Augmented reality is here to stay, and the number of smart glasses that will become available in the next two years announce a decade of change regarding smartphones and tablets. Smart glasses will allow for hands-free browsing of augmented reality content, enhancing our user experience with hands-free branded content. They will also impact the e-commerce industry.
Brands like Bosch, Nreal, 0glasses, and Am Glass by Pacific Future joined Magic Leap, Vuzix, Microsoft HoloLens, and Epson Moverio this year, delivering a new way to experience 2D and 3D content and features. Handhelds will not disappear, but now we’ll definitely have new devices competing for the same space – smart glasses.
Aside from this trend, WebAR is building up and we’ll witness the rise of virtual and augmented reality access through the web. With it, augmented reality content will just be at a click’s distance. Sharing augmented reality experiences will become really easy and probably new search engine tools will become available to all users, in a way they can tap into AR without installing a mobile app, when and where they want.
As smart glasses and WebAR become more and more common, so will immersive e-commerce step further into a fully-fledged immersive experience, rather than just an alternative try-on interface for e-commerce systems.
Augmented Reality Pop-Up Stores?
For years now, augmented reality try-on experiences have populated the web and, more recently, social media, with a big impact on business. And it’s all about helping consumers decide faster and better. For instance, cosmetics and optical product brands can now present their really large catalogs for their audiences to quickly browse, compare, and decide. Besides driving more sales, try-on lowers return rates and increases brand awareness and, ultimately, its value to the consumer.
Smart glasses will bring a continued use of augmented reality on a shopping floor, which has the potential to benefit loyalty marketing use cases, along with up-sell and cross-sell campaigns. They add the comfort that smartphones or tablets lack and ease up the spatial exploration of AR experiences around you. They can allow anyone to seamlessly navigate between real and digital infrastructures and add e-commerce features to any object in the real world.
That is why it’s important, at this point, to start thinking about an integrated commerce experience inside augmented reality, as COVID-19 and 5G are accelerating our 2021 plans.
WebAR will allow businesses to integrate augmented reality experiences with their pre-existing e-commerce system. However, there is a major issue to handle if they do that: customer experience. E-commerce systems are now thought for the web, where a screen defines how many menus and elements are available to the user and which order can we see them in. That does not work in any augmented reality experience, where the user is free to roam and to filter out data applied to local objects.
There is no point in not designing a seamless experience, as all AR benefits and customer experience can also be jeopardized. But of course, this seamless digital commerce experience comes with new issues for e-commerce managers to work out.
The Rise of Immersive E-Commerce
The very first benefit is the ability for customers to spatially explore your online store wherever and whenever they want. Brands can even set up their own pop-up stores next to their competitors’ physical ones, with promotions customized to every user. This will have a big impact on brick-and-mortar retail, as suddenly e-commerce will not be done at just one level, but using physical reality as a means to digitally present the same products, with try-on, browsing, customization, and payment unseen in physical stores.
But even more, the possibility for a store to be opened at each one of our customer’s home, unique brand experiences can happen whenever the user wants, as a fully digital store can be “invoked” to appear in a living room and allow for shared, multi-user experiences. Add to it all the data included in virtual assistants like Alexa or Google Home and it is fair to say the full commerce and purchase cycle will be deeply transformed by all these technologies.
Buying and Selling Trust
Of course, these use cases require devices to scan objects, rooms, and people’s physical bodies. How do we grant the rights for apps to do this? How can GDPR be enforced in the next spatial web?
And what about competition laws? It will be possible for a business to open pop-up store inside a competitor’s store. How will this be handled? Should it be allowed or even facilitated?
An effort to regulate and to create deontological approaches to these topics is now needed, as these will be the foundations where this new, immersive commerce will be built upon. Not just governments, but professional associations, commerce chambers, consumer groups and every professional involved should work on the development of these policies. And this becomes even more important if we see the numbers on international e-commerce brought to us by eMarketer and how PSD2 is easing up global transactions.
So, if you mix COVID-19, 5G, WebAR, and smart glasses, there is a trustful setting for global immersive e-commerce projects to take-off mainly due to an industry that is effectively delivering value to everyone and even acting as a driver for innovation.
So, more business cases are needed in order to instill trust in this very new market. Because that is the sole asset we buy and sell these days in any market: trust. And innovative markets, more than any other, are built on top of that word.Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Luis Bravo Martins
Luis Bravo Martins is the Head of Marketing at IT People Group and works with augmented reality since 2014. He is a published author and speaker on VR/AR. Since 2017, Luis is also co-president of the VRARA (Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Association) in Portugal, the largest association of VR/AR professionals in the world.