Augmented Reality and the Retail Sector

Augmented reality or AR as it is more commonly known, first began to really impress its possibilities on to us with the arrival of the Pokémon Go app, back in the summer of 2016. It has been filtering into many areas of modern life ever since. Many people don’t realise that they are even using AR, for example ever-popular Snapchat filters are a perfect example of augmented reality. Now the heightened engagement and interaction that AR provides is being implemented in the retails sector where it enables brands to create a truly enhanced customer experience.


What is AR and how does it work?

The word ‘augment’ means to add to enhance something. In the case of AR, the augmentation takes the form of adding computer-generated sounds, graphics and touch feedback and super-imposing it over our view of the natural world. In doing so, it enables users to unlock more information and heighten their experience of the real world.


AR is not to be confused with virtual reality, or VR, in which the customer submerses themselves in an entirely virtual environment though sound and vision. VR is particularly popular for creating a highly realistic experience for players of video games and those watching 3D movies. It can also be used to enhance training for real-life situations, for example, as a flight simulator for pilots in training before they are allowed to actually attempt to fly a plane. VR is typically achieved by wearing a headset with earphones.


Customer expectations

Customers’ expectations are ever-evolving, but there’s no arguing that they want and expect more than ever from their shopping experience. There are three main areas in which AR technology can help brands to not only meet but surpass customer expectations and deliver a truly omnichannel customer experience. These are:


Providing information.

The biggest reason that most customers use their smartphones in a bricks-and-mortar store is to get further information before they make a purchase. This can include performing price comparisons and checking out product reviews. AR can enable easier access to the information that your customers need to complete their pathway to purchase.



We live in a time when every shopper demands a highly-personalized experience. This means receiving valuable information based on their unique needs. AR apps can enable retailers to implement individualized in-store experiences, such as seen in the examples listed later in this post.


Greater customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

AR helps customers to make the right choices by providing the information they need, such as real-time availability, product knowledge and smart recommendations. When customers are satisfied with their purchases and the buying experience, they are more likely to become loyal to your brand.


Benefits of using AR in the retail sector

So, what can AR do for your retail business? Many big brands have already caught on to the benefits that utilizing augmented reality can provide.


Allowing customers to use a medium that they are already comfortable with, such as their tablet or cell phone, on a level that offers them greater ways to engage with the brand.

As mobile and personal, AR is accessible to everyone with a smartphone.

Shows customers that the brand is innovative, forward-thinking and is prioritizing the customer experience.

AR appeals to the millennial and next-gen markets, who place greater value on experience.

Additional brand content – videos, music etc. – is more easily activated.

Research has shown that AR increases the perceived value of products and brands.

AR is also inexpensive when compared to other media platforms, as no specific media needs to be purchased.

AR helps to enhance the in-store experience and build a definitive link between bricks-and-mortar and digital stores.

It is also an effective way to bring the in-store experience to life in the comfort of your own home (see the IKEA example that follows).

Retailers can use AR to display more stock and stock variations than is possible to fit into their physical store.

AR can help you to collect more information about your customers, a valuable resource than can be used in conjunction with a high-performing POS system (such as POS Cubes) to deliver more personalized and enticing loyalty programs and individualized rewards.

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