TECHNOLOGY

By some accounts, the third era of digital retail (the first era began with Amazon in 1995 and the second began with the launch of the iPhone in 2007) will be more digital, while feeling more human. One of the top technologies that fulfills these seemingly contradictory requirements is augmented reality (AR).

Unlike its flashier counterpart, virtual reality, which requires the user to put on special goggles to become immersed in a different world, AR adds information and other “enhancements” to the real world with the aid of technology. And to say AR is in a growth mode is an understatement. In 2015, the global AR market was valued at $3.33 billion, and within the next two years, it’s expected to reach $133.78 billion, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of more than 85%.

Here are three reasons AR is driving the next era of digital retail:

1. Indoor Mapping and Spatial Tagging Enhancing the Shopping Experience
According to research from Statista, there were 2.1 billion smartphone users in 2016, and that number is expected to reach 2.5 billion by the end of this year.

New platforms are using computer vision and sensor fusion to enable indoor mapping, without the need for GPS. Google (ARCore) and Apple (ARKit) are using such AR tech to catalog the physical and visual world the same way Google has archived the digital world. What this means to the merchandiser is that consumers can use their smartphone or tablet to create a digital map of their shopping list in-store. This will reduce frustration in searching for desired products, and even allow the location to identify substitutes or other offerings, rather than have the patron leave for a different store.

As consumers become more used to AR experiences in their everyday lives (the iOS App Store offers more than 2,000 AR apps, and Google Play offers more than 200), it lowers the barriers to entry for business adoption too.

2. Marketing and Advertising
AR can provide a personalized experience to the consumer and facilitate an increase in both user engagement and brand recognition. Ikea’s Place app is a good case in point. The app enables users to visualize what a piece of furniture will look like in their house. Each piece of furniture is also resizable to fit a room’s dimensions and observable from any angle and in any light. Users can even save specific room designs for future reference. By leveraging AR, Ikea is making it easier for customers to engage with its brand, pick the right furniture for their house and ultimately, buy more of their products.

Many customers prefer to try on products such as footwear, clothing or makeup before making a purchase. If the store is busy or the customer doesn’t have the time to…