Rise of AR/VR Trends in E-Commerce

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The future of shopping is virtual. In Hong Kong alone, the e-commerce penetration rate is expected to reach 88.2% by 2027, according to Statista. Many traditional retail stores have already diversified their business presence on online platforms to keep up with the growing consumer desire for online shopping. While the idea of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) used to be the stuff of science fiction, these technologies are now poised to revolutionise the future of the business industry, specifically, the e-commerce industry.

What is augmented reality and virtual reality? 

Firstly, what are these technologies all about? Augmented reality (AR), is a technology capable of projecting virtual information like sounds, videos, objects and other sensory features on top of one’s environment. On the other hand, virtual reality (VR) is a technology that brings a viewer into a simulated reality that can be as similar or different to the reality we live in. 

Both of these technologies have proved to be an invaluable tool for businesses to make shopping experiences both online and offline more intuitive, engaging and informative for their customers. According to a survey by Statista, there will be approximately 1.7 billion mobile augmented reality (AR) user devices globally by 2024. Here are some of the most well-known AR/VR trends presently in use in the e-commerce space.

1. Virtual product try-ons

The unique capability of AR and VR technology to simulate real life has led to the adoption of virtual try-ons (VTO) by some businesses. VTOs use augmented reality to allow consumers to “try out” a product through the camera interface of a smart device. Many international brands like cosmetics giant Sephora, as well as local brands have integrated this feature into their mobile apps. 

VTOs overcome physical and geographical limitations by allowing consumers virtual access to their products. This try-before-you-buy approach reduces friction in the e-consumer’s journey. Instead of having to take a risk and buy a shade of lipstick that doesn’t suit you, or a sofa that ends up clashing with the colour of your living room, VTOs boost customer confidence by allowing shoppers to make increasingly informed decisions.

2. Product demos and tutorials

Virtual guides and interactive tutorials can be used to help consumers better understand a company’s product and how to properly use it. This not only aids the customer journey but also reduces the chances of user error. For example, if one is hoping to assemble a piece of furniture, or a new kitchen appliance, having a virtual guide where all elements are visualised in detail is a good way to ensure that the assembly process goes smoothly. Users will also be able to enjoy a thorough walkthrough of their new product and its features, improving engagement and customer satisfaction.

3. Virtual tours 

Bring your digital consumers into your physical store with virtual reality. In an age where social distancing is a part and parcel of life, brands are looking for alternative ways to engage their customers and the idea of transposing your online customers into a virtual “physical” environment doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Taking a leaf from the gaming industry by adding gamified elements into the virtual tours, such as playing for coupons and discounts can further incentivise customers into the sales funnel for higher conversions. 

While the development of virtual tours in the e-commerce space is in its early stages, there are definitely opportunities for startups and businesses to capitalise on this transformative technology to differentiate themselves from, and outperform the competition.  

Given the high consumer interest and the relative novelty of AR/VR in the marketplace, it makes sense for these technologies to go beyond their current applications as marketing tools. The capabilities of AR/VR technology to add-value to the consumer experience and assist companies in building genuine connection with their customers should not be underappreciated.

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