The emergence of augmented reality (AR) in the world of e-commerce has been revolutionary, bridging the gap between consumers and products. Whilst effectively being in its infancy stages, the potential for retailers to make their products more interactive, more personalised to a consumer offers a plethora of opportunity.
Allowing a consumer to try a product, to see and experience it on their own body or in their own home offers an entirely new chance for e-commerce to blossom with the assistance of AR.
A Huge Opportunity?
Augmented reality revolves around the concept of a live, direct view of a physical environment whose elements are augmented to enhance the experience of the user. It takes reality and improves it. Media can become multi-layered, allowing a consumer to see and appreciate the physical properties of a product as though seeing them in reality, a tremendous prospect for online retailers such as Amazon that has no retail stores from which to sell their products.
Many firms are at present investing in the development of a headset that can, of course, link to one’s smartphone to augment the reality of their products, allowing a shopper to, for example, virtually see an outfit on themselves. Considering the complexities of the technology that this will entail, its function is debatable.
A 2015 report published by the GLA Economics, titled The Creative Industries in London, placed the value of the creative industries at an estimated £34.6bn, meaning that the industry is already rather astronomical in terms of revenue – and there is no guarantee that the introduction of AR will drastically alter this.
Firstly, many individuals will have a realistic view of what a product will look like – meaning that the returns of goods should logically decline, for a consumer can have a more informed view of what size to buy and if a style is suitable (inevitably cutting logistical and clerical costs for retailers). Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2015, £180m worth of sales were lost in returns, which could have been saved using AR.
Furthermore, when considering interior design, it will become far easier to make continuous changes to a design without having to produce a physical product – allowing greater efficiency and adaptation for both designers and consumers.
It is beginning to emerge, therefore, that the relationship between augmented reality and e-commerce relies upon pragmatism and simplicity. It is about making the retail industry more accessible for the consumer, bridging gaps between the product and the market and targeting a demographic that is the most likely to not say no to a purchase.
Is It Worth It?
According to a report by E-Commerce News Europe, 43 million Britons shopped online in 2015, with the e-commerce industry peaking at £132.7bn. This just leads one to question of how much further the industry can truly go – will it ever reach the stage that AR effectively replaces retail presence on the high streets? Amazon is a company with no physical presence.
For the second fiscal quarter of 2016, Amazon announced record profits of $857m and revenues of $30.1bn. So with no true need for shops, and AR allowing consumers to test and try products before purchase, the future of e-commerce and retail becomes ambiguous.