Blog > Conversions > AR in eCommerce: How AR Impacts the Future of Online Shopping

AR in eCommerce: How AR Impacts the Future of Online Shopping

AR in eCommerce is rapidly becoming a game changer in the eCommerce industry. With significant investments projected in the coming years, its influence is poised to revolutionize the shopping experience.

In fact, AR is expected to grow from $62.7 billion in 2023 to $1,109.7 billion by 2030. As a result, more businesses are embracing this technology to captivate customers and gain a competitive edge.

By overlaying digital elements onto the real world, AR creates an immersive environment that bridges physical and digital shopping.

It allows customers to visualize and interact with products in their own surroundings, providing a level of engagement and personalization that was previously only possible in brick-and-mortar stores.

In this article, we’ll explore AR’s unique features and its role in elevating the shopping experience, then look at buyer responses and successful implementations from leading brands.

We’ll also address skepticism and challenges surrounding AR’s adoption, as well as its impact on conversions and how retailers can embrace this transformative technology.

Shifts in online shopping

Less than half (45%) of shopping takes place entirely in-store nowadays, with 28% fully online and a further 27% consisting of hybrid purchases, where the consumer researches a product online and buys it in person or vice versa.

With trends like shorter shipping times (85% of Amazon FBM merchants shipped in one day or less in 2023), customers are growing accustomed to being able to buy products online in almost or as convenient a fashion as buying in a store.

Additionally, virtual reality technology enables shoppers to do so much more without leaving the comfort of their homes.

As major retailers increasingly embrace virtual stores and craft unique online experiences, now’s the time to explore these opportunities for your own business.

What is the metaverse?

Major tech CEOs are preaching the metaverse as the future of the internet. Depending on who you ask though, you’ll receive differing opinions about its influence.

At the macro level, the metaverse is a collection of technologies that include virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). It translates to a unique, digital economy where users can create, buy, and sell goods, encompassing:

  • Content and experiences (content, applications, virtual worlds)
  • Platforms
  • Infrastructure and hardware
  • Enabling technology (regulation, digital identity tools, payments and monetization options)

AR vs. VR

AR and VR are two related but distinct technologies that have gained significant attention in recent years. While both offer immersive experiences, they differ in their fundamental principles and applications:

  • AR integrates digital elements into the real world to enhance a user’s perception of their environment. It blurs the boundaries between online and reality by overlaying computer-generated images, sounds, and sensory experiences onto the physical world.

This integration allows people to see and interact with virtual objects in the context of their real surroundings. Pokemon Go and IKEA Kreativ (formerly Ikea Place) are prime examples of this technology. It’s also where most retailers want to focus their attention.

  • VR creates an entirely digital environment that replaces the physical world. The technology transports users to computer-generated realms, often through the use of headsets or other wearable devices. In VR, users are completely immersed in a simulated reality, where they can explore and interact with virtual objects and environments.

By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, and even smell, a computer can transform into a gatekeeper to an artificial world. It’s no wonder VR has become increasingly popular with video game aficionados, boasting a market value of $37.4 billion in 2023.

AR relies on data collection and analysis to create an immersive experience for users. These systems gather information about the user’s environment, such as the layout of a room or physical movements, through sensors and cameras. That data is then processed to superimpose virtual elements onto a real-world view.

In contrast, VR isolates users from the real world and immerses them in a completely simulated environment. This technology is commonly employed in gaming, virtual tours, and immersive simulations, enabling users to experience situations and scenarios that may be difficult or impossible to reconstruct in the physical world.

While AR and VR share the goal of providing immersive experiences, the former’s ability to merge the digital with the physical holds tremendous potential to transform the eCommerce industry and alter the way customers shop online. It’s also cheaper and less resource-intensive for retailers to implement.

The role of AR in eCommerce

Retailers now employ virtual reality to unify physical stores and their online counterparts. Today, there are an estimated 1.4 billion active AR devices, with shoppers using them to visualize furniture and decor, paint color, makeup, hair styles, and fashion and accessories.

The technology AR in eCommerce offers a multitude of opportunities for brands to promote products, drive purchases, launch compelling marketing campaigns, and gather valuable consumer data. Brands can combine physical and online shopping to create a more interactive and satisfying shopping experience by leveraging AR’s unique capabilities, such as:

  • Promote products in a visually engaging and informative manner: Integrating AR features into online platforms enables shoppers to try on items virtually, visualize how objects would look in their homes, or even preview complex product features and functionalities. This dynamic presentation significantly enhances customers’ understanding and appreciation of the item, leading to increased engagement and conversion rates.
  • Instill confidence and reduce uncertainty: Virtual try-ons and visualization allow customers to better assess the fit, style, or functionality of items before committing to buy. This empowers them to make informed decisions and, in turn, reduces the likelihood of returns.
  • Launch innovative marketing campaigns: Brands can leverage AR to create interactive and immersive content that showcases their products in unique ways and captures their target audience’s attention. For example, AR-powered advertisements allow customers to interact with virtual objects or characters, which boosts brand engagement and recognition.
  • Gather valuable customer data: Analyzing user interactions and preferences within AR in eCommerce experiences reveals insights into customer behavior, preferences, and purchase patterns. That data can then guide targeted marketing strategies, personalized recommendations, and product development initiatives.

AR in eCommerce brings the advantages of in-store interactions to the digital realm. Its interactivity and personalization not only improve the customer experience but also build trust and confidence in the online shopping process.

AR in eCommerce enrichs the shopping experience

AR in eCommerce has revolutionized the shopping experience by providing various interactive features that enable customers to engage with products in unprecedented ways. These include:

  • Social media filters: A popular application in eCommerce, filters allow customers to try out different looks or styles using AR overlays on their personal photos or videos. They’re an engaging and fun way for customers to experiment with various offerings.
  • Placement previews: These are particularly relevant for home and living brands. Using their smartphones or tablets, shoppers can virtually place furniture, decor, or even entire room setups in their homes to experience the spatial dimensions and aesthetics firsthand. This preview functionality gives buyers greater certainty about their purchasing decisions, which lowers the risk of them disliking their purchases and then returning them.

By embracing AR technologies and leveraging their interactive features, brands can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, drive engagement, and build lasting consumer relationships.

Positive shopper responses to AR in eCommerce

The integration of AR in eCommerce has garnered generally positive responses from online shoppers. Recent successful implementations like ASOS’ inclusive See My Fit sizing feature have received praise and appreciation from customers, highlighting how eagerly the digital shopping landscape is embracing this advancement.

A renowned online fashion retailer, ASOS introduced an inclusive sizing AR feature in 2020 that allowed shoppers to see how clothing items would look on different-sized models.

The chatter on social media platforms like X was overwhelmingly positive, with consumers expressing their excitement and satisfaction with the introduction of this technology.

Many customers praised ASOS for addressing the need for greater diversity and representation in the fashion industry. By providing a more personalized shopping experience, the AR sizing feature successfully resonated with shoppers.

Digital platforms like X also showcase a generally positive sentiment towards this addition to online shopping. Many users have expressed their enthusiasm for AR technologies that enhance the shopping experience, with some even saying it sealed the deal for their home furnishing and DIY purchases. These online conversations show the growing adoption of AR in eCommerce.

Check out these other successful implementations from well-known names:

  • Sephora:
    The Sephora Virtual Artist app enables customers to try on virtual makeup products, experiment with different shades, and find their perfect look.
  • Porsche:
    The Porsche AR Visualizer app allows prospective buyers to view and customize virtual Porsche cars using various options and configurations.
  • L’Oréal:
    The L’Oréal Makeup Genius app offers virtual try-ons of makeup products so shoppers can experiment with different looks and styles.
  • Wayfair:
    Wayfair’s AR feature lets customers preview furniture and home decor items in their space to ensure the perfect fit and aesthetic.
  • Nike:
    The Nike Fit AR feature measures customers’ feet using their smartphone cameras to help them find the right shoe size for a precise fit. Nike uses XR in their physical stores to let shoppers scan items like shoes or clothing and view specifications and other item information. Visitors can also enter a VR world to experience the different steps in the supply chain and see how and where their items are made in an effort to improve corporate social responsibility and branding.
  • Warby Parker:
    Warby Parker and many other eyeglass retailers utilize AR to let customers “try on” glasses from the comfort of their homes and find their perfect frames.
  • ASOS:
    In addition to their much touted Fit Assistant AR, ASOS also offers a virtual catwalk app, which allows shoppers to try on clothing virtually via an AI-assisted AR app. Users film themselves, and the AI then adapts clothes to them so they can see themselves moving in the clothing.

These responses prove AR in eCommerce’s ability to increase customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty. Its immersive and interactive experiences create a sense of connection and confidence in consumers, which encourages them to buy.

Skepticism and challenges of AR in eCommerce

While AR has garnered positive responses from many online shoppers, some question its effectiveness in retail.

Perceived novelty

Some shoppers view this technology as a passing trend or marketing ploy. To dispel those concerns, focus on demonstrating the tangible benefits and value AR brings to the shopping experience. By showcasing its practical applications and real-world advantages, you’ll instill confidence and credibility in your technological initiatives.

Understanding your target audience is foundational to tailoring AR in eCommerce experiences to their preferences. Conduct market research and gather customer insights to determine the most relevant and engaging features for your consumer base.

Difficulty ensuring a seamless and intuitive experience

Technical glitches or complex interfaces can deter users and undermine the effectiveness of AR in eCommerce. Invest in user-friendly interfaces and prioritize usability testing to optimize the buyer experience.

Education plays a vital role in addressing uncertainty. Many shoppers may be unaware of AR’s full potential or have yet to experience it firsthand. Consider teaching your customers about the technology’s benefits and functionalities through informative content, tutorials, or demonstrations.

At the same time, be transparent about the limitations and capabilities of your experiential offerings to set realistic expectations. It’s important to strike a balance between exciting customers with the possibilities of AR and being open about its current abilities.

Impact on conversions and consumer expectations

Research findings consistently demonstrate the positive influence of AR in eCommerce on various selling metrics, including higher curiosity and purchase intent. So, it’s imperative for retailers to embrace emerging technologies like AR to stay competitive in the evolving eCommerce landscape.

Consumers are increasingly drawn to unique and engaging shopping experiences, and AR can be a powerful asset in meeting their demands. By adopting this technology, retailers differentiate themselves from competitors, capture buyer attention, and create memorable interactions.

This demonstrates a commitment to innovation and putting customers first, which establishes brands as industry leaders and trendsetters.

Several brands have effectively harnessed the power of AR in eCommerce, like IKEA’s Kreativ app, which enables shoppers to visualize furniture in their homes before making a purchase.

Meanwhile, Walmart embraced Zeekit’s virtual fitting room technology to allow customers to try on clothing digitally and select models that accurately represent their height, body shape, and skin tone.

These virtual try-ons (or move-ins, in IKEA’s case) help customers manage their expectations and understand the products to see how they’d fit into their lives.

How can I leverage these benefits and perks?

If you’re ready to embrace AR to enhance your eCommerce store, consider the following ways to implement these technologies:

  • Set up a virtual store:
    A virtual showroom or shop enables people to visit your virtual storefront from the comfort of their homes. Customers could browse your clothing racks, for example, by clicking on items to pull up details like their availability in a physical location. Or, they could meet up with friends in the virtual world and shop together in real time. These technologies give rise to new and creative opportunities to facilitate online shopping.
  • Exceed customer expectations:
    Consider offering special deals connected to XR that encourage customers to check your eCommerce domain (for example, an online-only discount code) once they test out the XR experience in store.
  • Hold a live event:
    Although not precisely XR, a live shopping event via social media or another online platform is excellent at gathering customers and exciting them to shop. Live events are rapidly gaining popularity as eCommerce businesses leverage influencers and social media channels to host unique events that build community while closing sales. Further, if you have an XR app, customers can try out products during the event for an even more interactive experience.
  • Offer a virtual “try before you buy”:
    If you sell furniture or large items, you could leverage AR like Ikea to show customers what those items would look like in their space. Or, take a page out of Warby Parker’s book and develop an AR application that lets shoppers see what accessories look like on them by using the camera on their smartphone. The options are many and the opportunities nearly endless.

AR is only one of a number of ongoing trends in eCommerce that you’ll want to keep an eye on to stay competitive. Key points for 2024 include:

  • First-party tracking, as third-party cookies become less and less accessible and informative
  • Voice and conversational shopping, especially with Amazon Alexa and about $20 billion in sales occurring through a voice assistant in 2023
  • Increased demand for credit like Buy Now, Pay Later
  • Increased demand for Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) and Click & Collect points
  • Livestream shopping gaining popularity

Wrapping up — Gain an edge with AR in eCommerce

AR in eCommerce is rapidly transforming the landscape, offering immersive experiences that attract and engage prospective buyers. Its ability to bridge the gap between physical and online shopping lets customers interact with products in exciting ways that eliminate uncertainty and encourage conversions.

Staying ahead in the industry will require brands to invest in these innovative technologies for a more enriching consumer journey.

To keep the positive feelings alive post-purchase, it’s imperative you also consider the shipment of those orders. MyFBAPrep can ensure your fulfillment completes the experience with our expert preparation and timely delivery of products right to your customers’ doorsteps.