View in Your Space: How Covid is Accelerating the Immersive, Digital Online Shopping Experience

While augmented reality was already on its way into the mainstream, the pandemic has accelerated its arrival as retailers look for innovative ways to connect with their customers. 

Things won’t ever “return to normal” for the retail industry. 

Even before the pandemic hit, retailers were struggling to connect with their customers who were spending more time online and less time in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Big tech giants, like Apple, Google and Amazon, saw this shift in consumer behavior and began investing in their own augmented reality (AR) ecosystems as a way to connect with their digital customers. 

But it’s not just big tech that’s looking to AR as the solution for a more immersive customer experience. Companies like IKEA, Wayfair and Shopify started shifting their online presence to be more virtual even before COVID-19 changed our daily routines and shopping habits. 

Now, new data suggests that customers will retain their same online shoppers habits long after the pandemic is over. So what role will augmented reality play in the future of e-commerce? And how are customers, and companies, adapting to new online shopping habits?

How Consumers Shopped Through Covid

In the United States, 17% of consumers stopped shopping at their primary store and made online purchases instead. Customers were also in favor of omnichannel shopping options, like buying online and picking up at the store (BOPIS) grew 28% year-over-year in February compared with 18% in January according to McKinsey. Grocery delivery alone went up by 57%. 

And this shift to online, omnichannel shopping behavior is here to stay. 

According to McKinsey, "consumers report high intention to continue using models such as BOPIS (56%) and grocery delivery (45%) after the pandemic.”

So to remain relevant in the ever-changing online retail industry, companies must shift their focus to digital strategies that offer customers easy-to-use, immersive experiences. 

How Retailers are Connecting with Customers Through AR

While today’s customers favor online shopping over in-store purchases, they’re still looking for the same emotional connections you get in typical brick-and-mortar stores. Augmented reality (AR) allows customers to deploy photo-realistic 3D product images into their own surroundings. So, more companies are turning to AR to give their online shoppers an immersive, more personalized experience. 

By allowing shoppers to virtually engage with an item, customers can feel more confident when making a purchase––so your online sales increase while your product returns diminish. In fact, 63% of online shoppers say AR will improve their web-based shopping experience. And with AR de-risking online purchases, companies like Blu Dot are already seeing an 81% lift in online sales. 

The Impact of Augmented Reality on Retail
  • 40% would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it in AR
  • 61% of online shoppers prefer to purchase at websites that offer AR over ones that don’t
  • 71% of shoppers would shop at a retailer more often if they offered AR

While the pandemic will end, it’s impact on our shopping habits will stay. As e-commerce becomes the new standard, companies must adapt to new immersive strategies to engage with and attract customers. With the AR market projected to be worth over $18 billion in 2023, AR is having more than a moment––it’s here to stay. 

Interested in learning how AR can boost your online sales and customer engagement? Click here to set up a time to chat!

Jasper Mullarney
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