How Augmented Reality is Revolutionizing Brick-and-Mortar Retail



While physical retail has its perks, it is a challenge to beat the ease of shopping online.  Online search functions and one-click buying make spending money that much easier, and the ubiquity of wifi means that shopping can be done basically anywhere.  In order for brick-and-mortar stores to remain competitive, they need to develop programs that simplify in-store shopping. Here’s how some stores are using augmented reality (AR) to facilitate in-store retail:

In-store navigation

One of the biggest benefits of online retail is the ease with which consumers can find the product they’re looking for.  Search engines bring customers to online stores, while in-site search bars can bring brand-loyal customers to exactly the product they want.  Compared with the struggle of finding a single product in a big department store, or navigating the mess of a poorly-organized shop, online retail will always win.  That’s why some stores have introduced in-store navigation technology to help lead customers to their desired product. Take homewares giant Lowe’s, for example. Lowe’s recently introduced an in-store navigation app that uses AR and motion tracking technology to direct customers to a specific product, much like a small-scale GPS.

Sampling Products

Anyone who’s seen the 1995 teen flick Clueless envies Cher’s AR closet; she selects her clothes, which are then applied paper-doll-style to a photo of her body to try on without the hassle of finding clothes only to reject an outfit that doesn’t quite work.  That seemingly dream-like tech is now becoming a reality, as stores have begun incorporating AR tech (far more advanced than Cher’s 1995 version) that allows customers to see products on without the mess of a dressing room or tester makeup.  Coty, a global beauty company, has developed an AR “magic mirror” that lets makeup shoppers preview how products will match their coloring or facial features. A customer can simply lift a lipstick, for example, and the mirror will show their face superimposed with that lipstick.  A risk-free, mess-free product trail that renders the need for discarded testers null!

Personalized Products

In-store tech allows shoppers to design their ideal product, increasing brand loyalty and sales.  Personalized products not only give customers a sense of control over their purchases, but also a sense of commitment–if a customer has dedicated time to designing the perfect t-shirt, they’re less likely to leave it at the store.  That’s why some marketers think personalization is the key to maintaining customer loyalty, and stores are listening. While online personalization is increasingly common, where brands like Adidas let customers design the perfect shoe to ship home, Kate Spade has been at the forefront of in-store innovation as they’ve developed an AR bag personalization station.  Their “Make It Mine” line features an AR display that detects which handbag a customer is interested in, displays it on a touch-screen, and allows the customer to design choosing their own colors, straps, and other accessories. The display has been extremely popular, seeing over 100 customers a day.

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