Recently, augmented reality (AR) has been making quite the statement. Even USA Today foresees  VR and AR being very real in 2017 and now the New York Times is jumping on the AR bandwagon with their new app. Which is no surprise, as this type of computing display technology creates an almost real-life experience that allows us to shop, watch, dine and play interactively on our smartphones, tablets or desktops.

Of course, no one can forget Pokemon Go – one of the biggest examples of augmented reality technology, ever. But, all Pikachu’s aside, there is a considerable amount of opportunity for AR in the retail industry.  More so, in a recent Retail Perceptions report, 71% of shoppers surveyed they would be more likely to shop at a retailer if they offered augmented reality.

We’ve already started to see the ways AR is making it more fun, more easier and more convenient for consumers to purchase products or try them out before buying them online or in-store.  So the obvious choice for brands and retailers is to leverage this enhanced experience and start getting real with their customers.

This month’s 4 questions on the 4 o’clock hour features an augmented reality company who’s  been at the forefront of this innovative consumer experience for quite some time now. We talked with CEO of Augment, Jean-François Chianetta, about the future of retail and how he see’s augmented reality technology benefiting both the online and in-store shopper who is no longer interested in the product description, but rather the interaction with the product virtually.

1. Who is Augment and how is augmented reality shaping the future of retail?

Augment is a venture-backed augmented reality software solution, keen on helping businesses merge our physical and virtual experiences. The company was founded in October 2011 and is currently headquartered in Paris, with commercial offices in New York City and Orlando. Now, with more than 200 clients in 36 countries, we’re a leader in the augmented reality space, revolutionizing the entire product life cycle.

We see augmented reality as a way for manufacturers and retailers to create a more meaningful and memorable online shopping experience. In retail, Augment overcomes customer pain points by allowing customers to try the products in augmented reality at home before buying through their smartphones or tablets. Augment is in a position to bring a physical presence to the online shopping experience.

2. What kind of an impact does augmented reality technology have on products/brands and retailers?

Innovation in retail seeks to provide value to both brands and retailers alike but none have been as impactful throughout the buyer’s journey like augmented reality. AR can increase sales by allowing customers to try before buying, which, in turn, reduces returns by removing the initial guesswork.

We believe that future omnichannel experience will rely heavily on augmented reality and it is already adding more value in getting shoppers to engage on retailer’s mobile platforms. Brand manufacturers will indeed have a huge stake in the future of augmented commerce. As ecommerce evolves, so will consumer expectations. Product descriptions and 360 photos will no longer suffice. Mobile shoppers will want and expect the ability to test products at home before buying through augmented reality.

3. With the increasing shift to mobile commerce, why is it important to incorporate augmented reality into a consumer’s shopping journey?

The smartphone has been the first device capable of providing a true on-the-go augmented reality experience. In this regard it’s unique in the technology landscape. A responsive e-commerce website, or an app is very similar to what you can have on a desktop. But augmented reality can be properly experienced only on a mobile device. With that ability to project products in the real world, it brings the best of the in-store and ecommerce experience. You can not only see a product like if you were in the store, but better than that, you can see it right where it’ll be placed.

Finally the conversion rate can be better online than in-store as you’re not wondering how the product will look like after you unbox it at home.

Also, mobile is just the first step toward full augmented reality headsets. Once there, augmented reality will become the only option. Shopping on an augmented reality headset without full augmented reality will be like buying on a mobile from the pdf of the scanned catalog. By starting now to implement it on their mobile apps, retailers future-proof their ecommerce experience by building the first layer of augmented reality.

4. How can augmented reality work for retailers and brands whose goal is to drive their consumers into physical retail stores? 

Augmented reality has managed to merge the digital with physical in-store products and it has stimulated engagement that drives in-store sales.

CPGs and brands are enabling AR images on the outside of their packaging. In this sense, shoppers can scan the product packaging and easily see what’s offered inside without them having to speculate. Today’s consumer can engage with a brand through a physical store, their online shop or mobile presence, or through social media. All of these experiences should be consistent and an extension of one another. It isn’t rare that a customer starts in one channel and ends up purchasing through another. A true omnichannel marketing approach is about creating a customer experience that is seamless across all channels and augmented reality is already impactful in that way.

By bringing the whole catalog into the store, augmented reality also removes the frustration for a customer who comes into a store, to find that the product is not there. With augmented reality, infinite aisle becomes a reality and the adviser in the store can show to the customer any of the product available, its different colors and configuration so that he can do an educated purchase.

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