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Cheating The Physical World: How AR Allows Retail To Become Digital First

How will modern retail adapt to a post-COVID-19 world?

Retail in early 2020 will see a decade of digital transformation compressed into a year due to COVID. But how can digital replace the physical? We are physical beings. We need physical goods to live our daily lives. There’s no replacing this. But we have been forced into a situation where augmented reality is necessary for us to cheat our physicality.

Today AR is being used from the point of conception all the way to the post-purchase customer experience. It gives us the ability to create and sell physical goods using virtual and digital tools to speed things up.

Driving Online Traffic

To make up for the lack of foot traffic and brick and mortar revenues, retail will have to focus on driving more traffic from digital channels if it wants any chance to stay afloat.

With more people inside, more internet devices, and growing online communities, there are new ways to reach people.

AR can be placed into Facebook Ads like this glasses campaign from Michael Kors: LINK

Instagram Ads

AR experiences are a new form of marketing that can generate buzz around product launches and interest in purchase.

OnePlus just released their new device in an AR unboxing on Instagram.

From a OnePlus forum post:

“We’re using simple AR tech to bring a virtual experience of our new products to the community. We’re launching two AR filters on our Instagram channels. One for the OnePlus 8 and the other for the 8 Pro. These filters are a sweet setup to help you virtually unbox the OnePlus 8 Series at any place and at any time.”

These filters allow for a richer connection between the customer and the product, further communicating the brand or product’s value.

Driving Foot Traffic to Brick and Mortar

For retailers to stay alive following COVID, there will be a great need to get people back into their physical stores. Location-based foot traffic, in-store dwell time, and brick and mortar buying habits have all been thoroughly disrupted. So what are retailers to do?

In-store experiences will be vital in adding value and attracting customers. AR can help here by:

  • Having affiliated AR games or experiences that place virtual objects or tasks in store. According to YES Marketing study, 57% of consumers said they were using smartphones and mobile devices to enhance their in-store shopping experience.
  • Having specialized AR campaigns that are geofenced in the store like Pokemon Go’s characters are hidden in the real world. This can be discounts that are only revealed through your phone while in store and provided to the customer in a way that communicates the brand in a special way.

What happens to a company that has the most interesting, rich, and mature AR environment designed as a virtual layer in its physical stores? Will they increase dwell time? Will brand loyalists be reinvigorated and stay loyal? Will employees enjoy the working environment more? Will conversion rates for in-store purchases rise?

Online Conversion

AR is now essential for the customer buying experience. According to this USA AR survey:

  • 72% of customers purchased items they didn’t plan to buy because of AR.
  • 71% of customers shopped more when they used AR.
  • 61% preferred stores with AR experiences.

The best quality product models in AR are coming from M-XR who have mastered lighting of virtual objects to make them real. For example, the shoe you see below is not really there. Can you tell?

Facebook’s campaign with Michael Kors saw a 14% lift in incremental purchases.

Ikea’s Place AR app is changing how furniture is sold.


Macy’s furniture app increased Average Order Revenue by 60%. And maybe more impressive: shoppers who used VR had less than a 2% return rate on transactions.

AR for Post Purchase

Completing the move to cheat physicality, AR will also transform and become the standard for post purchase product experiences. It can be used for instruction guides, product information, and training. It can also become part of the product experience, further developing a brand’s impact in everyday life.

Assembling furniture and other complex products has been a problem for consumers and brands alike. Beautiful tables in store or in photos are meaningless if you can’t put it together as advertised. Product assembly like the conceptual mobile app called AssembleAR allows people to see the optimal setup and steps for assembling furniture at home once they take the product out of the box:

Product Training

AR also allows for the spatial layout of information, making it easier for the brain to process individual parts and how they fit together. This can help customer support professionals and technicians better access information they need in the field.

AR and 3D Asset Management 

It’s clear that AR is becoming prevalent throughout the product design and purchase journeys. So how can your organization best take advantage of this transformation? Find a team like Shape Immersive to lead you through the journey and help you build your assets and experiences.

Organization Tips:

  • All your physical products should be created in multiple 3D formats and made accessible across the organization.
  • A common CMS (content management system) should be employed org wide.

3D Asset Creation

You should create a working group that meets periodically to assess and synthesize your 3D asset activities. 3D artists produce most 3D assets for AR manually. While parametric modelling programs like Revit, AutoCAD or Rhino can be used to quickly generate 3D objects from CAD, STEP, or STL files, no matter which technology is used these initial 3D models will require additional tuning to achieve photorealistic results and highly skilled 3D artists in order to produce the best 3D models.

Bringing together engineers, marketers, designers, software developers, and customer experience leaders will allow you to create cross-functional strategies for best managing your virtual assets.

If you need help selling more with 3D commerce, developing 3D assets for AR and VR, or immersive brand experiences feel free to email me at david@stitchcaribbean.com.

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