How augmented reality Is changing the way we shop

Augmented reality is transforming how we shop and in particular our online shopping experience.

Global Market Insights predicts that the AR market is expected to nearly double in size by 2024 with the vast majority of companies utilising some form of augmented reality to connect with and engage their customers. Forward thinkers and industry disruptors are ahead of the curve, having already embraced augmented reality in their business models. Formex Watches are one such company, they are the first luxury Swiss watch brand to afford their customers the opportunity to virtually try their watches on via their AR app.

By blending the real and the virtual, augmented reality enhances rather than excludes. AR has evolved considerably since Pokémon Go grabbed our attention in the summer of 2016, demonstrating how keen consumers were to embrace this new technology. Pokémon Go's runaway success drew attention away from burgeoning virtual reality technology which has since struggled to live up to expectation. The real beauty of augmented reality is that unlike VR it doesn't need any specialised equipment, no expensive headset or glasses, just a smartphone that provides a gateway to an enhanced experience.

The rapid and ever-increasing growth of online shopping is giving traditional bricks and mortar stores a run for their money. But despite all the upsides to ecommerce it does face a particularly uphill challenge and that is how to sell a product that a potential customer cannot interact with or see how it might fit them or look in their home. This is where a well-designed augmented reality app perfectly complements the online shopping experience. According to Invesp Infographic at least 30% of all online purchases are returned, so AR that enables the customer to try before they buy can contribute to better purchasing decisions and therefore reduce returns.

Formex Watches were confronted by this issue when CEO, Raphael Granito, recently moved the business from a bricks and mortar operation to a completely online business model. Wanting to enhance the online buying experience for their customers, Formex developed an app that projects a realistic image of their watches onto the user's wrist. This gives a real-life "feel" and look that the customer is wearing one of their timepieces and allows them to interact with the product. The customer is able to try out all their models with different watch bands and lets them see the watches from any angle. This kind of interaction brings to the online experience some of the sensory elements involved in making a purchase that used to only be available in the 'real' world.

Granito explains that, "whilst we have addressed other major concerns that consumers have with online purchases by offering free shipping and a 30-day free returns policy, we have found that people are still hesitant to buy watches without having had them on their wrist. This led us to develop our app so that customers can get a feel for our watches and therefore place their order with confidence."

As Ecommerce continues to grow and evolve, augmented reality will play a huge role in how consumers buy products online. Companies are looking to enhance how we buy anything from sneakers to furniture. Vans and Converse have embraced AR and developed apps that let their customers experience their products before buying. Ikea are refining their app that lets you place their products in your home. Big names such as Amazon and Microsoft are working on new AR technologies to eventually create virtual environments that replicate the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience in our home. Luxury brand Burberry even created an app then enabled users to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry inspired drawings by the artist Danny Sangra.

A recent report by Digi-Capital suggests that augmented reality (AR) could reach $85 billion to $90 billion and VR $10 billion to $15 billion revenue by 2022 with 2019 being singled out as a breakthrough year for the technology. So, it would seem that those brands, like Formex Watches, who understand the power of augmented reality and have integrated it into their business early on are those who will be among the winners in the world of ecommerce.

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