2020 was the year of Covid-19 and the year that AR, AI, VR and XR propelled the e-commerce shopping experience to the next frontier. While people stayed home on Zoom and on the couch with Netflix, the world took a step forward in terms of e-commerce and retail tech to empower and encourage digital commerce. In this article, Daniel Japiassu, CEO of YDX Innovation Corp. and VP Creative Director, REIT Innovations discusses the recent rise in AR and VR technology.
With all these new digital shopping, e-commerce, live social streaming shopping and omni-channel options, the winner of these is augmented reality. According to eMarkerter/Artillery Intelligence reports, the social media channels catapulted AR with Google introducing AR in Ads whilst Snapchat saw a 33 per cent growth in a single quarter and Instagram integrated AR into account profiles and IG shopping. According to Statista and Millennial Marketing, AR conversion rates on Instagram are up 80 per cent compared to the standard three per cent conversion rate without AR.
Leading the pack in Augmented Reality (AR) tools for fashion’s “virtual try-on” is Snap Inc. with its body mesh technology. According to Vogue Business (21 May 2021 by Maghan McDowell), Snap Inc. is adding more virtual “try on” for clothes, jewellery, shoes, glasses and purses as AR shopping features races to lure fashion and beauty brands selling online away from Instagram and Facebook. Farfetch and Prada are pouncing on AR within the Snap Inc. environment as it allows for social sharing and making virtual shopping very personal.
Other companies in this area are India’s Bigthinx which allows customers to scan their body with their AR and AI mobile app and see themselves wearing the clothes. This helps one figure out what size one would wear in certain brands and thus can reduce returns from e-commerce transactions with fit problems.
When it comes to sneakers and the mass hysteria of Gen Z for buying the latest and greatest, another company is forging new frontiers with their mobile gaming app, Aglet, a location-based commerce experience for virtual and physical shopping. Utilising some of the same geofencing technology as Pokémon Go, players can buy their sneakers from the app or go on a game adventure in their city and be led to stores that have the exact sneaker they are looking for. Players’ physical steps are converted into in-game currency, called Aglet, to be used to purchase their favourite footwear. According to Founder and CEO, Ryan Mullins, “our mission is to capture streetwear & sneaker culture in an ‘online world, the convergence of virtual and physical. A new commerce paradigm is upon us wherein we can create fun, immersive experiences that don’t require the consumer’s interaction with a brand exhausted by clicking on the buy button.”
AR in cosmetics has been a game-changer for the purchase of skincare, cosmetics, hair products and wellness products. Various companies are involved in this “virtual try-on” AR and AI arena where you can see yourself wearing the lipstick, eye make-up; match skin colour to foundation and have skin analysed so you know what kind of products to buy. One of the leading beauty tech solution companies in this area of artificial intelligence and augmented reality is Perfect Corp based in China. They work with many cosmetic brands both for in-store touchless solution “try ons” and mobile e-commerce. They recently announced they are working with Snap Inc. to combine their technology with AR/VR virtual Try-On with Snap’s e-commerce and shoppable lens experience for ‘Snapchatters’. The Estee Lauder Companies and their brands are leading with MAC Cosmetics and are the first users of the dynamic Snap shopping lenses. According to Perfect Corp: “This partnership plays to the rise of ‘phygital’ strategies, which combine the personal touch of try-before-you-buy, with the convenience of social shopping, to create an enhanced consumer experience that drives sales.”
L’Oreal has also been AR trailblazing with the AR shopping tools for their “virtual cosmetic try on” and virtual hair colour try on. L’Oreal and their brands are also reinventing the cosmetic shopping experience with try before you buy with their AR and AI tools.
“Brands and retailers need to start looking at AR as a full-funnel medium that can impact every step of the customer journey. AR is already being used for brand awareness and pre-purchase. AR is also accelerating conversions and becoming a point of purchase or a way to lead customers to the retail location for the sale. I think the post-purchase use of AR is not as mature, but theres a great opportunity for malls, brands and retailers to use AR across all parts of the journey,” said Cathy Hackl, tech and metaverse futurist and best-selling author of The Augmented Workforce: How AI, AR, & 5G Will Impact Every Dollar You Make.
In the area of computer animations of Digital Humans and Scalable Avatars, Didimo, with visionary Founder and CEO Veronica Orvalho, is leading the way with creating their life-like Digital Twin for fashion, retail, and gaming. You take a picture of yourself and upload it to their site and in less than 90 seconds, you have a digital human image of yourself. This technology will transform shopping, gaming, digital fashion and the Metaverse.
For VR, there are many brands that have used versions in their stores from Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Balmain and others to see their recent collections. John Lewis used virtual reality to help users visualise furniture in their homes before they buy them. According to a Goldman Sachs’ study, IDC predicted that the VR and AR market will reach $182bn in revenue by 2025, bypassing television.
Although VR has been used in malls in location-based experiences such as The Void, Dreamscape, Nomadic, Arkave and others, AR for retail has really caught on like wildfire in terms of popularity and ease of use as it doesn’t require headsets.
With all the AR and AI shopping solutions, this brave new digital world will be set for further expansion in e-commerce offers and revenue.
Hopefully, this will enhance live immersive retail and entertainment experiential activations and bring consumers back to stores and malls to shop, socialise, eat and feel human contact and connection.