Is Shopping with AR The Next Big Consumer Trend?

Only baby boomers and those born at the front end of Generation X will remember a time when shopping meant going to the shops. For some, it was, indeed, quite an outing. Children had to get changed into their “town clothes” and make sure their hair was neatly combed and fingernails were clean. The reward was a burger and a milkshake at the diner.

When the first millennials were approaching the end of their teens, eBay and Amazon had become household names. Going into a shop became optional. Shopping online started gaining popularity, and suddenly we were buying items based on a still image. Perhaps with several different angles, but that was it.

We raced quite quickly through 2D, a scattering of 3D and video clips to enhance the products that were being offered for sale in webshops. Few of us would have given much thought to Virtual Reality (VR) or to Augmented Reality (AR). After all, wasn’t this the domain of those gamer types? And yet, here it is. Helped along by a pandemic, shopping with AR is taking off.

What is AR?

Wikipedia provides this definition. “Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visualauditoryhapticsomatosensory and olfactory.”

It differs from VR in that it is a real-world interaction that is enhanced by accurate simulations of real objects. It’s a mixture of the real world and a virtual world. AR provides an immersive experience for the viewer, creating a sense of actually being there.

How was it developed – the history?

The concept of Augmented Reality goes all the way back to Frank L. Baum’s 1901 novel, The Master Key. He writes about a character marker; a pair of spectacles whose wearer will see people’s characters marked on their forehead with a letter.   

AR, however, only became a reality in 1968 thanks to Harvard professor Ivan Sutherland’s invention of a head-mounted display which he named The Sword of Damocles. The first dedicated laboratory, dubbed Videoplace was built at the University of Connecticut in 1974.

The term Augmented Reality was conceived only in 1990. Over the next decade or so, development continued at a rapid pace. The USAF’s Virtual Fixtures system is considered by some to be the first real, functional AR system. By the turn of the century, AR had entered the public domain with the release of Bruce Thomas’s game, ARQuake in 2000.

The hardware required for AR was historically far too expensive for the technology to be accessible to the general public. Shopping with AR would have been a pipe dream at best. The development of the various technologies required for AR has been such that, nowadays, the average smartphone is totally AR-capable. 

What are the main advantages of the technology?

Simplistically, Augmented Reality allows a user to simulate a real-world environment. The value of simulating reality has many uses, and the possibilities continue to expand. As the technology becomes cheaper, the potential audience of AR gets wider and wider. Let’s look at some of the sectors that are set to benefit substantially.

 The medical industry. Complex surgical procedures can be simulated to help with planning. It can also be harnessed during a procedure to provide additional visual detail. Coupled with laser technology, AccuVein is a device that can show up veins beneath the skin to make it easier to draw blood or administer an IV. 

In aviation, AR is used extensively for familiarization and training purposes. The cost of making a mistake in or on a real aircraft is huge. In extreme cases, it is measured in human lives. Simulation removes the risk of failure and also brings the monetary cost of training down quite substantially.

Other sectors that stand to benefit greatly from the enhanced experience of AR are education, engineering, and manufacturing. The ability to simulate historical events or the manufacture and assembly of complex components will improve the learning process and make it a lot more engaging for the learner. 

Of course, nowadays, shopping with AR is starting to gain wider acceptance. Shopping with AR is not a new thing, mind you. In a survey conducted by Google in 2019, almost two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they would enlist the help of AR to make shopping decisions. In fact, several major retailers like IKEA, Home Depot and Target have been using AR since 2017.        

Shopping with AR; whereto in the next few years?

The Covid-19 pandemic provided the catalyst for a massive shift to online shopping. With social distancing measures and business closures gradually coming to an end, people will start going about life in a normal manner again. There is, however, a very strong expectation that the spike in online shopping will not reverse completely.

Online shopping is here to stay and will only continue to grow. And shopping with AR will be growing right alongside it. At the forefront of its appeal, shopping with AR affords customers the opportunity to “try-before-you-buy” or to see an item in its planned setting before making a decision. For the retailer, this translates to a potential increase in conversions and, more importantly, a marked reduction in returns.

Shopping with AR can change the way we shop for clothes and cosmetics, just as it has already changed the way we buy furniture. L’Oréal already has an app that enables users to see how certain cosmetics will look on them. On the fashion front, Lacoste, Converse, and Zara have embraced AR. Many more are set to follow.     

AR and crypto fit together perfectly

The retail space has become very competitive in recent times. The constantly evolving technology is promoting online shopping and changing customer expectations. Retailers need to use every tool available to them to survive. This is where Elly is your ally.

With a single integrated device, Elly offers all currently available payment methods. Leading in the field of payment solutions, Elly supports payments through a wide range of cards, a basket of cryptocurrencies, and various digital platforms and e-wallets.

Complement the power of Augmented Reality by providing your customer with a fast and secure payment experience. This is customer excellence redefined.

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