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Aug 2, 2017 | 3 minute read

Ecommerce Technology: Augmenting Reality Augments the Bottomline

written by Harry Chemko

Augmented reality is an ecommerce technology changing the way people buy online. Different from virtual reality in which the real world is replaced by the view inside virtual reality headsets, augmented reality blends online, mobile and real-world experiences.

According to the Walker Sands Future of Retail 2017 Report, consumers still enjoy the ability to touch and try a product. It’s the main reason why shoppers still prefer physical stores over Amazon and eBay.

Augmented reality helps recreate that from the convenience of their home factor. It answers the practical questions of, “How will this look on me?” or even “Will this sofa match my wallpaper?” It neutralizes the fear that a product that looks good onscreen won’t work in real life.

Elastic Path has worked on countless projects building new online experiences for companies to help them transform to the digital economy. One of our clients, Virgin Media, launched an app with augmented reality features as early as 2012.

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Read the Virgin Media case study.[/caption]

Ecommerce technology helps people choose products virtually
We’ve seen how technologies are bringing to life strategies that help people choose products without experiencing them in person. Now you can place new furniture in your living room, paint the same room with different colors, try on shoes, eyeglasses and clothes, apply makeup and nail polish, design the interior of your new car, attend a conference and more – all virtually.

Augmented reality pioneers
Retail giants like IKEA, Sephora and Disney, have already incorporated e-commerce technologies that let customers “try before they buy.” NARS cosmetics uses Facebook’s 360 technology to interact with 3D makeup tutorials. Ebay has partnered with Myer to create the world’s first virtual department store. Ali Baba has also announced plans for their own digital store, equipped with a robot consultant who can interact with customers and recommend products, like Amazon’s Alexa.
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Heavy investment means augmented reality pioneered by the big companies, will rapidly become more affordable and a more pervasive e-commerce technology. Digi-Capital estimates that by 2020, the market will reach $120 billion, with e-commerce taking 30% share. That’s just three years away, but not impossible given the great amount of research that’s going into new e-commerce technologies. In the first months of 2016, augmented reality investment reached a record $1.1 billion. That’s more than enough for companies to push forward important new shopping technologies like computer vision and augmented reality.

Augmented reality closes the last gap
Augmented reality solves the one limitation of e-commerce: the lack of sensory immersion. Currently, most websites and apps can recommend products based on browsing history and past purchases, but these are still just static product images on a screen. When customers can interact with products in a more meaningful, more personalized way, sales improve dramatically.

For example, Sephora had been creating makeup tutorials for years, based on a tested retail formula that consumers are more willing to purhase a product if they know how to use it. When the company partnered with the augmented reality platform Modiface, they created an irresistible offer. Combining powerful facial recognition software, and frame-by-frame scans that determine shades and products in a photo, visitors can see how a tutorial works on their face and can place featured products directly into a shopping cart from the tutorial.

Experience-based commerce at its best
This is experience-based commerce at its best. The customer doesn’t just contemplate how a product looks on them. They “know” and with objections aside, they can then instantly purchase, without having to access another interface. One of the attractions of e-commerce is that it ushered in incredible shopping convenience. No more getting in a car, driving to the mall, finding a parking spot, etc. However, sitting on a couch ordering new items can require a leap of faith many are not prepared to take. An e-commerce technology like augmented reality can help convert those folks to the faithful.

Bringing together commerce capabilities with customer experiences and new augmented reality requires a flexible, extensible e-commerce platform. Learn more about Elastic Path Commerce.