Augmented reality (AR) technology has taken off in the last few years, and retailers are trying to find ways to incorporate it into their customer offering.

As opposed to virtual reality (VR), rather than immerse you in an entirely new world, AR simply overlays images, text, video or other graphics onto the real world. What you see, typically through a mobile device or pair of electronic goggles, is a modified version of reality, a virtual canvas upon which to add pretty much anything you can think of

Big Retailers are Already Experimenting

AR can be used in a number of ways and in a number of verticals. IKEA has actually been implementing AR technology since 2013, when it launched an app customers could use to overlay 3D models of its furniture onto their real life space to see how pieces of furniture would fit or look in their homes.

Clothing companies have also deployed the technology as a high-tech way for customers to try on clothing without actually having to put anything on. Japan-based Uniqlo developed an AR-enabled dressing room with an LCD screen mirror that lets customers see the outfit they’ve chosen in a multitude of colors, right on their bodies.

Way back in 2010 Converse launched an AR app that allowed customers to see how sneakers would look simply by pointing the camera at their feet. Of course, the AR app was linked to its e-commerce platform to make purchasing of the shoes virtually frictionless, which will no doubt be a big benefit of AR technology once broadly adopted.

Quite simply, technological gimmicks get people talking. It’s new and cool to virtually try on clothing or shoes. The technology hasn’t yet reached a point where retailers are adopting it at a massive scale, but some pretty big players are dipping their toes in the AR waters to examine the possibilities down the road.


AR Makes it Easier to Browse… and Buy

Saks Fifth Avenue joined forces with MasterCard, Qualcomm and Osterhout Design Group to unveil an augmented reality shopping experience where customers could wear AR-enabled glasses to view in-store clothing, get style or product recommendations or get more information about the merchandise itself. As you might expect, it was designed to facilitate purchases using MasterCard’s Masterpass payment platform, using eye-scanning as identity authentication. No official word on when this might be implemented in actual Saks locations, however.

The primary uses in the early days of augmented reality in retail seem centered around making it easier for customer to get a glimpse of what their purchase would look like in the real world, whether on their bodies or in their homes. Building in a purchasing functionality seems like a natural next step and an easy way to convert browsers into buyers.

The technology as it exists today is a bit clunky and costly, but as technology’s steady march of progress ceaselessly continues, don’t be surprised to see more retailers offering their own spins on AR coming to a store near you.

Converse AR App

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