Augmented Reality

Internet retailers have many advantages over traditional brick and mortar stores: The shops remain open 24×7, there is typically lower overhead, and you can attract customers from everywhere. But one barrier that keeps people going to physical stores is that they can touch and feel products or try them on.

But now a web-only retailer can offer a shopper something he can’t get in a store: he can see how products will look in his own home before purchasing it. This is accomplished by using an up-and-coming technology called “augmented reality.” This has the potential to change the face of online and mobile commerce.

For example, overtockArt.com has an augmented reality app where the shopper can select a painting, then select “View in Room”. This opens up the camera on the smart phone and the painting is displayed over what can be seen in the camera. The shopper points the smartphone at a wall in his home and lines up the painting where he wants it hung, then snaps a picture. Not only can he see exactly how that painting will look in his house, he can share it with family and friends and get their opinions.

Other major ecommerce players are experimenting with augmented reality. With Amazon’s Flow app, a shopper with a smartphone can point the camera at a book or DVD and hovering over the product on the screen pops up Amazon’s price and customer reviews. This kind of augmented reality scan can of course result in a sale for amazon and make the physical store owner quite frustrated.

The technology can be used for a variety situations. For example, not only can you overlay information on top of something like Amazon’s Flow app or Yelp’s Monacle app, but you can align a product to visualize how it would look. eBay’s fashion app allows customers to virtually try on clothes. Ice enables customers to use its mobile app to browse jewelry and then try them on via augmented reality. You could use this to visualize anything, such as trying on a pair of glasses to large scale situations such as seeing how a house would look on a lot. If the customer likes what they see, then it is easier to make the sale. The technology removes fears, uncertainties and doubts before they buy, and that makes for better conversion.

This technology will continue to evolve, but as internet business owners, it is important to be aware of how this could impact your sales.