Does this make me look fat?

Augmented reality (AR), an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera) in real time, is quickly becoming a powerful tool in retailers’ marketing toolkit.

As virtual and augmented reality technology rapidly improves, analysts predict the retail industry may be one the biggest beneficiaries. IDC estimates the market for the technologies will explode from about $5.2 billion in 2015 to $162 billion in 2020.

2016 saw the hype of AR explode with Pokemon Go! yet the more sustainable use cases for this technology may come from changing the way consumers browse and select their products.  The promise of AR when shopping is that through platforms such as Google’s Tango platform, users can select images of furniture or décor from a retailer such as Wayfair’s online catalogue and use the touch screen on their phone or tablet to position the objects on their room’s floor, walls, or ceiling.  Not only can they see how the piece would look in their room they can see if and how well it will fit with the existing decor.  

Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs division believes this usefulness will extent to their living space. “This technology is an important step forward in our vision for how AR and VR will shape the way our customers design, build, and enjoy their homes.” Nel thinks contractors, architects, and designers will buy the phone to help their clients conceptualize projects and he hopes that consumers will buy it, too.

Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Snap Inc. have joined Google in investing heavily in augmented and virtual reality. Apple Inc. hasn’t revealed any plans for AR, but Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has touted the technology publicly multiple times. Amazon.is thinking about virtual reality shopping too, according to IDC.  Though the promise is enticing, companies, however, must grapple with the dual challenge of mastering the necessary tech and finding an actual market.

It turns out that shoppers like the idea of using AR to explore and learn more about their prospective purchases, based on a new survey of 1,100 adult U.S. adult shoppers conducted by Interactions Consumer Experience Marketing.  The study found that most people would shop at a retailer more often if they offered augmented reality.  Here are the most popular, according to the survey:

60% — Furniture

55% — Clothing

39% — Grocery

35% — Shoes

25% — Makeup

25% — Jewelry

22% — Toys

The survey found that more than a third (34%) of shoppers already use augmented reality while shopping and nearly half (47%) of those like to use it both online and in a store.  Most (77%) of those who have used AR want to use it to see product differences, such as change in color or style, while more than half (65%) want to use it to get more product information.  Most (71%) shoppers said they would shop at a retailer more often if they used augmented reality and 61% said they prefer to shop at stores with AR over those without it.

AR also may have some influence on impulse purchasing, since 72% of those who have used AR said they purchased items they weren’t planning to because of augmented reality. Almost half (45%) said it save them time and 68% said they spend more time at a retailer if they can shop with augmented reality.

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