The sharpest change in the approach retailers have taken toward customers in the last few decades has been with respect to the power the consumer has had in its interactions with the brand. The various marketing strategies that have become part of the general retail brand to customer approach such as geo-targeting, gamification, multichannel interactions, and online loyalty programs have led to an entirely different approach to how retailers conduct business. Clearly, this strategy places power in the hands of consumers more than ever before.
Perhaps the most significant specific trend within the new customer-centric universe is the pervasiveness of mobile as the leading technology in the movement toward omnichannel marketing. While consumers are now interacting with brands through a variety of different media including email, social media, PCs, tablets, smartphones and the store, mobile has taken the lead as the dominant channel for retailers based on its convenience and consistent presence with the consumer.
Mobile technologies open the door to the widest amount of potential campaigns and individual interactions brands can have with consumers. They allow retailers to create bargaining chips that encourage footfall, improve customer basket size, receive real-time customer feedback and engage customers in a more holistic way.
These trends are only expected to continue as the market moves toward the next evolution of customer-centric technology and all it has to offer. And leading that revolution is undoubtedly augmented reality technology.
Benefits of AR for Buyers
AR is the future of mobile, allowing consumers to experience their own reality based on personal inclinations. While customers have had the option to interact with brands on social media for more than a decade, AR presents a whole new way of engaging that further expands the abilities of retailers while completely enhancing the customer experience.
The possibilities with AR are limitless. When combined with already powerful mobile technologies, AR allows for geo-targeting that expands far beyond the standard markers of language and location into an actual visual, interactive representation of the culture surrounding the store or the customers in the vicinity of the retailer. This adds elements to the store that encompass the exclusivity and personalization currently highly sought by retail customers of all segments.
Furthermore, augmented reality creates an incredible gamification atmosphere where customers can fully experience the retailer’s brand experience and offering and earn their way toward coupons, points and rewards that are highly customized to individual shoppers. That gamification comes with a flourish that gamifies previously static scenarios. For example, AR allows customers to scan and try on items in a virtual dressing room as well as discovering 100% of the pertinent information surrounding the item, such as the price, location, availability, design options and more. From there, the possibilities extend even farther, as customers can share any and all of this information on social media or via email with friends or other interested consumer parties. The level of convenience is revolutionary.
Benefits of AR for Retailers
Meanwhile, retailers enjoy the advantages that come with improving customer experience as a whole and facilitating a seamless omnichannel experience with customers. The personalization, customization and engagement AR encourages lead to a high retail ROI in several divergent yet dynamic respects. First, it leads to far better returns on marketing efforts. AR creates a much stronger path to the basket, allowing retailers to track the most effective route from initial contact all the way to the cash register, increase basket size, boost product purchase variety, enhance bundling and create higher overall sales.
However, one of the most game-changing advantages of AR that companies have yet to fully take advantage of is the incredible real-time feedback AR has to offer. Previously, in the customer environment, information from different channels was difficult to collect into one individual profile capable of providing a complete picture of the customer. With the rise of omnichannel marketing, retailers can now draw information from enough different sources to build a complete profile of individual customers to allow richer personalization.
Now, with the rise of AR, customer feedback can come in the form of items tried on, how the items were tried on, whether or not customers shared them in other channels, what channels they shared them in, how long they looked at a particular item and more. AR insights are, quite simply, the most advanced understanding retailers can form of their customers, and the feedback happens entirely in real-time, allowing for the highest level of responsiveness in the most adaptable possible format.
The Future of AR
AR’s growth and use as a retail technology are already underway; The AR market is expected to surpass $1 billion in the next four years, suggesting strong ongoing investments in the technology’s research and development. Some of the world’s largest companies are taking notice, too; Facebook purchased Oculus, a virtual reality accessory company focused mainly on gaming technology, for $2 billion earlier this year. Both consumers and retailers can expect the market to transform into something more customer-centric than ever before, all to the benefit of both sides of the cash register.
As for retailers that are individual entities, now is the time to investigate the possibilities AR has to offer. There is still an opportunity for retailers to take advantage of AR technologies as first adopters, as plenty of global retailers still lag behind in embracing the latest AR applications have to offer. As was the case with e-commerce and later social media, moving first on AR is an opportunity that will only come once and will only be effective during a specific window. That window is now.
Janet Jaiswal is VP of Marketing at Capillary Technologies.