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How Is Technology Shaping E-commerce Today?

Is Augmented Reality an opportunity for new experiences and meaningful consumer connections or will it just be a distraction? We take a look at how technology shapes e-commerce today and what we need brands to need to be on the lookout for next when it comes to storytelling in the digital world. 

The Story:

What really is Augmented Reality (AR)?

The potential and growth of interactive technologies are drastically changing the retail landscape enabling retailers to offer memorable, emotional, and entertaining experiences for consumers. Augmented reality is one of these technologies, which is allowing retailers to offer a more personal and interactive experience that will change the way we shop forever. But how does it actually work, you might have asked yourself. Have you tried to catch a Pokémon lately? Or experimented with silly Snapchat filters? Or attempted to fit the perfect dresser in your bedroom via the IKEA app? If these activities sound familiar, then you’ve actually used Augmented Reality (AR) . 

AR is a technique to combine real and computer-generated digital information into the user’s view of the physical world in such a way they appear as one environment in real-time. An increasing number of major retail companies are utilizing AR technology and AR applications to enrich their customers’ experiences, increase sales, and build brand loyalty. The technology can blur the boundaries between the physical and virtual environments and therefore ordinary people are not just allowed to view products on a retailer’s website, but they can transport it in their own environments and get immersed in it! 

A study found that 63% of consumers believe AR will transform their shopping experience and 61% indicated that they would prefer to make purchases on sites that offer AR technology. This recent study, therefore, identified that consumers are more than ready for thoughtful AR-powered experiences and 70% of consumers reporting that they would be more loyal to brands incorporating AR as part of their shopping experience. 

The Trend:

How is Augmented reality being used on the biggest social media platforms today for e-commerce?

Pinterest: Pinterest launched its skin tone search qualifier to enable users to narrow down their search pool to content more related to their personal appearance. This is not only a big step in terms of inclusivity and personalization, but the platform is also making its skin tone search options available in more regions catering to even more users. Pinterest is now also integrating its skin tone qualifiers with its new, AR ‘Try On’ tools. The Pinterest Try-On AR feature was only for lipstick, but the social platform recently expanded it to include eyeshadow with support from some heavy hitters in the beauty industry. The Pinterest AR “Try On” feature, powered by Lens, allows shoppers to click a “Try On” button in the bottom right corner and “try on” the eyeshadow, then click through to buy if they like what they see. With the addition of AR Try-On for eyeshadow, Pinners can now toggle between lipstick and eyeshadow looks until they find the look that works best. Product brands, like Lancôme and Urban Decay, are a part of the most recent Pinterest Try-On launch. The ability for consumers to shop in a way similar to pre-pandemic life appeals to fashion and beauty brands, who want to keep shoppers buying by offering the personalization that so many consumers crave right now. 

Snapchat: E-Commerce is increasingly looking like a key element of Snapchat’s future, with the development of virtual try-on tools and other features designed to help Snap users discover and purchase the latest products in-stream. The platform has acquired Fit Analytics, a startup based in Berlin that has built technology to help shoppers find the right-sized apparel and footwear from online retailers. Fit Analytics provides tools that help brands facilitate more accurate product matches, while also collecting relevant data on customer preferences, they work with a range of retailers on their digital sizing and selection tools, including The North Face and Calvin Klein.  The merger with Snapchat will see FitAnalytics working with Snap’s team to develop advanced connection tools in the app. Fit Analytics’ technology lets people enter their own measurements into a tool that uses machine learning to match those dimensions up to the clothes or shoes in question to find the best fit.

Fit Analytics also has built technology to match clothing using images that customers upload themselves — an interesting area considering Snap’s focus on the visual experience, on visuals created by its users — and of course the features it has built around lenses and other augmented reality experiences to let people play with different versions of themselves and how they look. Snapchat’s looking to build a whole range of virtual clothing options for your Bitmoji characters, imagine you test out a new item of clothing on your character and you love it so much that you want to see how it would look on your real body. This new partnership could facilitate this. 

Snapchat is also designing a new set of “Spectacles” smart glasses that have augmented reality capabilities, according to The Information. Snapchat has sold several versions of its Spectacles, but current options do not have AR features and are instead equipped with a camera for uploading content to the social network. The augmented reality Spectacles will be aimed at developers and creators rather than the consumer market.

Our Take:

Whether Fit Analytics is integrated into Snapchat or not, and regardless of what will happen with how Apple and Google let apps monetize on their mobile platforms, Fit Analytics is already likely pulling in a substantial amount of revenue by way of its e-commerce services for retailers. Covid-19 has led a lot of retailers to rethink how well their e-commerce experiences work, and that could have meant more activity for companies like Fit Analytics. 

As retailers begin to focus on creating a cohesive experience both online and offline, technology has been vital in attracting online shoppers through engaging e-commerce experiences, particularly through augmented reality (AR).The technology has the ability to engage customers. Brands that engage and interact with their customers have a much higher chance of success, and Augmented Reality is an automated way to do just that. 

The Story:

Why is it an opportunity for new experiences and meaningful connections?

It has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer. The rise of virtual, mixed, and Augmented Reality in marketing provides brand owners with a game-changing interactive storytelling toolkit. Creating Interactivity within AR experiences delivers a more immersive experience for consumers which will drive up a higher usage and retention of information. The retail industry is fast evolving to meet customers’ changing needs, with Augmented Reality (AR) brands are able to present a new and powerful way to respond to these new demands.Through AR, brands and retailers can unlock a new dimension to digital and physical shopping where products and experiences are brought to life. The pandemic is encouraging consumers to explore new experiences and discover more intuitive and desirable paths to intended outcomes, all while staying safe. It’s not enough to digitize touchpoints that merely facilitate basic transactions. Customers have new values, needs, and expectations now and they’re only continuing to evolve. AR represents an opportunity to imagine and innovate engaging new worlds. The goal is to think beyond the ordinary. 

The Trend:

Best examples of how augmented reality is used in Ecommerce and today

Virtual Try on tool for Jewellery Brand – Kendra Scott is a popular online jewellery brand. They have implemented a fitting room that uses the computer’s webcam so you can see how their products look when worn, they have even replicated movement, and show how the earrings drop and move, so it is very realistic. The sample video was made by FaceCake, the app’s developer.

Vehicle Demo – Toyota integrates its online sources with AR for providing an effective vehicle demo to audiences at home. The users can interact with such a demo application for gathering complete information about the car and its features by scanning the AR marker using the Toyota AR MY app for an interactive experience with selected Toyota models. The demo video is shown on the Toyota website along with the AR markers. The use of augmented reality technology by these reputed brands sets a big example in front of the whole world regarding results and growth of business with AR.

Google is also launching the new WebXR collection to showcase what is possible with AR technology and has created Sodar to help visualise social distancing, by activating a personal augmented reality radar from a browser, the user can see 2 meters in any environment. With Measure Up, the user can calculate the length, area and volume of the things around them without using a tape measure. Google is also looking into launching Picturescape, which turns your Google Photos library into an immersive gallery so you can explore your memories in AR.

Our Take:

Is Augmented Reality something to consider?

Innovation in retail seeks to provide value to both brands and retailers alike but none have been as impactful throughout the buyer’s journey like Augmented Reality. The technology makes online products “Tangible”. “Try Before You Buy” Augmented Reality is extremely popular and users can see how the product looks on them. AR is positioned to increase sales by allowing customers to try before buying and, in turn, reduce returns by removing the initial guesswork. Customers want to know what they’re purchasing and AR is helping customers become more confident in their buying decisions. In today’s social climate, social distancing and cleanliness are also a big concern. Online sales are higher than they’ve ever been before and at-home AR shopping experiences are as close to real-life shopping experiences as possible, the technology reduces the need for products to be handled and touched.However we believe that emerging retailers that are still establishing an online presence post-pandemic should first focus on perfecting their back-end systems, including supply chain and shipping processes, to ensure smooth delivery of items, and happy customers and only once credibility and online fundamentals are well-established should brands look to add Augmented Reality and other immersive tools into their site and app experiences.

As e-commerce evolves, so will consumer expectations. Product descriptions and 360 photos will no longer suffice. Mobile shoppers will want and expect the ability to test products at home before buying. Therefore the future of the omnichannel experience will rely heavily on Augmented Reality.