Will AR and VR finally take off in eCommerce?

Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) have been a mainstay at numerous retail entrepreneurs’ investment priorities lists over the last several years. Yet, the much-anticipated technologies never took off completely. Although the global lockdowns and extended pandemic crisis have pushed numerous customers to the digital space they also significantly reprioritized the strategic outlook of the industry. We’ve decided to look at the potential application of this particular technology in modern retail.

Consumers expect an engaging and more functional experience

Despite numerous advantages, e-commerce and digital services as a whole have significant drawbacks as compared to physical contact between the consumer and the service provider. VR and AR were meant to help users make up their minds effortlessly and improve their online experiences by providing a realistic view of a product or service in real-life situations. An overlay of computer-generated images, on the physical world, could change the understanding of what we see in front of us. 

“With the digital twin technology becoming more available, VR and AR applications are starting to take their stance on the eCommerce space. There are fundamentally two use cases with the potential of becoming a regular part of our daily life. The first one is using AR to “test” products in a real environment. The second use case is linked to the ability to leverage VR to virtually “touch” the object or the experience we want to buy. In this case, the main limitation remains the need for a VR device (e.g., Oculus) in order to benefit from this experience” explains Luca Mastroianni, VP International & Corporate Communication’s at PrestaShop, one of the leading eCommerce platforms Worldwide.

According to Luca, AR is starting to be popular among home improvement, furniture, fixture retailers where buyers take an advantage of checking how a sofa fits in their lounge (e.g., IKEA Place app), yet similarly, other industries could replicate the approach. 

“As a direct consequence of these trends, eCommerce managers should start looking for solutions to integrate the image catalog with proper digital twins and therefore facilitate VR and AR applications in the near future” said VP International & Corporate Communications at PrestaShop.

AR to facilitate Customer loyalty

The use of AR in an eCommerce site provides customers with a better view of the product and increases the probability of choosing the best suitable option, which also increases the chance of purchase. According to surveys, 70% of online shoppers are expected to be more loyal to brands implementing AR to eCommerce as part of users’ experience. The existing cases report customers engaging actively with the AR functionality of the store. It keeps them interacted with the site for an extended period of time. As a result, customers feel more positive about their decision, reducing the likelihood of returns and increases the chance of additional purchases.

Despite the above, the research by DigitalBridge shows, 51% of UK consumers expecting improved retail experiences than those currently available, especially when VR and AR are concerned. It appears the online shoppers believe AR is the most exciting new technology in eCommerce, along with VR and AI. Online shoppers opt for an improved experience while 41% want to see retailers provide more custom-fit offers. 

Future of AR in the eCommerce market

IKEA, Houzz, Wayfair, and Amazon already launched their dedicated apps enabling the use of AR to explore products. These frontrunners in AR adaptation to eCommerce increase and improve users’ experience show the early but promising results. 

Although the pandemics have shifted the core attention of online merchants to more acute problem-solving in logistics, efficiency, and security, from somewhat more exotic AR, it is highly expected that 2021 is the year of breakthrough in AR adoption in eCommerce. Industry analysts believe that AR alone will add $1.6 billion of added value to the retail sector by 2025.

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