The future of shopping after the emergence of augmented reality apps for mobile commerce is nothing less than a dystopian sci-fi that you see on the silver screen. In fact, it will change the shopping behavior of the consumers from how they find the stores to impulse buying. The latest augmented reality technology will blur the line between offline and online shopping by applying layers of virtual information on top of the physical world.
The early days of AR technology in retail
For retail industry, one of the most obvious augmented reality apps is based on location-based services, determined through your smartphone or tablet. Such services inform you if the shop you are looking for is close by. The first to market an app like this was Zagat back in 2009. The augmented reality app was called NRU and it provided wayfinding and ratings for nearby restaurants and also included information from the shopping guides of Zagat.
Another important feature of AR technology is image-recognition software. In its early days, augmented reality apps used image-recognition technology mainly to provide more information about the food you buy. This alone had the potential to foretell that with the help of AR technology we are moving towards the age of more fine-grained information apps, creating an opportunity for more socially responsible shopping for buyers.
Since its inception, augmented reality was never limited to any particular device. It could be experienced across various devices such as computer screen via webcam, smartphones and tablets through in-built camera as well as through in-store information kiosk. All you need to do is hold the item of your choice up to the screen and the augmented reality app will give you information you are looking for. In fact Lego, the toy brand, used AR technology through their in-store information kiosk that allowed the buyers to get a glimpse how a set would look like once assembled.
Apart from image-recognition technology, developers have successfully experimented with motion-capture technology to provide an augmented shopping experience. In 2009, Zugara launched its Webcam Social Shopper that used motion-capture technology to create a virtual dressing room. The movements of the users allowed them to navigate among selections. Besides, the software had the ability to calculate your orientation, allowing them to adjust the piece of clothing to their body.
The present day augmented reality trends in retail
The developers of augmented reality apps and tools are implementing more advance technology and at times they are using more than one technology at a time to provide a better shopping experience to buyers. Many of the fashion brands are about to come up with augmented reality apps that not only provide a virtual fitting room to the buyers but also allow them to feel and smell the fabric. Similarly, the image-recognition technology is no more confined to providing nutritional value of food items or similar information. It has been augmented to scan the faces of customers as they enter the store and alert the shop assistants regarding the identity of the shopper along with their favorites and spending history.
Besides, many of the companies are planning to create virtual supermarkets and shopping destinations in places as mundane as airports and parks using AR technology. It provides a great solution for businesses to save their money on commercial real estate; for consumers, it will be an interesting way to kill time.