AR shopping has two revolutionary impacts on the buying process. Firstly, it reduces the biggest stress factor – the risk of making a bad purchase decision – by transforming the buying process into a frictionless and relaxed flow. Secondly it has a huge potential to entertain and engage the user with an immersive platform for content consumption, transforming the shopping experience into an invaluable source of data.
Augmented reality is a gamechanger for many reasons. It eliminates major barriers between customers and businesses such as inventory problems, product availability and the limits of time and space. The numbers speak for themselves: Statistics show that 61% of shoppers prefer stores with AR shopping experiences, 71% would return more often and 40% would pay more for a product if they could experience it in augmented reality.
AR revolutionizes each stage of the customer journey. In order to make the best out of your customer’s AR shopping experience, first you have to get familiar with the psychological drives behind each of these stages.
The customer journey
The customer journey is the decision-making process every buyer goes through before making the purchase. No matter if it’s a medieval market or a hyper-digitized AR platform, the psychological phases of money spending and shopping haven’t changed through the centuries. The reasons for that are deep-rooted in the human psyche, as each stage corresponds to a psychological condition.
- The condition of dissatisfaction or the feeling of lack – that’s how awareness arises.
- The condition of choice paralysis or the psychological burden of too many options – the consideration stage.
- The condition of potential loss of value – the crucial decision stage.
- Finally, although ignored by many businesses, the post-purchase stage is also worth a mention. This stage is the byproduct of the modern age as customer retention is a far more profitable source of growth than attracting new customers. With the advent of technological advancements the product itself can be transformed into a tool to boost further engagement and future purchases.
Augmented reality has the potential to aid business owners and customers alike. Let’s see how AR can integrate into your sales funnel.
AR shopping in B2C
The main difference between B2C and B2B shopping experience is the role of emotions in the decision-making process. A B2C customer is an individual and the purchase is personal which means that emotional engagement is key. On the other hand, the B2B customer is often a group of decision-makers, the purchase is professional, part of the job, which means decision-making has more logical elements but is not void of emotional drives either.
AR can influence both types of business model, and its use cases are equally versatile. However the impact on B2C shopping is more spectacular due to the extensive emotional charge and engagement, so we will put bigger emphasis on this model in the article.
The Awareness Stage
Both customers and business owners face a major challenge in the awareness stage.
- Customers need an authentic and compelling source of information to define their problem.
- Business owners need quality attention. It is not enough to make users aware of your existence, they should understand the core values of your business as well.
Thought leadership and branding is key as it gives the quality attention and traffic you crave for and it satisfies your customers’ need for trust and authentic information. Augmented reality can help you build your USP around these important key factors and make AR shopping an unforgettable experience.
AR as a branding tool
Your USP (unique selling proposition) is the magnet that attracts customers and repels competitors out of the way. It is the first thing that should come to mind when people think of your business, so it plays a key role in the awareness stage.
Earned media or WoM (word of mouth) can be generated through an AR buzz. Introducing an interactive and playful AR platform can quickly raise awareness for your brand. Especially because of its ease of use – it is completely free and takes only a few taps on your customer’s smartphone screen once the app is downloaded. AR can skyrocket the efficiency of your advertising strategy – that’s also crucial in the awareness stage.
Thought leadership means that your business is an authentic information source for potential buyers. Customer-centric attitude reinforced with matching AR content can definitely strengthen your image as an expert.
AR shopping examples
Sephora is on the cutting edge of mastering the awareness stage with the help of augmented reality. Their AR shopping app helps customers take makeup tutorials. If the user takes a contouring tutorial, the app will overlay the look on the customer’s face digitally.
AR can help physical stores as well in the awareness stage. Augmented reality can enhance in-store navigation. Lowe’s Innovation Labs helps in-store customers find products and learn about discounts and product info in a compelling way.
The consideration stage
At this stage, choice paralysis is the biggest challenge that both customers and business owners face. Once your business is on the list of possible purchasing options, you have to stand out and help the buyer in the exhausting task of comparing and evaluating different options.
AR as a visualization tool
Although augmented reality can help at all stages of the buying process, it’s no question that the consideration stage gets most of the attention in the AR shopping experience. Augmented reality has the power to show your products in real-time 3D, as if the purchase was already made, but without the consequences. Reviews, ratings and social sharing are also key components in this stage that augmented reality can take to another level.
AR shopping examples
The examples are endless, from Ikea’s furniture visualization app, to Nike’s and Lacoste’s try-before-you buy apps. Let’s see a couple.
Audi launched a car-customization AR app – with the help of augmented reality you can not only visualize luxury cars in your backyard and get the colour and shine you always dreamed of, but also have a sneak-peek inside by opening the car doors and changing the interiors.
Dulux took the paint business to another level. With their colour visualization app, you can change the colours of your walls to different shades and share it with your friends to get their advice.
The decision stage
Cost of returns and cart abandonment – the nightmare of business owners in the decision stage. According to a recent study, the cost of returns puts a heavy burden on businesses. As for cart abandonment it is still a mystery in many cases even for UX experts. Let’s see how AR can help.
AR as a shopping platform
Augmented reality can reduce the cost of returns to a huge extent. As already discussed above, the visualization platform in the consideration stage can assure accurate purchase decisions. AR shopping apps can help the user to modify the chosen item by trying different colour variations and textures to make sure the right one is chosen.
As for cart abandonment, AR can act as a payment platform as well, so users can shop right from the AR extension. Combined with the benefits of product visualization, it’s a boost in UX that can reduce the amount of abandoned carts.
AR shopping examples
We already mentioned Sephora as a trendsetter in AR shopping experiences – it attracts customers with AR makeup tutorials in the awareness stage and delights them with the option of shopping the products right from the digitized image of their face through the app – an uninterrupted quality AR shopping experience.
Other brands also integrated payment options seamlessly into the AR extension to provide a frictionless shopping experience.
The post-purchase stage
The post-purchase stage is key in the growth of your business. Since customer retention is much less expensive than attracting new ones, if you miss on your chance to communicate with your customer post-sale, you might miss your chance to grow. This is where the AR shopping experience shows its transformational power, by polishing the buying journey to a frictionless all-inclusive fun adventure.
AR as an engagement tool
With the help of AR packaging, the product itself can act as a tool for engagement. Once scanned, the AR projection can unveil compelling stories about the product and its different use cases and it can also act as a platform to upsell and cross-sell similar items, right from the AR extension.
AR shopping examples
Bombay Sapphire shows a fine example for creating post-purchase AR engagement. When scanned, the gin’s label comes to life and the visualization has as much spirit as the drink itself. In addition, videos share different cocktail recipes with Bombay Sapphire as the major ingredient.
ARe teamed up with premium coffee brand Roastopus to give an extra layer to its packaging design. Not only could customers order straight away from the AR projection, but we maximized engagement through the packaging by adding an extra layer of content about the brand’s history and the roasting processes to make coffee taste better with AR.
B2B sales with AR
Although B2B sales is more complex than B2C shopping, B2B marketers can also leverage the power of augmented reality. The challenge of addressing different decision-makers with the same efficiency and professionalism is key in the B2B sales cycle. That’s exactly where augmented reality can show its true strength.
Whether it’s the construction of pipelines or expensive industrial equipment, sales reps can double their chances with a compelling and accurate AR representation of the given product. In B2B sales the risks are higher, since one purchase can cost millions of dollars, so a unique AR development is an investment worth considering.
A holistic approach to AR shopping
Augmented reality is revolutionizing the shopping experience and more and more entrepreneurs step into the AR business. As the above-mentioned examples and use cases show, it is much more than a fun feature. It transforms the buying process at the core as it addresses major psychological challenges at each stage of the buyer journey. Whether it is the awareness, consideration, decision or post-purchase stage, business owners and customers can qually benefit from AR shopping.
With the help of ARe, we apply a holistic approach towards the AR technology. In order to build the best AR shopping experience for both customers and business owners, we support each stage of the buyer journey.