Imagine you’re considering purchasing a new couch. Will it fit in your apartment? If it does, what will it look like next to those drapes? Because of augmented and virtual reality you’ll soon be able to answer those questions without lugging the couch up the stairs of your apartment building, or even leaving your home in the first place.
What is augmented reality? Augmented reality or artificial reality is a technology that tricks your brain into seeing, hearing, or interacting with digital objects. Most people already use a version of augmented reality every day. Putting headphones in your ears and listening to music is a crude form of augmented reality. You’re augmenting your reality by adding music to it through artificial means.
The business of augmented reality, or AR, is expected growth of $120 billion in revenue by 2020, and some, including those in the automotive industry, claim it is the next big thing. Major tech companies like Apple and Google are going to head to head to launch the best new AR products, and the augmented reality game Pokemon Go touts 100 million downloads and a total revenue of $268 million.
These leaps forward in AR has disruptive implications for the e-commerce space. 40% of consumers would be willing to spend more on a product if it offered an augmented reality experience. Recent examples back that up. The aforementioned Pokemon Go for example became one of the most popular augmented reality experiences in the world, and out of the 5 million daily and 65 million monthly active users 80% of them make or have made in app purchases.
These numbers clearly indicate e-commerce companies that use an AR feature hold a large competitive advantage compared to those that don’t. “It may be the future of shopping,” said Ryan Andreas co-founder of Quantified Commerce, a company focused on building e-commerce brands in India, “by using AR you’re able to see what products would look like in your apartment without ever leaving it.” The advantage that Andreas talks about offers companies, especially e-commerce companies, a chance to offer their customers an unmatched experience. Customers would never have to guess about the dimensions of a piece of furniture, or if those shoes would match that watch. They would be able to see what products would like on them, or in their apartments, all from their mobile phone.
While AR is quickly entering our lives, there is another, more intricate technology on the horizon that may completely change the way we shop. That technology? Virtual reality.
Virtual reality used to only exist within the realm of science fiction, but soon it may be as common as the computer you’re reading this on, and much like AR, VR is becoming the next great frontier for the world’s largest tech companies like Google and Apple. The virtual reality industry has received 52% of venture capital deals, Facebook could end up spending $3 billion on the technology, and IHS Markit reported that users were expected to spend as much as $7.9 billion on VR headsets and $3.3 billion on VR related entertainment by 2020
We’ve covered what AR could mean for e-commerce companies, but what could VR mean to the growing industry? Once again Ryan Andreas of Quantified Commerce has the answer. “E-commerce companies attempt to simulate the experience of walking into a store, and VR would make it possible to not only simulate that experience, but completely recreate it while also offering experiences that are not even possible in the real world. The only limitation is imagination.”
E-commerce companies could have customers virtually “walk into” their marketplace, “pick up” products, and try them on. Brick and mortar stores have stuck around, but one of the biggest reasons they have is because shoppers still value the experience of walking into a store. With VR replacing the physical store shoppers can still have that experience, but have it without that annoying drive to the shopping mall.
While the days where you go shopping for a new watch by slipping on a pair of Google glasses are in the future, that future looks like it’s getting closer and closer to becoming the present, and with e-commerce companies like Quantified Commerce picking up on these rising trends it’s only a matter of time before you slip on a VR headset to get that new couch.