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A Guest Blog Post for TECHINASIA Written by Yoni Nevo

Augmented Reality (AR) is a term anyone in retail should start getting familiar with. What was once a buzzword is now a very efficient solution for marketers and retailers alike to encourage action and keep potential customers feeling confident throughout the customer journey. The forecast for AR revenue in 2020 is estimated at a whopping $120 billion – so now is definitely the time to get on the bandwagon.

In simplest terms, AR is the act of overlaying computer-generated objects on the existing environment using some sort of mediation-device equipped with a camera (usually a smartphone, a tablet or smart glasses). Using computer vision algorithms and sensors, the technology enables the device to ‘understand’ its surroundings and to add the digitally-created objects to them.

Up until not long ago, AR was perceived as a gimmick, however, we are beginning to see more and more retailers, marketers and advertisers using the technology, both because it is visually impressive and since it helps generate more confidence in purchasing decisions. More confidence translates into an increase in both purchasing quantities and purchasing speed.

Using AR, customers can get a nearly 100 percent accurate portrayal of what a piece furniture and appliances will look like in their home, for instance, and we are seeing first signs of using AR in clothing, jewelry, and many other areas. Some very big and well-known retailers, such as IKEA and Shop Direct (which has the largest implementation of AR in retail to date at littlewoods.com), are already using the technology.

Using AR enables consumers to get the most realistic representation of what a piece of furniture would look like in the intended surroundings. Other than sitting on it, you can get all the information you need in order to decide whether or not to purchase. Using AR, both retailer and consumer can skip over many steps in the purchasing process, such as visiting a store more than once or trying out several options before deciding.

Retailers today are looking for ways to keep customers happy throughout their journey towards a purchase. The abundance of options and the rise of alternative platforms, mainly eCommerce, have made this process more difficult on the retailer side. At any moment, a potential customer could change their mind. This is a problem that AR could definitely help fixing.

When a potential customer gets a better sense of what a product would look like in the environment they intend to use it in, they are more confident.Moreover, the entire journey, from browsing on the mobile browser, through trying-out, using AR, all the way to making the purchase online on the device, could be done in one sitting. Other benefits could include much higher conversion rates, a reduction of stock needed in showrooms and a more reliable shopping experience.

For instance, the showroom could present just one color a certain chair comes in, but use AR to show you other varieties. Same goes for pieces which are only available online, providing an endless-aisle experience. Additionally, smaller merchants could adjust their manufacturing to demand, while still being able to offer their customers a realistic depiction of the product. This is a great example of how AR is a cross-platform solution. It could be used on mobile, the web and in stores. It is a tool to be utilized anywhere the shopper  meets the brand. This is also a great tool for retailers to differentiate themselves from the competition and create a unique and immersive shopping experience.

With so many benefits and such a positive prediction of market-growth, there’s no wonder AR is rapidly becoming a hot ticket for marketers and retailers alike. The reason why retailers should look into it today is that it is much more mature now, and blends better with current methods of purchasing. eCommerce is on the rise, while shopping malls are on the decline – so businesses should really nurture the digital aspect of their business. Additionally, almost any mobile device today can be utilized for high-quality AR and that means that all customers and prospects  could use it.

It might still take some time until we see AR in every corner of every industry, but with constant advances in technology and the introduction of smart glasses on a wider scale, it is just a matter of time until we do.

TECHINASIA – July 1st 2015