Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for years. However, in the past few years we’ve seen a step-change in the way it is used.
Thanks to the fast progression of multiple technologies, AR has become web-native and seriously powerful, entering the world of customer experiences in a major way.
With over half of consumers (61%) now saying they prefer to make purchases from sites that incorporate AR, it’s fast becoming a key element of the customer journey that few eCommerce companies can afford to ignore.
Customer journey mapping is a powerful tool in modeling how to best promote, display and sell products in a way that suits digital sales. Where the typical customer journey starts with product awareness and transitions through consideration to purchase and customer retention.
So where does AR fit into this picture? AR has applications at every stage of the journey. From brand advertising to providing new ways to engage with online product catalogs and even customer service.
Let's take each stage in turn to discover the value of AR when revolutionizing your customer journey.
At this initial stage, customers are information-poor but full of desire to find a solution to their problem. They may have heard about your brand, but they won't be convinced yet about making a purchase.
That's where visual selling becomes all-important. There are some visual tricks that only AR can pull off. By allowing customers to browse 3D models of products, rotate them, explore their functions, and even use virtual fitting rooms to try on jewelry or apparel, AR makes this stage more appealing. While at the same time, removing a lot of uncertainty before the purchase decision.
According to a recent survey, 77% of customers prefer to use augmented reality capabilities to preview product variations such as color or style differences. That’s why fashion brands from Nike to Gucci are embracing AR, offering the chance to virtually try-on their footwear.
At this stage, AR can also help broaden consumers’ consideration set, while narrowing down the set of choices. More than just catching customer attention, the AR experience creates a hook to draw customers into the next stage of the customer journey: consideration.
At the consideration stage, buyers are considering their options and comparing retailers, where strategic use of AR can make all the difference.
Firstly, AR puts the customer in control of their purchasing journey. As they consider their purchases, customers are able to experience and experiment from the comfort of their own homes, whether that's with furniture arrangements or outfits.
AR has proved particularly successful for bulky goods such as furniture. For instance, Ikea Place has been a huge success, allowing customers to place furnishings and style their interiors at home. And is finding new applications in fashion, primarily footwear and accessories like sunglasses, where the value of a virtual try-on is established.
Secondly, AR helps reduce purchase uncertainty, allowing customers to explore designs and specifications, and examine products from every angle. Customers are better able to assess products precisely and ensure the perfect fit. In the process, they are also spending more time on your web pages, boosting the chance of conversions.
Finally, AR can simply serve as a sensory tool to seduce shoppers and impress them with a new and innovative brand experience. When competitors lag behind or fail to provide in-depth visualizations, a creatively presented AR store can draw customers in, priming them to make a purchase.
The purchasing stage of the customer journey is where individuals decide whether to part with their money. They need reassurance about the quality of products and the accuracy of their choices. By offering more information in a way that's enjoyable, relaxing, and creative, AR delivers.
Take Rollie Nation, the Aussie footwear label who embraced 3D modeling in partnership with Modelry, offering interactive models of selected product categories via its online store.
Within months of its introduction, the brand's “Selected Sneakers” line had become Rollie Nation's third most popular category. And the brand's founder Vince Lebon puts that down to how AR changed the relationship between customers and the shoemaker's online catalog.
As he puts it, “People thought it was super cool. They could spin it around, they could see it in their space. It was a great way to showcase our new designs and amplify the new product offering.”
That's the key point: AR amplifies the power of a product, helps with product curation, and drives value by making customers more likely to make a purchase.
Moreover, Augmented Reality can also help with wholesale retail. In these situations, sales teams can be armed with 3D portfolios, showcasing what your brand has to offer beyond the physical limits of your store or showroom. Buyers can browse virtually, and seamlessly place orders, even without needing to visit showrooms or factories.
So whether you're selling cutting-edge footwear or machining stations for the light industry, AR can play a role in promoting those conversions.
After purchase, customers might need help with assembling and using products, require advice about making a return or exchange, or just want to keep up with new product releases. In any case, AR can further help to connect customers with marketing and support teams. For example, Mercedes Benz has been experimenting with Holo Lens technology, allowing technicians to make car repairs from thousands of miles away.
Social media also offers ways to retain customers and encourage repeat purchases. There are many ways to capture attention in-between purchases, like Kellogg's use of AR to deliver educational materials with their breakfast cereals, as just one example.
Customer expectations are always evolving, where maintaining a competitive edge is a challenge. In this environment, can digital sellers really afford to leave AR out of their customer journey? As we've seen, AR has a role to play from generating awareness to encouraging purchases and retaining customers.
In fact, it's rapidly becoming an essential aspect of online marketing across many sectors. And with widely available 3D modeling services, almost every company can make use of AR. Schedule a call today with one of our AR experts to learn more.