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08/05/2019

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Augmented Experiences: The New Reality of Retail

Appeared in Retail Customer Experience

Most retailers struggle with one fundamental question: What is the most effective way to connect customer experiences in the online space with those in the offline space? The perception is that trending technologies like AR and VR are too difficult to integrate or prohibitively expensive. Not only is omni-channel attribution attainable, but it is quickly becoming essential for forward-thinking retailers. 

TECHNOLOGY TO BRIDGE THE ONLINE AND OFFLINE REALITY

During her recent SXSW talk, ‘Using AR to Bridge the online-offline retail gap’, Tricia Katz from Magic Leap discussed virtual reality, augmented reality, and spatial computing as channels to offer new and relevant experiences to customers. Few brands are implementing these technologies, despite research showing that over 60% of all shoppers would pick a retailer that offers AR functionality in their shops. Additionally, 68% of all consumers are spending more time with products and services when there is an AR integration, and fully augmented pop-up stores have seen an average order value increase of 300%. Many consumers reported that without the experience contributing to the desire to purchase, they would not have bought a product.

DIGITAL, MEET BRICK AND MORTAR 

Another example that was laid out during SXSW was by Accenture Digital. Imagine you are browsing for a new pair of sunglasses and you’re using an AR application to do so. This app projects the sunglasses you select onto your face. Though the visuals are not yet optimal, it works quite well at giving you an idea of the shape and look on your unique features. Within this app, you can also buy the product and have it delivered to your home or to a nearby store.

Should you choose to have your glasses delivered to a store, a salesperson carrying a tablet will receive all of your personal information and data. This data includes browsed products, any previous purchases, other recommended products and also personal information (i.e. hobbies and interests) gathered from social media. This will allow for increasingly tailored in-store experiences as the salesperson has a much deeper understanding of you as an individual. He or she might ask you questions that they already know the answer to, such as, “Are there any special relatives with a birthday coming up? We have a special promotion happening right now,” to entice the customer to make additional purchases. This is a linear example of how using technology can be good for both consumers and brands.

SO WHAT?

All this data is being fed into systems which allow knowledge about individuals to be used in both advertising and the personalization of digital touch points, such as websites, newsletters, or even product offerings.

AR applications are no longer a “cool” idea or a funny gadget you can play with. It’s only a matter of time until the entire retail sector fully discovers the potential of creating experiences that bridge the physical and virtual. Companies are already starting to connect both worlds via cashless transactions, QR codes, and receipts sent via email or even WhatsApp. These concepts are called “on-premise experiences” and they are going to be crucial in connecting your digital strategy to your offline sales.

The passage of  the Payment Service Directive (PSD2) signals a seachange in how consumers will pay in the future, one in which you can pay with your Android phone using your Google or Apple credit card. From a data perspective, this would complete the entire customer journey on a single platform from search, to website traffic, to in-store transactions. This would allow Google to directly connect and show the effects of online ads to offline purchase behavior and create an absolute goldmine of data for marketers and brands alike. The question to be asking yourself here is not if this will happen, but when this will happen.

THE TAKE-AWAY

As a brand, you need to act now. You should start exploring the numerous potential opportunities to create experiences that can function as a gate between the digital world and the physical one. Don’t be scared of the required technology and initial investments. The upside and added value to your customers will outweigh the downside. Any brand that does not incorporate this will soon be obsolete.