Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) were once closer to science fiction than reality. However, both are experiencing substantial growth, with VR headset sales expected to go from 7 million in 2016 to 37 million in 2020. More possibilities are being unlocked using these technologies every year.

Most consumers are aware of the steady growth of VR and AR, but they might not know as much about how they’re being used in an e-commerce context. Along with an increase in on-demand app development, many tech-savvy e-commerce vendors are already using the technology in unique, innovative ways.

By blurring the lines between physical and virtual, and giving customers an unprecedented online shopping experience, these technologies are already changing the e-commerce and will only continue to do so. The following are just a few of the ways in which AR and VR have the potential to radically shift the world of e-commerce.

Make the Technology a Priority:

It’s easy to utilize the newest technology in a fun, generic way. while some businesses may be content to do so, there are much more interesting possibilities available with augmented reality. The best marketers are already finding unique ways of offering real value to consumers through AR technology, rather than simply viewing it as a novelty.

Take Sephora, for example. The beauty company recently implemented augmented reality into its mobile application to give users the opportunity to apply cosmetic products into an AR version of their face. Online shopping is constantly increasing its market share, illustrating the need for convenient digital solutions like this.

Another interesting takeaway from Sephora’s use of augmented reality technology is the fact that it outsourced the development and maintenance of this aspect of its marketing to a smaller company. It can be difficult to find the same level of expertise in-house, and outsourcing has proven to be a great resource for many businesses looking to integrate their augmented reality and virtual reality marketing.

Focus on Convenience and Ease of Use:

While introducing technology into the sales process seemingly complicates things, it can actually make purchasing decisions easier for customers when used effectively. Augmented reality can be seamlessly implemented into a physical store, giving customers the best of both worlds when deciding if a given item is right for them.

For customers who are shopping online rather than in-store, AR technology can offer them similar aspects of the traditional experience. IKEA, for example, gives users the opportunity to visualize what furniture would look like in their actual living space, significantly simplifying a once complicated, time-consuming process.

Offer Customization Options:

One often underutilized aspect of these technologies is the possibilities they open up for customization and personalization. Nordstrom has been among the leaders in this field, as their curated shopping experience offers each customer a unique view based on his or her size and style preferences.

AR brings a wide new range of opportunities for businesses to customize the user experience in a variety of unique ways. More than ever, companies need to reach out to their audiences not just with their products, but also with the shopping experience itself. Nordstrom is one of many examples of businesses going above and beyond with their customer service.

Provide Added Value Online:

We’ve established that making it easier for your customers to shop online will attract them away from your competitors, which is why there’s such fierce competition in nearly every industry. Recent technology has even made it possible to, in some cases, emulate the benefits of physical shopping online, removing even more barriers to making a purchase.

One of the consistent issues customers face when shopping online is the lack of interaction with the product in question, and businesses are already coming up with methods of bridging that gap. Warby Parker was among the originators of this trend, allowing customers to physically try on frames before committing to their favorite, but companies are constantly finding more efficient ways of working on this issue.

While the underlying technology is still constantly being improved, novel marketing concepts like digital avatars who can try on virtual clothes are much closer than you think. The businesses that will succeed the most in the near future will be the ones willing to think outside the box and offer an unmatched customer experience.

Use AR to Catch Your Audience’s Attention:

Multiple forward-thinking companies have started to utilize many of these concepts in unique ways to attract foot traffic and offer a different shopping experience. One example of this trend is Timberland, which offered the ability to virtually try on clothes using a mirror in the window display.

In addition to streamlining the process of trying things on, this also makes the store stand out from others around it. The company’s goal was to use the ability to “try clothes on” outside to convert more passersby into customers. But even if participants didn’t end up going in the store to buy anything, their use of the display encouraged people to interact, drew more attention to the store, and thus brought in more traffic.

This is a great example of a business using AR to improve the customer experience while simultaneously leveraging its marketing capabilities. While many businesses spend their AR resources on one or the other (experience vs. branding), Timberland managed to do both effectively using a single tool.

Just as the sudden rise of e-commerce challenged existing businesses to update their practices, recent improvements in AR and VR technology have brought them to a position of prominence in the world of e-commerce. Companies that utilize AR and VR effectively will offer a simplified experience to their customers.

Furthermore, businesses that ignore the opportunities and risks posed by this technology will likely suffer, while those that take advantage and invest in it will be the most successful. These ideas are just a few of the countless ways in which companies are already leveraging AR and VR solutions to make shopping easier and more convenient.

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