Retail industry in India is fraught with intense competition not only between online and brick-and-mortar counterparts but also between different online stores. Consumers are relying on the online engines to make recommendations, read reviews and grab interesting offers.
However, consumers are also increasingly fickle. It doesn’t take a second for them to switch from one brand to another as all of them compete neck to neck in offering more or less the same kind of benefits. It behooves upon the retailers, therefore, to come up with more innovative conveniences of shopping from them. That’s where Augmented Reality comes in and it is believed that it could soon become the holy grail of profits in retail business.
Have you ever tried on a product virtually without being anywhere close to the shop? Turns out that Lenskart, an eye wear store, has created this kind of experiential marketing. Using its app, it accesses your camera and virtually mounts the frame of your choice on to your real world picture. It even lets you “try on” the frame from multiple angles of your face.
Similarly, Makaan, a real estate aggregator has come up with an app called Makaanview, using which all you have to do is point at a property while you are on the move to get a clear picture of the apartments available for rent. Yes, you can do this without even stepping out of your vehicle.
Both these businesses have used augmented reality: A live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, haptics or GPS data.
Let’s look at a few use cases of augmented reality according to newgenapps:
Sales through Gamification: According to Ari Brandt, CEO of MediaBrix, “Through AR, marketers can use location data to offer exclusive content to drive foot traffic, not to mention hyper-targeted deals and offers.” In the recent times, Pokemon Go has entertained millions around the world to go outdoors and chase after pokemons. Businesses who have paid attention to the activity capitalised on the flurry of activity by integrating their stores with Pokemon Go by buying Pokemon Go’s feature called Lures. Hence, anyone using Pokemon Go can access the details of the store’s offers when they are in its vicinity.
AR as a marketing tool: Retail brands are using their respective AR apps to engage and entertain customers as they have realised that customer journeys are where the sales are. This is a big hit with millennials who have grown up in digitally enhanced environments. They are also most likely to shop from places they perceive as having the higher “cool quotient”. AR also brings in new customers through word of mouth. For instance, a Lenskart user may simply suggest to a friend that the store lets you virtually try on glasses and the friend might give it a go, even without having shopping on their mind.
Meeting buyers where they are: Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a retail brand. Stores equipped with Augmented Reality offer them the feature of trying out a product without purchasing it. No more having to say “I will help myself” to the store salesperson. They can also access the product reviews, price and a list of related products when shopping for a certain products. So, places like this work like online recommendation engines which are known to amount to something like 30 per cent of the sales of the retailer in the online space.
For helping consumers make a decision: The reason why Augmented Reality is likely to stay relevant to shopping experience is that they don’t just offer a novel experience which is likely to fade away or work like the next biggest fad. For instance, an app that lets you try cosmetic products on your face virtually empowers the consumer with a lot more choice in what to purchase. Imagine the hassle of having to try every lip shade and foundation on. Often, consumers get irked by trying them on and leave the place. With Augmented Reality, they are more likely to appreciate the value.
What’s the way forward for Augmented Reality in retail space?
India has an internet penetration of about 30 per cent. As internet and smartphone become more commonplace, there would be more reliance on apps for shopping, reviews, comparison charts and peer recommendations. Retail brands who invest early in customer journeys are likely to stay ahead of the game. Differentiation is the name of the game.