Powered by a motion-capture camera and a full-length mirror style TV, there’s a dressing room that allows you to try on apparel without physically wearing it. Instead, it is superimposed, and you can switch clothes at a moment’s notice. The whole environment is controlled by gestures, and social media connectivity can provide instant opinion allowing you to virtually share clothes. This is just one of the many ways that augmented reality can impact the retail sector by blending the convenience of technology with the physical retail experience. In an increasingly crowded market, such technology platforms can help retailers build a competitive advantage by changing the way customers interact with a brand.
With the development of innovative engagement platforms, retailers can change their customer-facing processes to make them more experiential. Interactive store-front displays that regularly change with the time of day can showcase a brand’s products in a much more versatile manner. Mannequins that display items removed from clothes racks and model them in real time are also entering a number of stores. Boutique vending machines that sell high-end products through an interactive sales process are increasing the potential for mobile luxury retail.
In addition, retailers looking to enter the online shopping space often find that the lack of interaction with physical products can be a barrier to purchases. Augmented reality enables virtual trial rooms that allow customers to sample products online, using only a webcam and high-speed internet. Assembly models can be digitally displayed on products, such as furniture, that require at-home assembling. This brings an increased convenience and flexibility to the online shopping experience.
Augmented reality is also driving emerging industry trends such as pop-up stores. These can be set up in a short period of time and consist of a wholly interactive shopping experience. Gesture-based technology is a vital part of these stores, along with iPad catalogues and cameras aimed at encouraging customer participation. Augmented reality apps are also making a foray into retail, transferring the shopping experience onto mobile devices and tablets. Consumers can log in their personal details and preferences for apps, which can single out products that match these details, in addition to providing discounts and product reviews.
Augmented reality offers a host of technology solutions to the retail sector to make the customer experience both versatile and virtual. It removes the barrier between physical and the digital spaces and supplements reality with engaging sensory experiences. In the future, entire sensory perceptions could be enabled using haptic interfaces, allowing the customer to feel, hear, and weigh products virtually. ‘Smart stores’ will use facial recognition to pull up past shopping histories and make suggestions accordingly. In the age of customer participation, these platforms, informed by customer habits and expectations, can be integral to the retail sector.
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