Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

How VR and AR Boost Brand Loyalty in Retail?

Augmented reality and virtual reality combine the physical and digital experience for shoppers. These advanced technologies are accessible to retailers in an easier way to reach new customers. Modern marketers expect to have the best user experience and brands must keep up with technological developments. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality may be the new edge that brands need to capitalize on in a post-pandemic environment. It will allow them to not only survive the difficult business environment of lockdown but also make the most of the increased dependence on digital shopping.

What Is Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality? How Are They Used in Retail?

You may not have been in a physical shop, aside from the supermarkets, for many months. Maybe Christmas shopping was your last visit, or you may have been there a while back. This does not necessarily mean that there has not been any purchase in the past.E-commerce has seen a surge in popularity as a result. Online shopping is now a popular alternative to visiting physical stores. In fact, online shopping increased 74% between 2010 and 2020. We can see that augmented reality technology has enabled retailers to offer a truly immersive shopping experience. While AR technology has seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for AR retail to flourish.

What is augmented reality, you ask? Augmented reality (AR), is a term that describes technology that allows digital content to be overlayed into a real-world environment. AR is not a virtual reality (VR), which places the user in a virtual space, but brings digital content into the user’s world by integrating real-world objects with the data. This is a trend we see on Instagram and Snapchat with filters, but AR has been increasingly used in online shopping.

Augmented Reality is a retail option that allows customers to try before they buy. 76% of consumers would purchase more items if they could ‘try before you buy’. It is clear to see the endless potential of AR in eCommerce. There are many AR apps available on the market today, spanning all industries. AR apps allow users to have a more immersive and interactive shopping experience than their normal online shopping. AR is gaining popularity with consumers and has the potential to transform the shopping experience.

VR and AR: How to Advance the User Buying Journey

Did you know that customers will spend 40% more on products if they have the opportunity to experience AR? In today’s world where omnichannel marketing is everywhere, the buying process involves many digital touchpoints. 

These cutting-edge technologies result in increased awareness and recognition of your company (awareness), and a new way to deliver product information to customers (consideration). This highly personal experience is a great way to win customers back (retention). Every business strives to minimize friction during the final stages of a purchase decision. VR experiences are the best solution if they’re well designed. Swarovski and Mastercard teamed up to create a virtual reality shopping app that allows users to shop Swarovski products in a home. Users can directly shop within the app by entering their payment details. There is no slow-loading checkout page, security concerns, or any other stumbling blocks to buying.

The lingering effects of COVID are likely to impact purchasing decisions in 2021. Now is the perfect time to try Augmented Reality (VR) and to embrace the power and possibilities of digital experience. Below, discover how top brands have used Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality to capture their audiences.

AR/VR for Homeware

Augmented reality is not a new concept in interior design or homeware. AR has become more common in furniture retail over the past few years. AR allows interior designers to visualize paint colours and understand how furniture will work in a space. It also makes it easier for customers to try out new furniture before they buy. Houzz, a home designer company found that AR apps were 11 times more popular after they launched their app in 2018. These apps were a great convenience, but the value and growth of AR in the interior and homeware design sectors has been more apparent since the pandemic.

IKEA apps allow customers to see how furniture will fit in their space. This AR mobile app allows customers to place furniture in their rooms to see how it will fit in the space. These apps were created before the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in lockdowns. However, they are perfect for this scenario. Online shopping allows customers to shop with greater confidence, even though they cannot visit a physical store. You can also ‘try before buying’ to lower the return rate, which can prove difficult for heavy or bulky furniture, regardless of lockdown regulations.

AR can also be used to simulate interior decorating changes such as changing paint colours. The app allows users to test colours on their walls. Users can then save favourites and place orders directly through the app. This makes it easy for them to make transactions. The app isn’t a new addition to the Dulux brand. However, it allows customers to continue to engage with the brand and to purchase products with greater ease and convenience. The app now includes lighting differences for indoor and outdoor walls. It can also be used to change wall colours using photos.

Wayfair combines AR and VR to give their customers an immersive experience in planning their interiors. You can view multiple rooms and then use them for decorating and design. Homeware has already been a prominent player in AR retail. We can expect more innovation and a shift towards mixed reality as these brands seek to stand out.

AR/VR For Beauty

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality is an ideal fit for the beauty industry. In a world that has seen fewer people use physical products samples since the pandemic peak, personalization is even more important. These technologies offer a modern way to encourage consumers to purchase, with 80% more likely to do so if they have a personalized shopping experience. Augmented reality can make beauty products more easily accessible, memorable, and real for those who are weighing up whether to buy.

L’Oreal VR + AR – This pioneering brand has used virtual reality to create the best store experience. VR has been used to assist with future store designs. They worked to determine the best layout for their products and received feedback through their Consumer Technical Center. This allowed them to make sure everything was perfect before they brought in developers. Geoff Meade, L’Oreal’s AVP for Ecommerce Strategy, said: “We used physical construction before we could get an accurate feel of how something would look.” We can refine and test concepts with this solution without having to incur development costs.

L’Oreal created the digital makeup line ‘Signature Faces’ to help users in the times of the pandemic, age of video calling and the age of the internet. It allows users to ‘wear makeup’ via live video platforms such as Zoom, Google Duo and Instagram. Customers can experiment with 10 products. This is a great way for L’Oreal to promote their products, while also giving users real value and a solution to the new problems that arise from their digital lifestyle. It’s also a smart way to increase the number of channels consumers can find L’Oreal’s site.

Nutox (AR), a Malaysian skincare brand Nutox uses AR technology to analyze the skin conditions of potential customers. It detects skin problems (wrinkles and hyperpigmentation), and tracks improvements after users have changed or started their skincare routine.

Beauty brands must keep up with the 2021 beauty trends. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality offers solutions for keeping up with the following trends.

  • AR try-ons can reduce waste products by making users more aware of their purchases.

  • Beauty and skincare brands can support consumers’ mental and physical health, from face-to-face meetings to work calls.

  • YouTube is one of the top Digital marketing trends for 2021 (Think with Google). The giant video-sharing site is also seeing potential in AR through its new interactive ads. YouTube’s AR Beauty Try On allows users to simulate trying on makeup while watching videos such as product reviews. 

  • Customers who are more conscious of hygiene over the last year will feel more secure with higher standards in health and hygiene. This includes reducing product samples, and offering digital options to test-on product-ranges in-store.

AR/VR for Clothing

AR was used by ASOS, an online clothing company, to promote new products during the UK lockdown. ASOS used AR technology to “digitally fit” their models using a Zeekit tool called “See My Fit”. This maps the products onto photos of models and creates a realistic representation about how the clothing fits. ASOS was able to promote 85,000 products in the first lockdown. Although this is a small percentage of ASOS’ product catalog, it shows how AR can help retailers solve core business problems during the pandemic. AR initiatives like “See My Fit” may provide a solution to product promotion for retailers that want to keep customers engaged and spend.

Other brands went further and used AR to communicate with customers during the pandemic. Kohl collaborated with Snapchat to use AR technology to create a virtual closet during the US lockdown last spring. This allowed their customers to continue to enjoy the retail experience even though they were unable to visit physical stores using the Snapchat app. Due to the majority of people staying at home, there were many products that met current demand. Athleisure was one of the featured products.

Levi partnered with Squad, a screen-sharing app in September 2020, to reach US school students who are likely to be shopping together for back-to-school clothes. Levi also created virtual shopping events, with Levi stylists who provided tips and recommendations based upon the group’s style and interests.

AR cannot replace real models for product promotion and in-store shopping experiences. However, AR can still benefit retailers beyond COVID-19.  Zeekit’s “See My Fit” technology makes this possible. Gap and other retailers have already started doing this with their AR app ‘Dressing Room’. This allows customers to view clothing on different body types and create an accurate product visualization by entering their measurements.

The Future of Retail

Is Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality a pandemic solution, or a temporary trend to offset our locked-down lifestyles? Could AR become a standard retail practice, beyond COVID-19? We believe AR will continue to be a valuable sales tool as we return to physical shops.

Shopify found that AR content has a 94% higher conversion ratio than products without it. AR allows the customer to “try before you buy” before making a purchase. AR technology allows customers to view furniture in their homes and see how it fits their bodies. They can even see how their make-up looks on their skin. AR technology reduces the need for returns and simplifies the process for customers.

AR will be a tool that retail brands can use to increase product reach. It offers both benefits to the customer as well as the retailer. It allows customers to make informed buying decisions, reduces costs, and makes it easier for them to shop. AR is here to stay, with greater hygiene standards and social distancing. Retailers who have not yet used AR should think about how AR can help them succeed in the future. 


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