E-commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe with sales expected to surpass £215 billion by the end of the year, according to the Centre for Retail Research.
In the UK alone, online sales hit £60 billion at the end of 2016, up 14.9% from the previous year.
As consumers continue to become more comfortable shopping online, retailers and brands are being forced to investigate ever more innovative ways to get their attention.
Luckily, new technologies like mixed, augmented and virtual reality are offering an entirely new shopping experience that is gradually beginning to grab the attention of consumers and brands alike.
Mixed and augmented reality, in particular, are proving effective in allowing consumers to engage with brands and interact with products like never before.
Using the home décor market as an example, machine learning and mixed reality platforms are allowing consumers to virtually redecorate any room in their home before spending any money.
With just a picture taken on a smartphone or tablet, these technologies can recognise the dimensions of the room and allow consumers to manipulate the elements within the image – whether adding or removing furniture, changing the wall colour, or putting down new flooring.
Major jewellery brands are also taking advantage of this new customer experience, allowing consumers to ‘try on’ items they find online using their smartphone or tablet.
Augmented reality is also proving beneficial in the business-to-business sector.
In Germany, Coca Cola has equipped its sales staff with iPads that use AR technology to place vending machines within shop spaces, allowing potential customers to preview how the product will look in their store, and plan for new layout options.
Mixed reality more commercial than virtual?
Unlike virtual reality – which totally immerses the user in a new environment – mixed and augmented reality allow consumers to overlay the world in front of them with virtual elements while removing the need for expensive headsets.
From a commercial standpoint, this is proving more beneficial and cost effective for businesses because it is allowing consumers to visualise products in front of them, in the environments they would be used.
The majority of UK consumers would also be likely to use augmented reality in retail, with 55% saying they think it would help them make a purchasing decision, according to a recent retail report.
The study – The imagination gap: Retail’s £1bn problem – also found that 61% like the idea of being able to try different options before committing to a decision, and 30% would use the technology to get second opinions on purchases, including on social media
To date, virtual reality has had much more success in the leisure sector, particularly in the gaming industry as a means of immersing players into games.
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