AUGMENTED REALITY AND E-COMMERCE

AUGMENTED REALITY AND E-COMMERCE

February 20, 2019

By Nafisa Nawal Khan

WHAT AUGMENTED REALITY ACTUALLY IS

In the past, in movies that used to portray the future, a common portrayal would be people being able to interact with virtual characters or objects in real life. This might have seemed to be impossible or difficult back then; but now, with the help of Augmented Reality, it is easily possible.

In the world of technology, Augmented Reality is a buzzword now as more and more companies are investing into this sector every day. However, what exactly is Augmented Reality or AR? In absolutely simple terms, Augmented Reality can be said to be a somewhat seamless combination of real-life scenarios with virtual reality for enhancing end user’s experience. People often confuse Augmented Reality (AR) with Virtual Reality (VR); but AR simply superimposes digital information onto actual scenarios whereas VR depends on creating a whole digital simulation of its own.

The hype related to AR started back in 2008. However, without significant progress in this field, the hype started to die down. That is when Pokémon GO, an AR based game stepped in. Launched in 2016, Pokémon GO, with the help of AR made people go on adventures on the streets trying to catch Pokémon as if they were real trainers. The game not only brought back the hype over AR but also earned $2 billion in the process. This huge success also inspired other companies to invest more heavily into AR, an untapped market with a lot of potential. In 2017, Apple came out with their own application of AR by introducing the Animoji feature in their flagship iPhone X, a feature that let the users superimpose different faces on their existing faces, via the camera. While this might look like a gimmick, it actually made the users more familiarized with the concept of AR in real life. The best part about all this is that unlike VR, AR does not need complicated hardware to work. With Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARCore, it can easily run on our smartphones.

REVOLUTIONIZING E-COMMERCE WITH AR

More and more companies are boarding the AR hype train and are working their best to provide a better experience for the end users. One of the sectors that is being benefited the most because of the advent of AR is the e-commerce industry.

Due to our usual shopping preferences, we have the tendency to crave for a physical appearance of any product before making a purchase decision. Because of this, e-commerce businesses would suffer, as they would not be able to provide a tangible view of the product to the customer. However, with the arrival of AR, that scene is changing rapidly. E-commerce vendors are increasingly opting towards the use of AR in shopping. This helps customers see a real-life version of the product in front of them and get the tangible feeling that they crave for before making the purchase decision. IKEA is a good example for this. As they sell furniture, it is not always possible for them to go and place it in their customers’ houses. However, before making the purchase decision, customers obviously want to know whether the product they are going to buy would look good or even fit in the place where they are planning to put it in. This is where the IKEA Place AR app comes in handy. It offers the customers the look they are going for without actually having to make the wrong decision. Thus, it’s eliminating the post purchase dissonance.

BENEFITS OF AR IN DIFFERENT SECTORS

E-commerce is not the only sector that is being benefited by the use of AR. For marketers, AR is a new potential sector to work on and they are already making good use of it. Since all one needs is a smartphone to run AR, marketers can motivate consumers to produce user-generated contents more. Other than that, with the seamless integration of AR with real life scenarios, making searches for products will be much easier.

AR has become a key ingredient to experiential marketing. It closes the loop between print media and digital media. It has become progressively easy for marketers to send their messages through increasing engagement with digital interactions.

Again, through the AR, the retail market has been able to establish virtual product aisles for the customer to see. They have also brought out AR kiosk experiences to promote their products. The customers in the kiosk experience could have done things like trying on the company uniform.

The auto market has used the technology in bringing digital cars in the driveways of individual customer, letting them walk around the car, open doors and look inside as if they are doing it around the actual model. 

Moreover, AR has successfully entered into the manufacturing industry to produce wearable AR like Google glass and so on. Wearable AR tech would allow workers to control instructions without walking back and forth in different directions.

The use of AR is gradually expanding in Bangladesh as well. Taking for an instance, 10 Minute School, a free online education platform of Bangladesh is trying to incorporate AR into our existing educational resources to ensure that the students can get a more practical and immersive experience of what they are studying. They are already working on designing an AR app that lets their users have a real life look at certain things mentioned in the textbooks, along with the chance to watch a video on that topic if necessary.

PRESENT AND FUTURE OF AR

AR is yet to be widely used alongside everyday technology. Though its use is increasing rapidly, only the companies with proper funding abilities are being able to reap its benefits the most. This is because, developing content with AR is still quite expensive. However, the members of the Forbes Agency Council believe that the cost for producing AR based content will come down significantly with the widespread adoption of AR into our daily lives. Content will be much more immersive as more and more developers begin to experiment with AR. With this, marketers will be able to create more interactive content to motivate consumers for generating content from their side as well. AR is already helping immensely to solve the biggest issue that e-commerce used to face and will continue to do so in the future.

In the earlier stages, AR used to be gimmicky at best without providing any sort of actual functionality of any kind. However, with the increasing number of new opportunities popping up and people adopting it on a mass scale, AR will hopefully influence businesses to change the lives of people for a more interactive future.

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