Anyone who’s had the thrill of catching a wild Pikachu on their street corner while playing Pokémon Go, the wildly popular mobile game, has experienced augmented reality.
Augmented reality (AR) uses various digital elements to enhance the user’s real-world environment. It overlays computer-generated sensory input—sound, video, graphics, or GPS data—onto a real-world view, typically through a mobile or wearable device. The result: an immersive and interactive merging of the physical world with the digital world.
Unlike virtual reality (VR), which creates an entirely immersive, computer-generated environment, AR enhances the real-world environment with digital content.
Best augmented reality apps for ecommerce
While the world of AR is still new, there are plenty of options for ecommerce businesses that want to incorporate augmented reality features into their websites. Here are four popular augmented reality apps you can choose from.
Shopify offers an AR tool, Shopify AR, that easily integrates with your ecommerce site. Users can overlay augmented images, 3D models, and videos of your products onto their live surroundings using mobile or desktop devices. Shopify’s app allows you to add images or models directly to product pages or by using meta fields—technical information such as part numbers, launch dates, or related products—which can improve the customer experience and help drive conversions and sales.
Software company Threekit helps businesses build 3D models of its products to display on ecommerce sites, which integrate with most web browsers, creating an almost seamless AR experience for users. With Threekit models, customers can view all angles of a product and try different styles, sizes, or colors. The platform lets customers test 3D models in their homes or other spaces by superimposing the objects over personal photos or videos.
3. Google Lens
First released in 2017, Google Lens allows users to take pictures of objects and search for them online using image recognition technology and translate text from photos. Like Shazam for music, people can download Google Lens on their iOS or Android devices to identify unknown products that may interest them. You can integrate the Lens app with your ecommerce site, driving sales by connecting customers with outfits, furniture, or other goods they see out in the world.
Araya’s virtual makeup AR plug-in creates a digital mirror customers can use to try on various beauty products. The app allows users to upload a photo or a selfie to test out, say, different shades of lipstick or eyeliner, and offers before and after comparisons. Araya’s plug-in integrates with most ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, and provides customer engagement data to help you gauge the tool’s usefulness.
Benefits of augmented reality applications for ecommerce sites
The AR technology market is expected to reach over $250 billion by 2028, and ecommerce businesses have good reasons to invest. Most importantly, it can increase your bottom line by improving sales and reducing returns.
Increased conversions and sales
Companies can use augmented reality to enhance the customer experience, allowing users to virtually try on clothes, makeup, glasses, or gear, or even get a better sense of how a particular mirror might look in their bedroom. For customers, this AR experience helps reduce the perceived risk of purchasing a product or a service—increasing the likelihood of purchase.
💡 Case in point: When fashion brand Rebecca Minkof began incorporating AR into the shopping experience, it found visitors were 65% more likely to place an order.
Reduced customer service needs
Because augmented reality can help customers visualize and test products, customers can be more certain about what they’re buying and, therefore, less likely to make returns or contact you with issues. In fact, according to AR Insider, AR can lead to a 25% decrease in returns, saving your business customer service hours and money.
Giving customers what they want
AR is popular. And, tapping into what customers want is an excellent way to increase their satisfaction, leading to repeat business and increased sales. Research from Snapchat shows that 93% of the app’s users were interested in using AR for shopping.
Augmented reality apps FAQ
Can augmented reality apps be used for employee education and training purposes?
Yes. For example, you can use augmented reality apps to train employees on store layouts, warehouse stocking, and products. While the costs of implementing AR training can be high, you can reuse apps to teach multiple cohorts of employees and substitute for more traditional training.
What are some privacy concerns associated with using augmented reality apps?
Because AR can offer a view into your personal life and space, there are worries apps may use this information for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft. Moreover, AR apps often collect user data like location and purchase history, which some consider private information. Users can protect themselves using a virtual private network (VPN) or opting out of data sharing using apps and websites.
What are the hardware and software requirements for using augmented reality apps?
AR apps generally require a Wi-Fi-connected desktop or mobile device with a modern operating system, a camera, and a microphone. Companies looking to implement AR on their ecommerce sites should be aware of the app’s system requirements, as not all apps are compatible with all browsers or operating systems.
How accurate are augmented reality apps in tracking and rendering virtual objects in the real world?
Cutting-edge AR apps can render and track objects very accurately. IKEA Place, for example, renders products true to size. On the user side, however, AR is only as accurate as the user device’s internal GPS and compass, which, while generally accurate, can create discrepancies.