commercetools has sponsored Shoptalk every year since the show’s inception, highlighting incredibly innovative possibilities for next-generation commerce. This year our Innovation Bar is back at Booth 4618! We’ll be showing live examples of retailers and brands that have moved off of big, slow, hard-to-customize commerce platforms and embraced technology to help them transform – including AR/VR.
AR/VR often get lumped together, but, in reality, they actually do deliver different customer experiences. Trends are showing a promising future for AR – particularly mobile AR apps like Pokémon GO, Snapchat and WeChat – while VR faces many challenges. According to Tim Merel, Founder/Managing Director of Digi-Capital, VR has different user dynamics due to relatively limited scale and user attrition. Merel notes that one of the challenges VR has is its entertainment focus, which can be done more easily and cheaply on existing devices, and the social side of VR hasn’t really scaled so far.
Several retailers have caught onto the AR/VR trend, including Lowe’s and IKEA. Here’s an article from Lowe’s Innovation LABS highlighting the benefits of using augmented and virtual reality for home improvement, including: product visualization, project advice, how-to-training, and in-store navigation. The new IKEA Place app is another great example of AR/VR creating new and innovative shopping experiences. “IKEA Place lets you place true-to-scale 3D furniture in your home using the lens of your iPhone camera,” explains Michael Valdsgaard, the Leader of Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems B.V. “You see the scene as if these objects were real and you can walk around them and interact with them, even leave the room and come back. It’s really magic to experience.” Learn more here.
AR Commerce in Retail
At commercetools we’ve been experimenting with both augmented and virtual reality commerce, and we too have discovered the advantages and disadvantages of each medium particularly when it comes to shopping. While both AR and VR provide a more immersive and engaging customer experience than, say, social media or a webstore, AR is one step ahead in that it provides users with a physical, real-world environment where they can see both the real world and virtual objects. This real-life, immersive view provides a truly personalized shopping experience.
Nicholas Speeter, a commercetools software developer and major AR enthusiast, has been testing using commercetools in AR shopping applications – specifically by generating 3D views of products in the present environment. Product trial has proven to be something customers look for during their purchasing process.
With commercetools and AR, products like furniture, posters, and frames can be rendered in the user’s actual living room. Also, clothing can be rotated or even placed to walk around and try on in front of a mirror. And utilizing facial tracking, earrings, necklaces, and jewelry can be augmented onto the shopper through the front-facing camera.
We asked Nick for his thoughts on who will win the battle of alternate reality commerce and he said:
AR is winning because we’ve already seen a number of leading industries adopting it, and because it interacts with your person, your real life, and your actual surroundings.
Software Developer, commercetools
VR Commerce in Retail
Virtual Reality is still an excellent tool for innovating with commerce, but it does deliver a different customer experience than AR.
VR requires dedicated equipment to experience it, and AR does not.
With Virtual Reality, the real-life environment of a user is digitally recreated or “faked” rather than augmented. Essentially, VR blocks out the real world around the user and presents them with a simulated world.
VR is a great medium for emotional engagement, but less effective if customers want to see how a real product will look like in their real environment.
As we look ahead into the future of retail, it’s clear that both AR and VR are extremely valuable tools for brands and retailers to enhance their customer experience and compete with the speed of digital transformation. However, AR is winning in the eyes of many consumers – and Nick – by delivering personalized experiences that truly and accurately reflect their real-life environments.