3 reasons why your retail business should be using augmented reality

by | Jan 28, 2024

Amongst all industries, the retail sector is adopting augmented reality technology quicker into their businesses — and for good reason.

The retail industry is a highly competitive sector, and it’s challenging for businesses to stand out when there are so many options for people to buy their products from, especially when those products are further funnelled through bigger retailers like Amazon.

Providing consumers with a unique and seamless experience is important; using AR is a good way of doing this.

Augmented reality (AR) changes the way we shop. It ensures that online shoppers have a similar experience to in-store buyers when it comes to assessing and “experiencing” a product. AR allows online shoppers to digitally try a product before purchasing it, which significantly reduces product returns and by extension, customer dissatisfaction.

But AR is not just limited to online retail shops, it also enhances the in-store experience by providing a more seamless and efficient shopping experience. Retails can use AR to help customers quickly find items without wasting time browsing through racks and shelves of other products.

The best augmented reality experiences increase customer retention and brand visibility for retail businesses.

3 reasons your retail business should use AR

We’ve shortlisted three key reasons you should invest in AR technology for your retail business, as well as case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of providing AR experiences for customers.

1.  AR tells stories

Augmented reality helps retail companies tell a story about the brand or the product in a unique and engaging way. It allows retail brands to share more information about a product apart from what can be seen from its packaging.

For example, brands can use label or package activations, where customers can hover their devices over a label or a package. This will then activate an AR experience that gives you more information about that product than you can see on the existing packaging.

A story-based AR experience has three components:

  • Assets – This consists of elements that help you tell your story through augmented reality. It can include 2D and 3D models, videos and audio files. Combining these elements can create evocative and immersive AR experiences.
  • User interactions – This is essential to creating interactive AR experiences with your customers. Active interactions encourage users to engage with the story, while passive interactions are triggered through the proximity of a product or simply with time.
  • Environment – AR stories occur in the real world, which is why you need to consider the “world layer” of the AR experience you’re creating. Do you require a simple surface like a table or wall? Or do you need a certain amount of space? Arranging your user environment is important in creating an immersive experience.

Case study: 19 Crimes

A popular example of package activation is 19 Crimes, an Australian winery that boasts of a “living wine label experience” because of its AR-enabled wines. Every bottle has a criminal record, and users can use the 19 Crimes app to watch an animated video featuring the convicts on the bottle with the corresponding label.

The history behind each label as well as the uniqueness of each bottle makes 19 Crimes enticing to its target customers. The accessibility and affordability of the bottles are what makes 19 Crimes a household name today.

2. AR allows you to try before you buy

Augmented reality had already been on the rise even before the pandemic, but what was a nice-to-have technology quickly became essential for retailers during the pandemic.

During global and local lockdowns, the introduction of AR tools in retail businesses enabled customers to virtually try and experience products from the comforts of their homes. This was especially helpful for products that were difficult to purchase without being tried or tested by customers, such as furniture, makeup and even clothes.

Fast forward to a post-pandemic world, augmented reality is not just limited to online shopping, it’s also now available for in-store experiences. It is most likely that the next step in augmented reality applications features a gamified social experience wherein shoppers can buy products with friends while playing and exploring in a virtual environment.

Case study: L’Oreal

L’Oreal has embraced the power of augmented reality tools, enabling it to provide a full virtual makeover for hair and makeup with its Makeup Genius Virtual Try-On and Hair Color Genius Virtual Try-On tools.

These are user-friendly tools that you can easily find on L’Oreal’s website, allowing customers to try different hair colours and makeup products before purchasing them. Customers can try one product at a time or give themselves a full makeover with these virtual products.

3. AR can use smart mirrors

Also known as magic mirrors, smart mirrors are a great way of enticing customers to visit and shop in physical retail stores.

Smart mirrors are devices that show a user’s image on a screen through an in-built camera when they stand in front of it while displaying virtual add-ons that the user can superimpose on their reflection. This minimises the need to visit fitting rooms, enabling a faster and more seamless in-store shopping experience.

Retail brands can also use smart mirrors to feature products that may not be available in-store, encouraging users to try products on virtually and buy them through the website.

Case study: Speedo

Speedo developed an augmented reality experience using a smart mirror in collaboration with Poplar Studio. Speedo launched this smart mirror in three of its UK stores and on its website, allowing customers to virtually try different pairs of goggles before purchasing.

This addresses the common issue that swimmers often face when it comes to buying goggles: it can be challenging to find one pair that suits their face and style. It also prevents retail staff members from repacking or replacing products on display.

Retail brands can greatly benefit from using AR tools to increase efficiency and boost customer satisfaction. Augmented reality is constantly evolving and developing, so it’s important to adapt to these advancements and ensure that you’re leveraging it to your advantage.

Contact us and we can help you develop an augmented reality software that aligns with your business requirements.


Summary: Benefits of using augmented reality in retail businesses.

The retail sector rapidly integrates augmented reality (AR) technology due to its competitive nature and the need for businesses to distinguish themselves, especially against e-commerce giants like Amazon.

Transforming the shopping experience, AR provides online customers with a similar product assessment as in-store buyers, enabling digital try-ons, reducing product returns, and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Beyond online shopping, AR improves the in-store experience by helping customers locate items quickly, minimizing time spent searching through racks and shelves.

Retail brands leverage AR to tell compelling stories about their products, going beyond traditional packaging. Utilizing label or package activations, customers gain additional information in a unique and engaging way.

AR allows customers to virtually try and experience products both online and in-store. This capability became crucial during the pandemic, with tools like L’Oreal’s Virtual Try-On offering virtual makeovers for hair and makeup, enhancing the pre-purchase experience.


Why brands should use augmented reality?

Brands should use augmented reality since it can hugely boost their customer engagement and retention. Those using AR are seeing increased custom and can also benefit from lower return rates. AR can also be used by brands to improve self-service as well as broaden marketing strategies.

How does augmented reality benefit retailers?

Augmented reality allows brands to create a unique and therefore memorable experience for clients which will keep them coming back. It can also improve on self-service elements of the shopping experience which means customers have a more enjoyable, smoother experience of your store and your brand.

What is augmented retail strategy?

Augmented retail strategy is the use of AR elements to improve aspects of the sales process for customers. It includes branding and marketing, creating an experience for customers which promotes the product or service and encourages them to purchase it through the aid of augmented reality.

What is AR and VR in retail?

Augmented reality is a way of overlaying digital elements onto real life, such as displaying a product’s information on a hologram screen or projecting an item onto an image of your real home. VR, or virtual reality, has been used by some companies to create entire virtual stores which customers can explore from their own homes.



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