Augmented reality (AR) is a blend of digital information and live video or the user’s environment in real time.
In other words, AR has the ability to video or photograph a live situation and insert computer-generated information into it, creating an experience that mixes digital, mobile and reality.
Though the technology may seem obscure, Bixamedia found 30 percent of smartphone users used AR at least once a week in 2014.
As well as this, mobile augmented reality users are expected to grow to reach 200 million in 2018.
Retailers have been getting on board with this technology since as early as 2009.
AR used in shops varies from virtual fitting rooms to toys coming to life when held up to a screen.
Most marketers consider it a great way to grab the attention of modern-day shoppers that have become increasingly desensitised to advertising.
Freedom Furniture created an augmented reality app in 2014 that allowed customers to plonk a piece of virtual furniture into their house and see what it looks like.
Freedom’s head of marketing Jeff Karger told Idealog that furniture is notoriously hard to conceptualise in a space.
“Our solution ensures your favourite product from our catalogue actually fits your space and matches your existing surrounds without you physically lugging it there,” Karger says.
Other Kiwi companies trying out AR include Westpac.
If its Westpac customers find entering a pin on their phone banking app too tiresome, they can hold their card up to the camera of their device instead.
The app shows them their recent transactions and balance in 3D.
Fonterra and New World tried out AR technology back in 2013.
With the app, customers could hold their phone up to posters in store and make them come to life.
They’d be shown product information on Tip Top, Fresh’n Fruity, Anchor and Mainland brands and even cows grazing near the chiller.
In this regard, AR can increase customer engagement.
Smartphone and tablet users who are engrossed in their phones and distracted from shopping are engaged by a “blended” experience involving their devices.
Overseas, stores have been using AR since as early as 2009.
Lego began piloting AR technology since 2009 and it’s now in all of its stores worldwide.
Customers can try before they buy and see a 3D animated version of the Lego model they were considering buying come to life on screen.
AR changing rooms are also growing in popularity. Topshop begun using them in 2011.
A customer doesn’t have to spend time and effort trying on anything, as the AR technology visualises them wearing it.
Check out this very Sims-esque video of one in action.
AR can expand a shop’s reach without having to expand its footprint.
China’s largest online grocer, Yihaodian (which is 51 percent owned by Walmart) brings its products to people without having to build a single store.
It has set up 1000 virtual stores in places where no retail has gone before, like a parking lot.
The stores are invisible to passers-by that don’t have the app, but people who have it can peruse virtual aisles and select items by tapping on their screens.
It then delivers the groceries to the customer’s home.