How Extended Reality Can Boost Retail Performance

In today’s world, retailers have had to propose increasingly creative customer experiences to make their brand stand out. Moreover, the rise of virtual living has led to a boom in digital consumption, with IBM estimating that the pandemic also accelerated the shift to digital shopping by five years. But questions remain – like how can you replace trying on a particular shade of make-up or prodding a mattress before buying it? To answer these, augmented shopping and extended reality (XR) have been multiplying and rapidly turning into the “new normal” of retail experiences. Extended Reality encompasses virtual, augmented, and mixed reality solutions, which aim to provide or enhance real-world physical experiences.

Far from being restricted to the gaming world, retailers and brands are now heavily deploying augmented reality (AR) to benefit customer experience, collect user data, market their products, and increase conversion. They are closely followed by sectors such as manufacturing, defense, medicine, and agriculture, which are finding their own uses for XR technology, a market that is expected to go from $4.21 billion in 2017 to $60.55 billion in 2023, with an anticipated CAGR of 40.29%.

Augmented Reality (AR) in Shopping/Retail

Among other uses, AR allows customers to try out different products through their smartphones or computers. It is no wonder that companies like IKEA, Sephora, Youcam, Argos, Gucci, Dior, and L’Oreal are already using AR for enhanced customer experience. New social distancing norms make it likely that AR will expand to even more retail businesses.

Nintendo’s hugely popular Pokemon Go game, launched in 2016, can be credited for bringing AR to the mainstream. But with smartphones becoming better than ever at processing AR content, brands keep finding new use cases for it. For example, the IKEA Place app launched in 2017 allows consumers to visualize a piece of furniture in their homes before buying. These have been wildly successful strategies amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as Estée Lauder recorded a 133% increase in usage of its virtual lipstick try-on during the first lockdown.

Luxury brands have also tapped into AR’s potential, and Gucci partnered with Snapchat in 2020 to allow customers to try on shoes virtually. This helped with mid-pandemic retail performance but also engaged Gen-Z buyers who were able to share the results on social media. Indeed, AR can provide an emotional dimension to the retail experience; when Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2021 show blended the catwalk Livestream with VR, it provided a moment both emotional and artistic for those watching from home.

The Companies Enabling Augmented Shopping

While augmented shopping has been dominated by tech giants (Intel, Snapchat, Google), startups such as Untitled Project offer promising alternatives. One of Singapore’s leading AR filter companies provides end-to-end solutions to immersive retail and brand experience. Among others, Untitled Project launched Lightmap, a comprehensive wayfinding system for retail with the ability to try on items at home. Its main features include:

–        Indoor A–B Wayfinding: To navigate from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible.

–        Find My Family: To locale fellow users quickly and safely in busy environments.

–        Covid Safety: To avoid high-traffic areas, busy, and potentially dangerous areas.

–        Near Me Now: To locate nearby offers related to users’ interests.

–        Voice Search: To search for products, people, and services using voice commands.

–        Send Lightmap: To create custom lightmaps, leaving a trail for others to find the user.