Seeing is believing: Augmented reality (AR) technology is changing the way consumers view their shopping experience by creating personalized, fun experiences.

Let’s say you’re renovating your kitchen and you want to feel certain and delighted about the appliances you pick out, or the design choices you make before you drop thousands of dollars on the remodel. AR can help you visualize what your new space will look like before you commit. The technology allows you to use your smartphone to use live video of the real world (like your current kitchen layout) and overlays virtual images (like a new granite countertop). That way, you can ‘try before you buy’ and view a realistic simulation of the end result, so you feel confident enough to decide whether or not to make the purchase.

Yet AR isn’t just useful for major investments like home renovations – it also helps consumers discover and consider everyday items like t-shirts and lipsticks without having to enter a fitting room or test store samples.

Given its ease and convenient applications, AR is poised for explosive growth, as Gartner predicts 100 million shoppers will use AR online and in store by 2020.1  Report: 46% of Retailers Plan To Deploy AR Or VR Solutions By 2020. Retail Touchpoints. April 30, 2019.  

AR boosts confidence and reduces risk

Many consumers are excited by the diverse benefits of AR technology.

Consumers gain the convenience of product discovery using their mobile phone app and camera.
They save time while experimenting with products and they efficiently access product information, such as the style, size, and fit. 

Shoppers access relevant, personalized product suggestions to fit their unique needs and make shopping easier. Overall, consumers access richer information, which helps them make purchase decisions with greater confidence and less risk.

“If you have 100 lipstick shades…
you can try them all in about a minute” using AR
~ Parham Aarabi, Founder and CEO, ModiFace2
Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.

Retailers and brands are also intrigued by AR’s undeniable business benefits.

Retailers and brands can boost consumer engagement by allowing consumers to use AR in stores, online and on mobile to experiment with products. Experimentation helps to build consumers’ trust, which can increase sales. According to L’Oréal chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet, consumers spend more time on an app or website offering AR makeup or skincare features – and those who try it buy a product 10% more often than those who don’t.3 Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.


Companies can increase their marketing reach and attract more potential customers, especially if they offer an app that includes social sharing features. AR can even increase after-sales customer satisfaction, improve loyalty and reduce returns.4  Report: 46% of Retailers Plan To Deploy AR Or VR Solutions By 2020. Retail Touchpoints. April 30, 2019.

AR sparks retail innovation and sales
To differentiate their offerings by putting consumers at ease and ready to buy, these retailers and brands are including AR technology to improve the customer experience.

  • Sephora: A pioneer in digital transformation, the cosmetics retail chain offers Sephora Virtual Artist, an AR tool that allows consumers to try on thousands of shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, false lashes, and other products using mobile devices. Sephora also lets consumers watch beauty tutorials that use their own face (digitally) to learn how to achieve certain looks. Sephora Virtual Artist is available in the Sephora app and in select stores.5 DeNisco Rayome, Alison. How Sephora is leveraging AR and AI to transform retail and help customers buy cosmetics. Tech Republic. February 15, 2018.

  • Ulta Beauty: The cosmetics retailer’s iPhone app uses AR and a phone’s camera to allow consumers to test thousands of shades and textures of cosmetics products by applying them instantly to a shopper’s face.6 Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.
  • L’Oréal: This year, L’Oréal acquired ModiFace, a company that offers virtual makeover apps and licenses technology to other companies.7 Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019. The beauty giant’s hair brand Garnier uses AR in its new personalized hair color app, Virtual Shade Selector. This app helps consumers see realistic hair color applications before they buy to reduce the risk of trying a new shade.8 Bargh, Becky. Garnier teams up with Modiface to launch new AI powered try-on tool. Cosmetics Business. February 15, 2019.
  • Warby Parker: The direct-to-consumer eyeglass brand uses AR in its mobile app to allow consumers to preview how a pair of glasses would look on them without the need to physically try them on thanks to accurate face-mapping technology.9 Pardes, Arielle. Try on Your Next Pair of Glasses Using Just Your iPhone. WIRED. February 4, 2019.
  • American Eagle Outfitters: The fashion retailer uses AR technology in interactive fitting rooms to make the in-store experience more convenient. Shoppers use touch-screens in a fitting room to scan items, find product data, request different sizes, view in-store inventory, calculate costs and email themselves product information. In addition, sales associates receive mobile notifications when a shopper requests a product, streamlining in-store logistics.10  Vembar, Kaarin. American Eagle launches dressing room technology. Retail Dive. January 15, 2019.
     
  • Ikea: The furniture giant’s mobile app allows consumers to accurately visualize products in their own homes before they commit to buying and assembling a new furniture item to gain certainty, and reduce hassles and returns.11  Pardes, Arielle. Try on Your Next Pair of Glasses Using Just Your iPhone. WIRED. February 4, 2019. 12  Kelkoo Group. Top five consumer trends set to shape retail in 2019. Retail Week. January 29, 2019.

More retail companies are investing in consumer-centric AR technology to gain a competitive edge by helping consumers see what they’re actually getting. Shoppers buy with greater confidence by previewing their purchases with personalized virtual makeovers, especially in categories like beauty, apparel and home décor to minimize risk for consumers and retail companies alike.

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1, 4.  Report: 46% of Retailers Plan To Deploy AR Or VR Solutions By 2020. Retail Touchpoints. April 30, 2019.
2.
Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.
3. Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.
5. DeNisco Rayome, Alison. How Sephora is leveraging AR and AI to transform retail and help customers buy cosmetics. Tech Republic. February 15, 2018.
6. Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.
7. Metz, Rachel. Virtual makeovers are better than ever. Beauty companies are trying to cash in. CNN Business. February 19, 2019.
8. Bargh, Becky. Garnier teams up with Modiface to launch new AI powered try-on tool. Cosmetics Business. February 15, 2019.
9. Pardes, Arielle. Try on Your Next Pair of Glasses Using Just Your iPhone. WIRED. February 4, 2019.
10.  Vembar, Kaarin. American Eagle launches dressing room technology. Retail Dive. January 15, 2019.
11.  Pardes, Arielle. Try on Your Next Pair of Glasses Using Just Your iPhone. WIRED. February 4, 2019.
12.  Kelkoo Group. Top five consumer trends set to shape retail in 2019. Retail Week. January 29, 2019.

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