Retail & E-CommerceAugmented RealityGuest Post

As Coronavirus Disrupts Retail, AR Shifts from Nicety to Necessity

AR technology has been thrust into the limelight to help online retailers deliver an efficient shopping experience.


Coronavirus is unsettling every aspect of our lives, including our retail experiences. As the world has become confined to their homes, online shopping is now more important than ever and augmented reality technology has been thrust into the limelight to help online retailers deliver an efficient shopping experience.

Technology Is Stepping Up

As the global count of coronavirus cases continues to rise, most of us have been sent home from work and are expected to stay productive. Technology makes working from home easier, but as people get situated in their home office they may be looking for a new desk, monitor, chair, couch or other creature comforts to make their new workspace feel more productive.

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Unfortunately, consumers are unable to visit stores in person, which is severely affecting retailers in nearly every industry, and with social distancing measures in place people have more time, giving way to projects that have been put off—new pictures to fill empty walls, a new couch for the living room, or a new dresser for the bedroom. Here’s where AR comes in.

Retailers that already have AR capabilities in place are better prepared as consumers use their smartphones to view furniture and other products and bring to life how they’ll look in their homes. Instead of having to guess basic questions like, “Will it fit?” “Does it match?” “Are the colors right for the room?” “Can I still walk around the couch once it’s in my living room?”, customers can use augmented reality technology to know for sure, leading to better buying decisions.

The Rise of AR in Retail

AR technology has been growing for several years. Pokemon Go brought augmented reality to the forefront when it took the world by storm in 2016, but since then the technology has matured substantially. Over two billion phones are capable of displaying high quality, true-to-size AR content, unlocking a new reality for online shoppers. Moreover, the evolution of WebAR (augmented reality that can be accessed via a web browser instead of a dedicated native app) is allowing brands to offer AR directly on their website, bypassing the need to build and maintain expensive apps that few will actually download.

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Brands that have been early adopters of AR technology have been seeing a significant lift in sales for several years. Based on internal data from our e-commerce customers such as Nestle, Overstock, and others, we’ve seen conversion rates increasing anywhere from 10% to as much as 200%. Product returns are dropping by 25% and time to make buying decisions has been cut in half. Augmented reality is making impacts with real Return-On-Investment (ROI) that can’t be ignored, even without looming fears of coronavirus.

Innovation Is Inevitable

The coronavirus pandemic is testing every facet of our infrastructure—education, work, restaurants, supply chains, healthcare, networking, sales, and so much more. People are finding new ways to do everything. Children are logging into Zoom to go to school. Food delivery apps are bogged down with requests. Doctors are spending more time on video calls than with actual patients in their office. AR will be further adopted to help consumers buy the right thing the first time without ever having to leave their house.

This is a time of change, and the businesses that use this time to adopt these new technologies, that have changed from a nicety to a necessity, will thrive. Unfortunately, this could be the final nail in the coffin for brick-and-mortar retailers that can’t survive two months with no customers. It is a tough time for all, but we will adapt and survive. Humans have done it over and over for thousands of years, and we’ll come out the other side stronger than ever.

Augmented reality is no longer an option. At-home shopping is a trend that has been steadily growing since 1872, when the first mail-order catalog was produced, and is now the norm. The industry needs to be more efficient. With $369 billion in merchandise returned, or 10% of total retail sales, in the US last year and increased pressure to deliver a world-class home shopping experience to consumers. It’s time for AR technology to take the front seat.

Guest Post

About the Guest Author(s)

jon cheney
Jon Cheney
CEO and Co-Founder | SeekXR | + posts

Jon Cheney is CEO and co-founder of SeekXR, which provides web-based augmented reality solutions for e-commerce.