Store Optimisation

AR in eCommerce: The Benefits for Consumers & Retailers

Patrick McCarthy

AR is turning online buying into shopping experiences extraordinaire. As Shopify experts, we recognise that the days when we had to guess, imagine, assume how a particular product would fit into our pockets, our cars, our closets, our lives are (mostly) over. Even without having lived it, it’s easy to see the potential problems that online shopping presents.

And then along came the COVID-19 pandemic, shaking up the digital world in a way only metaverse-immersed tech junkies could have foreseen. The virus has forced both omnichannel and multichannel retailers to improve and enhance their digital storefronts just to stay in business. 

But perhaps the virus just fast-tracked our already-existing efforts to construct more effective online shopping methods. As generations become more entrenched in the online world as a matter of staying connected and informed, it makes sense that retail shopping joins the ranks.

More people are buying online, which demands engagement with the digital world in a way that some have never before experienced. Arguably, AR has been around for a while, but never has it infiltrated our normal buying behaviours as it is now. That’s why we predict that Shopify requirements will eventually include AR applications.

People don’t want to take the risk of shopping in-store, but there’s more to it than that. Shopping online is far more convenient. Consumers can shop while commuting, sitting in their dentist’s waiting room, while they’re lying in bed having their morning coffee, or while they’re watching their kids’ football game. 

So, imagine a technology that would allow people to continue having this degree of convenience while also enjoying a more immersive shopping experience. One that allows them to interact with a more hands-on way than our digital technology of yesteryear allows. The outcome is obvious: a more enhanced user experience, higher conversion rates, and enhanced customer satisfaction, among many other benefits for both consumers and retailers.

In this 8-minute article, we’ll discuss the differences between AR and VR, why AR matters for digital business owners, and the benefits of incorporating AR into ecommerce shops.

AR Vs. VR: What’s the Difference?

Relevant to ecommerce, augmented reality or AR provides customers the opportunity to view and experience digitised products online before buying. It supports a more immersive shopping experience.

While AR and virtual reality (VR) are used synonymously, they’re markedly different. VR uses a fictional reality, totally composed from the imagination. It typically requires a headset and other devices to experience. 

AR on the other hand uses a real-world setting. It enhances both the tangible, physical world and the VR world.

Why AR Matters For Online Retailers: The Stats

According to one source, 61% of consumers prefer to buy from retailers who offer an AR experience on their site. 

Further, the same source reports that 40% of consumers would pay a higher price for an item they could view using AR

Another interesting if not surprising stat reports that 78% of consumers who have experienced AR prefer such virtual experiences over video content

AR incites a shopping experience that is traditionally impossible to experience online for certain items: furniture, beauty products, shoes, eyewear, and fashion. As we’ll discuss shortly, giving consumers virtual tangible access to such products influences consumer confidence in their buying decisions and reduces return rates by miles––literally.

AR gives consumers the option to try out various products. They can try glasses on their avatar, or shoes, or superimpose a sofa into a digital representation of their living room. With such effective consumer-product interaction in digital spaces, it’s no surprise that consumers are willing to pay so much more for this feature.

Benefits of AR for eCommerce Retailers

Enhances Brand Reputation

Experiencing AR may also increase brand loyalty. As the technology is still growing in popularity and sophistication, consumers who prefer AR are likely to seek out brands that have delivered a positive AR experience to them in the past. As they continue to experience high levels of satisfaction interacting with your brand and buying your products, they will likely share positive reviews and refer people to your store.

Lowers Return Rates

One of the primary problems with online purchasing is that consumers are unable to properly test out a product. Rather than using all our senses to make an informed decision about a particular product, we’re forced to rely on visual information. Even the best product descriptions can’t make up for interacting with an actual product. 

So, many consumers will buy multiples of a particular product in different sizes or colours and then return the ones they don’t want. As business owners, that not only falsely inflates metrics, it presents an administrative nightmare as products come bouncing back to warehouses. From an environmental standpoint, this back-and-forth shipping of products creates loads of unnecessary pollution.

AR helps to remove some of those barriers by providing consumers with a virtual experience of the product. Consumers can collect more information about a product than they can with traditional online methods, leading to greater buying confidence than they’d otherwise have. They can avoid buying unsuitable products and experience greater overall satisfaction with your brand.

Increases Brand Value

Your brand’s value comes, in part, from the extras you offer your customers that your competitors don’t. Discounts for bulk buys. Follow up emails. Exclusive offers. Rewards for multiple purchases or referrals. Twenty-four hour customer service. That added value improves customer retention and helps turn first-time buyers into repeat and even long-term customers. 

AR is like an entirely new and sophisticated branch of value offerings for consumers. It offers new and loyal customers the opportunity to have a far more immersive experience with your product than they can get with other brands. This added component enhances user experience well beyond the usual 2D interactions and leads to greater conversions.

The Wave of the Now…

AR is already here and it’s here to stay. As technology and tools become more sophisticated and familiarity with AR increases, the more AR will become standard inclusion in the online shopping experience.

As a digital retailer, it’s worth allocating resources to integrating AR into your digital storefront. There are a few learning curves to confront, but as more ecommerce platforms expand their applications to include AR, the less daunting a task it will seem.

If you have a Shopify store, we can help get you up to speed on Shopify requirements as they relate to AR, as well as other ecommerce platforms. Give us a call to book a free strategy session.

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