to improve the customer experience. One example is the online furniture store, Wayfair. View in Room 3D is one feature that Wayfair offers customers via its app, which allows users the ability to digitally superimpose accurately sized furniture sold by Wayfair anywhere into their space using their phone or tablet’s camera. The user is then able to walk around their space with the augmented furniture in place, which makes designing (and purchasing) a lot easier. Room Planner 3D is another feature offered by the company, where customers take a picture of their space and then have the opportunity to add furniture to the image so they won’t have to physically be in the space in order to utilize the technology. This provides flexibility and convenience for users who are on the go and want to design their space from afar.
The beauty industry is also taking prominent steps into the 3D/AR space, as many cosmetic companies have launched virtual try-on tools. L’Oréal Paris, for example, has Virtual Hair Colour Try-On and Makeup Try-On webpages on their main website, where users can either use their webcam to see the products on them in real-time or upload a photo of themselves and use the products on the picture. Users can see the product they are using via the AR technology, and then purchase it immediately on the same page, which can heighten conversion rates.
Clothing brands such as The Gap and ASOS, are also implementing this technology in the form of virtual fitting rooms through their apps. Now customers can try on clothes without ever touching them, thanks to AR technology, which has been especially popular during the pandemic when in-store fitting rooms were unavailable. Virtual fitting rooms are steadily increasing in popularity so much so that by 2025, it is predicted that the global virtual fitting room market will reach $6.5 million.
What Are the Benefits of 3D & AR?
One of the biggest benefits of this technology is that it creates a more engaging and informative experience for customers when they interact with a retailer. According to a Google Consumer AR Survey, 6 in 10 people want to visualize where and how a product fits into their lives, and 3D/AR technology helps them achieve that goal. Consumers have the opportunity to transform their space or see themselves using a product before ever purchasing. This can increase customers’ reassurance before they open their wallets. In fact, 22% of returns are because a customer said the product(s) they purchased appeared different in their space compared to how it looked on the website. This can be solved thanks to 3D/AR technology.
Since eCommerce sales significantly increased last year to more than double what it was in the previous year, it is clear that online shopping is booming. One of the benefits of implementing 3D/AR technology into the online customer journey is it weakens the wall between the digital and the physical worlds. Ensuring that customers receive a great online experience needs to be prioritized, and making it as close to the in-store experiences they may be used to can be very appealing. Providing customers three dimensions of a product, just as it would be in a store, allows for a more “natural” experience because they can see something beyond the limitations of a two-dimensional image. Overall, advancing digital technologies, such as through 3D/AR, can make the everyday commerce experience even greater.
What Does the Future of 3D & AR Technology Look Like?
The more retailers implement and improve this technology as part of the services they offer customers, the more you will begin to see the technology widely used. Although 3D/AR technology is largely incorporated in the online space to improve the digital experience, it is also advancing in physical brick-and-mortar stores.
Smart mirrors (aka digital mirrors), for example, have recently been implemented into some physical stores. Think of a smartphone – but bigger. Smart mirrors can be placed in the store and help to digitize the user’s experience. In a clothing store, for example, customers can engage with the mirror, and with the help of AR, enjoy an interactive experience such as trying on different outfits, receiving suggestions, and more. Although the pandemic has put a damper on some of the progress in this space, 3D/AR technology will increasingly begin to pop up in various forms.
Ways Retailers Can Include 3D/AR Technology
One of the easier ways to incorporate this technology in-store is through QR codes that customers can scan on their smartphone, which can provide a mix of physical and digital worlds into the shopping experience. Of course, retailers will need to provide the landing page that customers will end up on after scanning the code, but this can be a great way to provide more details on products, services, store information, menus, and more. 80% of shoppers already use their mobile phones in stores to look up reviews, prices, or other locations, so implementing this technology into the in-store experience can be beneficial to the retailer and customer alike.
Apps also provide great ways to include 3D/AR technology. Over 90% of time spent on a mobile device is on an app, and globally, consumers are spending $380B on in-app purchases. By including 3D/AR services through an app like Wayfair does, retailers can optimize the customer experience, and increase the likelihood of purchasing through the app as well, making it a seamless online journey.
Incorporating new technology into the retail experience, keeping up with industry standards, and meeting the needs of your customers are all important factors to consider. With 55% of consumers saying AR makes the shopping experience more exciting, these technologies will continue to grow in popularity.
About Reshift Media
Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.