21st Century is a technology driven era. Some facets of the conventional shopping style has been adopted by the eCommerce sector. Online shopping has made life and shopping experience fun as well as convenient for the masses, considering their hectic professional lifestyle and time constraints.
While all the online companies are trying to innovate to survive in the cut-throat competition, they are collectively contributing to the overall growth of the ecosystem. There has not been much new development in eCommerce technology and user experience since the trend of mobile commerce started. Some companies are moving to launching apps for wearables as well, but one area that hold a lot of potential and still hasn’t been fully tapped is Augmented Reality.
Augmented Reality in eCommerce
Augmented Reality (AR) is the blending of virtual reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world. With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two.
The concept of Augmented Reality can prove to be extremely useful for the eCommerce sector. For example, at present if someone has to buy a pair of sunglasses online, a niche portal will provide an ability to upload his/her picture and use a basic tool to see how will they look in it. This, in most cases is tedious and isn’t even accurate. At the same time if the store had technology to access the user’s webcam/front camera in real time and automatically position the glasses on his/her face to give a better idea of how it will look in real life from different angles, the buying experience would be amazing for the user.
Like shown in the image above, Indian cosmetics brand Lakme has already implemented a basic version of AR technology in its new app. The users can try on different products and if they like something, they can buy it directly from the app itself.
Implementing AR in Digital Commerce
The online shopping space, over last year has experienced its maximum number of sales coming from mobile phones or tablets. Therefore, this recently emerged channel is popularly called mCommerce, essentially an adjunct to eCommerce via mobile. The newly discovered medium is evidently growing at a fast pace with players like Myntra, Jabong etc. developing their mobile apps.
The future of mCommerce is expected to experience strong growth in the years to come, as mobile sales worldwide are expected to reach $626 billion by 2018. India has 54 percent of smartphone users that engage in mCommerce, after China with 73%.
With mCommerce, different trends of shopping have been observed among people, mainly coming from smartphones and tablets. Also, with the introduction and adoption of the concept of AR, the sales are expected to increase multiple folds.
AR in eCommerce is not a thing of future. It has already been introduced, but not yet been adopted on a large scale. One such example is, ‘Layar’. It is an augmented reality app, that connects digital content with the real world. The video below will give a clear idea about Layar, its work and the concept of augmented reality.
Now, you must be wondering, how can Layar or an app like that help eCommerce? In the video we saw how the app scanned the movie poster and the movie trailer got live on the phone along with the options of ‘book tickets’. It is one of the examples of how AR helped in eCommerce. Just imagine with the help of an AR app, you could be the first one to avail the exciting offer been sponsored on a billboard, in a magazine or a newspaper, by just scanning the advertisement in your phone and confirming the deal. How easy and convenient things would become!
Another such example of AR is the ‘Alive app’, developed by the Times Group in India, which recognizes images, QR codes, logos, locations, etc. and makes it live on the smartphone.
Retailers can provide interactive advertisements anywhere and anywhere, with an interface as basic as a smartphone, customers can experience the monotonous ads in an entirely different manner and even make purchases there and then, without having to search for the product they saw in the billboard poster for instance.
Further, the app is working with many industries and helping in setting in the AR culture into the field of eCommerce. Director – Telecom, Times Internet, Ajay Vaishnavi, giving an insight in the scope of augmented reality in eCommerce said, “Augmented reality holds an immense potential in eCommerce sector. The technology can help in all sectors, be it, automobiles, apparel, jewellery or food joints.” Further adding he said, “A constant evolution has been observed since the onset of eCommerce in India. It is very important for the industry to consider as to how are they planning to involve customers, to get them using the technology.”
Ankit Khanna, SVP – Product, Snapdeal said, “In a fiercely competed Indian eCommerce industry, enriching the customer shopping experience will be a key differentiator and effective deployment of augmented reality is a significant step in that direction… Augmenting the reality by providing product visualization enhances the shopping experience and personalizes it while increasing users’ confidence in the brand and boost sales. Therefore, augmented reality will play an important role in future growth of ecommerce industry.”
The above images illustrate further examples of augmented reality, where a user before buying furniture a furniture piece, can see if the particular product is fitting in well and matching with its surrounding. Therefore, jewellery, apparel, home decor, etc companies can exploit this technology to benefit their sales. And not just the online ones, offline retailers can utilise this technology just the same.
Cory York, CEO of Powerstores said, “Augmented reality is going to break down the walls between physical and digital commerce. Your phone will be your weapon, which will guide you on your purchase decisions. Having access to reviews , product comparisons, purchasing all with the touch of a button, or perhaps the wave of wrist. Once it becomes easy to use, then manufactures and retailers will have to be point blank transparent on pricing, quality, and other customer experiences with that product or service. It’s going to be the death of many brick and mortar companies. Many who rely on beefed up margins will no longer be able to play that game. Augmented reality in ecommerce is going to be a big reality check for many retailers around the world. And an incredible experience and weapon for consumers! “
Essentially implementing AR in the most basic form would involve an interface between the tangible world and the digital world, this could be as basic as a smartphone and as advance as a wearable like Google Glass. Amazon has tried to create such a dedicated interface as well, i.e. its smartphone Fire Phone(Shown Above). While the phone didn’t pick up, it surely grabbed the media attention as the eCommerce smartphone and displayed that the eCommerce companies have already started steps in integrating their digital world with the tangible one to give consumers a better experience.