Augmented Reality: From Store to Digital Commerce

07 Apr 2017
Augmented Reality is one of the most important aspects of the digitalisation of customer experience, which is proceeding at breakneck pace. Whether it's CRM profiling, marketing campaigns with ever-more defined targets, shop layouts, or tracking the customer journey and post-sales services, it is clearly becoming a must for retailers in search of a competitive advantage. Contrary to what you may think, however, this is all to the benefit of stores. According to Epson (Europe's leading POS producer), 72% of Europeans (and 77% of Italians) currently employed in the Retail & Hospitality sector think that staff will contribute to the evolution of increasingly personalised sales processes, confirming the dominance of physical stores in the purchasing cycle. Notably, nearly 60% of European consumers are convinced that purchasing decisions will continue to be made in-store, at least in the medium term. This is partly thanks to automatic customer recognition - which will allow for an ultra-personalised experience with extremely fast service - and a significant step forward in the evolution of POS that will drastically reduce waiting times. One of the main trends to emerge from Epson's study is the anticipated development of the "augmented shopper". The first important advantage of augmented reality is the ability to visualise products in 3D. Microsoft HoloLens, for example, has introduced advanced solutions which allow customers to change the shape and configuration of products and tinker with options, displaying the results in real time. Digi-Capital, a Silicon Valley-based company specialising in innovation research and investment, has invested over $2 billion in virtual reality start-ups and "augmented reality" since 2014. The market value of the latter is expected to reach $150 billion by 2020. It is simplistic, however, to think that the development of augmented reality is only down to the personalisation of the purchasing process. In fact, this technology allows us to solve a frequent problem in the world of digital commerce: improving the visualisation of products on-site, in real time. For example, Ikea allows its customers to view the furniture that they want without having to buy and assemble it first by checking out its most important characteristics on their own tablet. Lego, meanwhile, has created augmented reality mirrors that provide a 3D view of the toys, while other retailers mimic the aisles of a supermarket so that customers can get their bearings and browse for products as simply as possible. Augmented reality is also an important option when it comes to spreading brand awareness and customer engagement practices at the point of sale. The Hugo Boss store in London showcases an important possibility: customers can show their loyalty cards at an augmented reality display for instant in-store discounts and promotions.